Today I read an interesting tale by Dale Bailey in his short story collection The Resurrection Man’s Legacy: And Other Stories introduced by Barry Malzburg; another science fiction writer I’ve always admired. The story in question takes the first part of that title and feeds into our feelings of death, loss, and the subtleties of the in between – the uncanny machines that can capture our desires or release them into life. As the young man recollecting the story tells us early on:
I am reminded of this now, for recollection, like archaeology, is a matter of sifting through ruins. Memory is frail and untrustworthy, tainted by desire; what evidence remains is fragmentary, shrouded in the mystery of the irretrievable past. You cannot recover history; you can only reconstruct it, build it anew from the shards that have survived, searching always for the seams between the strata, those places of demarcation between the city that was and the city that would be, between the self that you were and the self you have become.1
I want spoil the story which is about a young boy facing death and possibility, caught between the real past of his father’s death, and the present semblance of an android copy of his father. It’s much more than this too, a fable about control, the rights of robots: the control over our future creations, our ability to erase them, to wipe their minds blank when we’re done with them. A tale that makes you think through just what is it we want from these human like golems and homunculi we are creating as companion species. But I’ll leave the reader to ponder these ethical dilemmas.