How to Live Safely in a Science Fictiona (2010)

BOOK: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictiona (2010)
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
ALSO BY CHARLES YU
Third Class Superhero

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Charles Yu

All rights reserved. Published in the Unites States by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Original publication date in Minor Universe 31 is impossible to determine, due to the nature of residual objects within closed time-like structures.

Pantheon Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Yu, Charles, 2010

How to live safely in a science fictional universe: a novel / Charles Yu.

p. cm.

eISBN 978-0-307-37948-1 V.1.0

I. Title.

PS3625.U15H68 2010

813’.6—dc222010001837

www.pantheonbooks.com

First Edition

To my mother and father, again. And again.

And to Michelle, as ever.

We are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception. A man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement.

—DAVID HUME

Time does not flow.

Other times are just special cases

of other universes.

—DAVID DEUTSCH

Everything we are

is

at every moment

alive in us.

—ARTHUR MILLER

ENTER THE FOLLOWING PERSONAL DATA:

(CURRENT CHRONOLOGICAL AGE)

(DESIRED AGE)

(AGE YOU WERE WHEN YOU LAST SAW YOUR FATHER)

Computing.

Trajectory locked.

When it happens, this is what happens: I shoot myself.

Not, you know, my self self. I shoot my future self. He steps out of a time machine, introduces himself as Charles Yu. What else am I supposed to do? I kill him. I kill my own future.

Contents

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraphs

(module α)
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
(module β)
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
(module γ)
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
(module δ)
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
(module ε)
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Appendix A

Acknowledgments

About the Author

(module α)

There is just enough space inside here for one person to live indefinitely, or at least that’s what the operation manual says.
User can survive inside the TM-31 Recreational Time Travel Device, in isolation, for an indefinite period of time
.

I am not totally sure what that means. Maybe it doesn’t actually mean anything, which would be fine, which would be okay by me, because that’s what I’ve been doing: living in here, indefinitely. The Tense Operator has been set to Present-Indefinite for I don’t know how long—some time now—and although I still pick up the occasional job from Dispatch, they seem to come less frequently these days and so, when I’m not working, I like to wedge the gearshift in P-I and just sort of cruise.

My gums hurt. It’s hard to focus. There must be some kind of internal time distortion effect in here, because when I look at myself in the little mirror above my sink, what I see is my father’s face, my face turning into his. I am beginning to feel how the man looked, especially how he looked on those nights he came home so tired he couldn’t even make it through dinner without nodding off, sitting there with his bowl of soup cooling in front of him, a rich pork-and-winter-melon-saturated broth that, moment by moment, was losing—or giving up—its tiny quantum of heat into the vast average temperature of the universe.

The base model TM-31 runs on state-of-the-art chronodiegetical technology: a six-cylinder grammar drive built on a quad-core physics engine, which features an applied temporalinguistics architecture allowing for free-form navigation within a rendered environment, such as, for instance, a story space and, in particular, a science fictional universe.

Or, as Mom used to say:
it’s a box
. You get into it. You push some buttons. It takes you to other places, different times. Hit this switch for the past, pull up that lever for the future. You get out and hope the world has changed. Or at least maybe you have.

I don’t get out much these days. At least I have a dog, sort of. He was retconned out of some space western. It was the usual deal: hero, on his way up, has a trusty canine sidekick, then hero gets famous and important and all of that and by the time season two rolls around, hero doesn’t feel like sharing the spotlight anymore, not with a scruffy-looking mutt. So they put the little guy in a trash pod and send him off.

I found him just as he was about to drift into a black hole. He had a face like soft clay, and haunches that were bald in spots where he’d been chewing off his own fur. I don’t think anyone has ever been as happy to see anything as this dog was to see me. He licked my face and that was that. I asked him what he wanted his name to be. He didn’t say anything so I named him Ed.

The smell of Ed is pretty powerful in here, but I’m okay with that. He’s a good dog, sleeps a lot, sometimes licks his paw to comfort himself. Doesn’t need food or water. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know that he doesn’t exist. Ed is just this weird ontological entity that produces unconditional slobbery loyal affection. Superfluous. Gratuitous. He must violate some kind of conservation law. Something from nothing: all of this saliva. And, I guess, love. Love from the abandoned heart of a nonexistent dog.

Because I work in the time travel industry, everyone assumes I must be a scientist. Which is sort of correct. I was studying for my master’s in applied science fiction—I wanted to be a structural engineer like my father—and then the whole situation with Mom got worse, and with my dad missing I had to do what made sense, and then things got even worse, and this job came along, and I took it.

Now I fix time machines for a living.

To be more specific, I am a certified network technician for T-Class personal-use chronogrammatical vehicles, and an approved independent affiliate contractor for Time Warner Time, which owns and operates this universe as a spatio-temporal structure and entertainment complex zoned for retail, commercial, and residential use. The job is pretty chill for the most part, although right this moment I’m not loving it because I think my Tense Operator might be breaking down.

BOOK: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictiona (2010)
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag
Tell the Truth by Katherine Howell
The Isle of Devils by Craig Janacek
Saving Grace (Madison Falls) by McDaniel, Lesley Ann
Believing Lies by Everleigh, Rachel