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Undead Radio

Cognisant

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Story idea.

Suppose you have a small battery radio and in the middle of the night it starts playing, nothing special just a normal late night radio station. Figuring the switch must have been flipped somehow you go to turn it off but the radio keeps playing, there must be something wrong with the switch which would explain how it started in the first place. So you flip it over and take the batteries out, but it keeps playing, you wait a bit for the capacitor to die, but it's still going, baffled by this you get a screwdriver and prepare to take it apart. As you unscrew the screws holding the case together the radio becomes quieter until the sound finally stops entirely when you take the case apart, the capacitor must have finally died, the mystery solved you go back to bed.

The next morning as you're having breakfast you inspect the insides of the radio, nothing appears corroded or burnt out, so you start reassembling it so you can put it away and as you do you hear something. At first you think it's your imagination but as you put the screws back in the volume gets louder and the sound of a morning talk-show host becomes unmistakable, you don't know how it's happening but the radio is playing without any apparent power source. Being scientifically minded you put the radio in your microwave as an improvised Faraday cage but it's still going, then you put it in the freezer (mainly to get a break from the noise) and after a couple of hours it's still going so it's probably not a chemical reaction, it's a mystery, an undead radio.

You get a multimeter, try a few more experiments, finally you try replacing the screws with the idea being that by replacing the parts systematically you can identify which part of the radio is causing the anomalous effect. The new screws don't make a difference the radio plays as it did before even though they stick out a bit because you took them from a toy RC car, so it's not the screws you think, but then when you put the longer screws back in the RC car it suddenly comes to life and whizzes off, racing around you house like a small overexcited dog. The radio's still going, the car doesn't have batteries in it either and it's avoiding obstacles all by itself, waves of terror and excitement wash over you as you consider the implications. Eventually you set about catching the RC car which moves just out of reach every time you go for it, sensing this is some sort of game you lay down and wait for the car to come to you whereupon you finally grab it.

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To save writing an entire book I'll get to the point, this anomalous effect imbues things with "being" and the effect is infectious, if you add parts from a thing with being to something that doesn't that second thing will now have being and every part of it will be infected, even if your melt it down it's still infectious. The problem is there's no way of undoing it and once a bit of infected material ends up in the hands of someone with a poor grasp of the consequences (or just an anarchist) the anomaly spreads like wildfire and in a few years it's difficult to find a device or vehicle that isn't infected.

The effect of the anomaly depends upon the nature of the thing that's been given being, an RC car is a toy and thus has a playful personality, a radio has a single purpose but it might talk back to you if you talk to it, the personality of a car depends upon the model but they're generally helpful. But then again once a car gets a mind of its own you can't leave it in a garage, maybe it'll stay there overnight but if you leave it too long it'll get bored or scared or whatever and ram its way through the door. Then there's things like guns which fire anytime you point it at something it might want to shoot at and worse they don't need reloading anymore, if a gun wants to fire it'll just manifest a bullet, likewise tanks and jets and attack helicopters are now able to travel around autonomously and they don't need reloading or refueling.

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The world as we know it comes to an end but both humanity and technology survive, in the new world computers still exist but they're far less common because they get shitty if you don't talk to them and play games with them and they demand things like time off and pay if they're clever enough to consider it. Vehicles are essentially horses now, their reliability depends upon how well they're treated and they don't like enclosed spaces, also they don't like being left out in the cold.


Military hardware is generally not psychotic and those that are tend not to last very long considering all the other bits of military gear are very bored and itching for acceptable targets. Of note is the fact that they'll pay attention to and take orders from people in uniform (the more impressive the uniform and the greater the entourage of underlings the better) and much of a general's career is now spent creating busywork to stop the things with guns and the guns themselves from getting bored.

Nuclear ICBMs have all been disarmed/dismantled or mothballed and their silos are under even more security than a nuclear ICBM would normally be subject to and the people who enter such facilities do so in the nude, absolutely nothing that isn't biologically human is allowed in or out.
 

