I went to the media. A loathsome crime-show personality had taken the story and ranted about it on the airwaves for a week, diluting the facts with self-serving rhetoric, then grown bored and moved to something else.
Revenge? Revenge was for the morally retarded. Me, I’d signed petitions to the UN, calling for the worldwide, unconditional abolition of capital punishment. I’d meant it then, and I still meant it. Taking human life was wrong; I’d believed that, passionately, since childhood. Maybe it started out as a religious dogma, but when I grew up and shed all the ludicrous claptrap, the sanctity of life was one of the few beliefs I judged to be worth keeping. Aside from pragmatic reasons, human consciousness had always seemed to me the most astonishing, miraculous, sacred thing in the universe. Blame my upbringing, blame my genes; I could no more devalue it than believe that one plus one equaled zero.
As for his capacity to reform, his abused childhood, or the caring and compassionate alter ego that may have been hiding behid the facade of his brutal exterior, i really didn’t give a shit, but nonetheless I was convinced that it would be wrong for me to kill him.
Killing Anderson wasn't honest, it wasn't 'being true to myself'. Being true to myself would have meant living with all my contradictionary urges, suffering the multitude of voices in my head, accepting confusion and doubt. It is too late for that now; having tasted the freedom of certainty, I find I can't live without it. "How can I help you, sir?" The salesman smiles from the bottom of his heart.Part of me, of course, still finds the prospect of what I am about to do totally repugnant. No matter. It won't last.
The only way to keep my sanity was to transcend all this bullshit: to declare Global Assurance and their machinations irrelevant; to carry his brain - not because I'd been coerced; not because I feel guilty; not to prove that I couldn't be manipulated - but for the simple reason that I loved him enough to want to save his life.
If I'm pleased with one general achievement, it's to have contributed something to the very small subset of literature that engages in a meaningful way with the full context of human existence. The fact that we are part of a physical universe whose laws can be discovered through reason and observation is the most profound and powerful insight in our history, but most literature—including a large proportion of SF—either ignores it or trivializes it. I'm not interested in fiction that invites the reader to become slack-jawed with “wonder” at the size of the universe or the time scale of cosmology or the strangeness of quantum mechanics, or that treats the now-long-obvious fact that there is no God and we have no preexisting purpose as some kind of belittling revelation of our insignificance and impermanence. Literature that truly engages with reality isn't shocked by things we've known for centuries; rather, it delights in the fact that we've managed to learn so much about the universe, and it revels in the details. A body of art that contained nothing about the laws of electromagnetism, gravity, and quantum mechanics, nothing about the physical grounding of consciousness, and nothing about the process by which we've learnt the rules that govern everything around us, would be like a body of art depicting present day Earth that contained no mention of any human law or custom, no tension between an individual and society, and no representation of a city, a village, a forest or a river. So while I'm sure that the individual works I've written have only succeeded to varying degrees, I'm still proud to have done something to nudge the center of gravity of contemporary SF some microscopic distance toward a genuine engagement with reality. What I hope for in the future is to keep doing that, more energetically than ever.
Chloe said, "I know you think I'm some kind of bigot, but it's the opposite: I think Vestans are exactly like us. They had a life every bit as good as ours - just as safe, just as prosperous - and, like us, a lot of bored, aimless people who'd never really found any purpose. But then they realised that they could fill that hole by inventing a grievance, and taking sides, and refusing to be swayed no matter what. Maybe you think we're immune to that kind of thing, but i don't.
Anna shook her head. “I can’t.”Olivier said, “I’ve persuaded three more people to drop their actions. That still leaves seven, but I’m going to keep trying. They’re just lashing out because they can’t get the Vestans in front of a court yet, but everyone who’s actually been willing to talk to me ends up admitting that a judgement against you would bring them no satisfaction.”“They have their rights,” Anna replied. “You shouldn’t try to stop them.”“Their rights?” Olivier grimaced. “The only thing they’d achieve if they won their case would be to make Ceres more vulnerable to extortion in the future.”Anna said, “We have a special name, here, for a certain kind of failure to defer to the greater good—for putting a personal sense of doing right above any objective measure of the outcome. It’s called ‘moral vanity’. On Ceres, it’s about the worst thing you can be accused of. So I’d say that those plaintiffs stand a very good chance of success.”“And you really want to be made an example of? You want other people to be afraid to do what you did?”Anna couldn’t answer that. “What did I do? I talked myself into believing that the evacuation would go unnoticed, that I could save the Arcas and nothing would come of it.”“You took a risk,” Olivier said firmly. “But you took the right one.”“Thousands more people died than if I hadn’t. I’ve seen what’s left of them spread across the cargo sheaths.”Olivier rose to his feet and walked over to her. “Listen to me. There’s a place for algorithms that weigh up the numbers and decide everything on that basis—but if the hypocrites who accuse you of ‘moral vanity’ really wanted everything run that way, they should have just put their anointed algorithm in charge, and declared all their problems solved forever. If you’d turned the Arcas away, you wouldn’t have done a greater good—you would have crushed out of existence, for yourself and everyone on Ceres, the thing that gives those numbers meaning.”Anna started sobbing. Olivier reached out and held her shoulders. “I don’t know what I should have done,” she said. “I don’t know.”Olivier waited until she was still. “Come and say goodbye to Camille,” he pleaded. “You can’t sit here alone, counting bodies. Come and hear about her life.”