Fiction and Drama

Decision Engines

Decision Engines

Behind him, a self-driving car approaches.

Scenario Three. It is a sunny day. On a one-lane road in upstate New York, a young boy is riding his bicycle toward a blind curve. A self-driving car rounds the corner carrying two passengers: a teenage girl and her boyfriend, both of whom attend the same high school. Although the self-driving car is driving at a safe speed, it cannot brake quickly enough to avoid hitting the boy on the bicycle. The car can either hit the boy, killing him instantly, or it can swerve off the road and crash into a large oak tree, sending the car’s passengers through the windshield and into the woods. Knocked unconscious by the impact, both passengers will die before an ambulance arrives. The boy will flee the scene.

Sick Puppy

Sick Puppy

As if she were butter on bread

Curt reached over and patted her head as if she were a dog and said he was “very flattered” and “very fond” of her, but he didn’t tell her he loved her, too. Instead, he reminded her that he was “married” and she was “young” and his “employee” so it was “complicated,” which somehow confirmed for Anna that she was just a body to him, always had been, and always would be. Therefore, she was a nobody. Therefore, it didn’t matter what happened to her. No one cared, least of all Anna.

Three Stories

Three Stories

Every so often you need an accomplice

Four billion years ago, amino acid molecules set loose by a dying star gathered into macromolecules, matter having a tendency to become more complex. Who asked it to? During the next half billion years, macromolecules evolved into living cells, first without nuclei, then into cells that could reproduce. One minute you’re matter and the next, poof, you’re alive! Has that ever happened to you? You need soup and the right temperature, things your grandmother would know about, but she hasn’t evolved yet. It’s all guesswork in the dark, the serious, falling-in-love dark. These cells develop DNA, a long molecule that encodes all the information an organism needs to survive. Then they go on a rampage. They do not take no for an answer. This is not some ex-boyfriend who keeps calling or Jessica Walters in Play Misty for Me, who has one date with Clint Eastwood and tries to kill his girlfriend. These cells print themselves like money.

Piss Trump

Piss Trump

A future writ in piss, gushing with life and change and becoming

Hannity mimes surveillance footage from eight separate cameras in the bedroom of the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton, Moscow in November 2013, Trump in suit and tie clapping his hands twice smartly to begin the festivities, a pair of dancers entering the bedroom to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairy Dance” . . .

On My Way Again

On My Way Again

In what possible way could airports be considered inferior to actual cities, nowadays?

April on the motorway, the sun’s red streaks across the asphalt, the world all delicately decorated with a glaze from the recent rain—an Easter cake. I’m driving on Good Friday, at dusk, from the Netherlands to Belgium—I don’t know which country I’m in now, since the border has vanished; unused, it’s been expunged.

The Monks

The Monks

How is just being at the temple helping anyone, except you guys, who get to do a few less chores every day?

It’s not that I don’t like the monks. Some are chill. Two of them split cigs with me in the mornings, after our prayer sessions and before our chores. I call them Monk B and Monk C because we don’t talk or share things about ourselves, like our names. We smoke out by the fountain, away from all the statues of Buddha in the garden. I think the monks are trying to hide their smoking habits from all those Buddhas.

Revelation

Revelation

You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.

Suddenly everything I had been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the past few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia— became clear to me. Russia had always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.

Maybe Nothing Had Happened

Maybe Nothing Had Happened

What did feet feel toward hands, their pretentious, elegant cousins?

Like many people my age, like Molly, I’d been deeply in love with this man, and had spent hours hurling myself spastically around the house to his songs, and I’d continued to be a partisan of his music and, what, brand, until the music got so boring that it wasn’t worth the energy anymore. Whatever bad shit he was into, I probably would have stayed loyal if there’d been worthwhile product. The sadness I felt watching the movie had something to do with a person’s art betraying them, of watching a man who has grown bored with the possibilities of his craft attempting to find, somewhere in his past, something worth preserving, and finding nothing.

That Longing for a Holy Completeness

That Longing for a Holy Completeness

You didn’t make a choice to go in that direction. Life—nature—pulled your strings.

Last night, I had a really intense dream telling me that my (future) baby had begun his descent to the earth: I saw that it had been given a soul or had chosen a soul and was still very high up and far away, and that this process had begun seven months ago—I mean that seven months ago it had connected to my heart, as if a baby is born first, far in advance, in the mother’s heart. The vision was about to end when I desperately rushed to whatever oracle was making it clear, and asked if it was not too late to choose the path along which having this baby was possible. I was reassured that it was not.

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

On Ece Temelkuran

Temelkuran, a generation removed from Gürbılek, represents something else: not the backward-glancing comrade but the daughter of one, born in 1973, raised in Izmir by a social-democrat father and Maoist mother. It’d be hard to think of a more consummate figure of what a true Turkish “new left” would look like: democratic socialist, feminist, with books on the legacies of the Armenian genocide, on the Arab Spring, on the Latin American pink tide (untranslated), chapters and articles on Kurdish politics, nearly three million Twitter followers and a vast, sui generis facility with the media. A New Left Review essay one day—a TED talk the next.

Superking Son Scores Again

The Magic Johnson of badminton

We hid behind the stacked crates and spied on them. Superking Son was in the center of the circle, staring intently at the floor. His hand seemed stuck to his chin. Some ghostly vision played out in front of his eyes, and it shocked the color out of him. Cha Quai Factory Son was there too, his hands on Superking Son’s shoulders, like he was both consoling him and holding him back from doing something stupid. A wave of money flashed around the circle, only stopping to be counted and recounted, probably to make sure no one had slipped any bills into his pocket.