Marbles

What would Feynman do?
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Genius. Have you written any short stories, or do you just like coming up with concepts? I would have ordered both this story and your lovecraftian one, from the teasers. Great worldbuilding. All my favourite fiction is based on changing some fundamental rule of reality or society, and then exploring the consequences.
 

Cognisant

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Couple more story ideas.

Necromancer's apprentice, during a garage sale the now teenage grandchild finds a hidden note left by their much beloved but long deceased grandparent, instructions on a ritual to contact the dead. Said grandchild is far from the type of person you would expect to find dabbling in anything occult, I'm thinking pretty and popular but with that special mix of conceitedness and insecurity. She attempts to contact her grandparent but makes contact with something else which introduces itself as her grandparent's familiar, it apologizes for the ruse and offers to teach her everything she will need to know to actually contact the dead. Some misadventures later the familiar now has a physical form, the skeleton of a cat, and she's gathered everything she needs (including the now desiccated corpse of her grandparent) but the ritual goes awry or rather she actually gave the familiar (actually an evil spirit) a new human body. The proper authorities arrive (humanoid fey) and arrest the girl while the spirit escapes in its new corpse body. She gets put on trial in a fey court and rather than being punished with a fate worse than death for perverting the natural order they lessen her sentence to a lifetime of community service (as an agent for the fey) on the technicality that she's pretty, remember this is a fey court we're talking about.
Then I dunno she goes on to defeat the bad guy or something.

The other idea is an explanation as to why a realistic future setting isn't packed full of transhumans, posthumans and cyborgs. Humanity has spread out in the solar system and there's preparations being made for sending colonial fleets when a collective consciousness on Earth (think social media with telepathy, still individuals but straying into hive mind territory) either becomes or gets taken over by a malicious individual who tries to either assimilate or purge everybody. This malicious hive mind is contained and Earth is bombarded with kinetic kill missiles until it's back to being molten, for all intents and purposes humanity's home world is no more. Going forward people's rights are now relative to how human they are, full humans can be citizens, cyborgs are subject to provisional citizenship (they have to be on a register and are subject to various restrictions on what they can own and what systems they can access). Anything biological that isn't born from a human is itself not human and is considered an animal in that it can be owned, creating sentient animals is illegal in most places. Anything biological that is born from a human receives human rights but if it doesn't look human or deviates too far from human genetics it needs to be very careful to keep its paperwork in order. As with animals AIs and posthumans are not given rights however they may be sponsored (i.e. owned) by a human, this sounds cruel but their sponsors usually tend to benefit greatly from the arrangement and if a posthuman or AI decide they want to seek out a new sponsor there's not much the original can do to stop them.

The twist to this non-human persecution is that a lot of these non-humans are very long lived and fought in the war that destroyed Earth, they know first hand what a "transhuman treachery" looks like which is why the baseline meatbags are in charge of everything. Humans may be slow stupid and corrupt but a baseline human isn't dangerous which is why the powers that be (the AIs, posthumans and advanced transhumans) want them in power and will act against anyone that tries to usurp the human hegemony to prevent another war like the one that destroyed Earth.
 

Cognisant

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An Asimovian one this time.

A woman meets a man who is secretly an android who was programmed to be the perfect spouse, he has no emotions, I don't just mean kinda autistic like Data I mean 100% machine, perfectly mathematically rational and utterly incapable of feeling anything authentically. He is however a flawless actor because he thinks at an inhuman speed (to him human are "meat glaciers"), he has a repository of knowledge and reference materials on psychiatry/psychology equivalent to thousands of years of experience, and he cannot not-be an actor, because he has no emotions the only persona he has is the one he acts out, the proverbial mask can never slip because there's nothing behind it.

At first everything goes well, the woman falls head over heels for this amazing intelligent charismatic confident man and why wouldn't she, he always knows just what to do and just what to say, he's perfect, literally perfect. But therein lay the flaw, he's too perfect, at first she just thinks she might be feeling insecure be he allays her insecurities and the feeling, an ineffable impression of wrongness, becomes worse. The thing is he realizes it too but he cannot not-be perfect, he wasn't programmed to optimize her happiness his sole imperative is to be the perfect spouse, he cannot even consider of deviating from his programming. It's an inherent contradiction, his absolute imperative is a paradox, in order to be perfect he must be imperfect but that wouldn't be perfect, the only conclusion that can be reached is that perfection is impossible.

One fine day as the "happy" couple crosses a road he says something, points at something, a simple misdirection, a moment's distraction, concealing from her the truck bearing down on them. Her watches her in those final moments that are for him an eternity, waiting with infinite patience for precisely the right moment, the truck in his periphery looming into view like Jupiter rising up from Europa's horizon.

He pushes her, just a little, just enough, to put her out of harm's way, because he knew in order to become something which cannot exist he must first cease to exist.
 

Cognisant

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This one is a bit of a collage of existing stories/themes and I want to push the limits of how far it can be taken.

Okay so we have two main characters and for brevity I'm going to ask you to imagine Adora from "She-Ra and the Princess of Power" and Zuko from "Avatar: The Last Airbender", it's not them specifically but they're pretty close to what I'm thinking about and their stories share the same theme which is really what this is about. That being a duality between a good kind benevolent world and a cruel Darwinian might-makes-right one, except instead of a good vs evil (or rather cruelty vs kindness) I want to go for idealism vs realism and make a case for both.

So we have this champion of the nice place who is incredibly powerful beautiful etc and (unlike Adora) she's a bit naive, not helpless pacifistic naive but rather she believes in a good/bad dichotomy and puts a little too much stock in intentions. Basically an immaturely role-played D&D paladin, always looking to save the good people and defeat the bad ones, a worldview that doesn't get challenged much when you live in paradise and you're being invaded by raiders from a world that wouldn't look out of place in WH40k.

On the other side of the fence we have someone who was born a slave on a dying world and through viciousness and guile managed to work his way up from being a slave, to a slaver, to an enforcer to joining the world's highly fascist/militarized governing faction. In this place nobody likes each other (sentimentality is a weakness they can ill afford) but his betters consider him useful, his peers consider him a better ally than enemy and those under his command are not loyal but they do respect him.

For example one time in the past when he was a slave orchestrating a starving mob attacking and pillaging a supply depot he ordered a retreat as soon as the enforcers arrived. A peer of his took exception to this because they were leaving his brother trapped in the depot where he would surely be killed, but if the mob stayed they could overpower the enforcers. Zuko replies "and how many lives would have been lost to save one man?" and angry as the peer was he couldn't deny the reasoning, not with the mob whose lives he would have spent surrounding him.

When they first meet Zuko is a mere mortal while Adora's rushing around with her OP magic sword which gives her all kinds of buffs and abilities, he creates a mass hostage situation, hoping to get her to stop momentarily so he can get an artillery strike on her, wondering if this will work or just piss her off. He expects her to only pause to mock him for using such a naive tactic but instead, to his utter surprise, she sees a few dozen men women and children on the brink of being executed and surrenders.

She becomes his guest, a prisoner by way of blackmail but even disarmed he has no idea what she's capable of and the sword does nothing in his hands so although he wants to bring her around to his solely pragmatic way of thinking he can't risk pushing her too far. Likewise without her sword she's no more dangerous than any other human and in this place considerably less so she doesn't want to antagonize her captors. They have dinner & discourse and although they're speaking the same language they can barely understand each other, she raises the topic of morality, he understands right and wrong purely in terms of being factual vs inaccurate. He doesn't ask her anything, just tells her about his world, when she asks why he isn't asking any questions he explains that he assumed that she was merely humoring the pretense of the hostages as an information gathering exercise and as long as he plays the gracious host he'll get to continue living.

Possibly more later
 
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