Salon, August 2002
|I wrote this while at a summer writer's workshop in July, 2002, at an arts-center on Toronto Island. Like most of my fiction, this reflects a lot of what's going on in my life at the moment. In this case, it was my immersion in copyright issues, nerd culture and posthumanism. This is the first SF story Salon ever published, and it made quite a splash.|
Ten years in the Valley, and all Murray Swain had to show for it was a spare tire, a bald patch, and a life that was friendless and empty and maggoty-rotten. His only ever California friend, Liam, had dwindled from a tubbaguts programmer-shaped potato to a living skeleton on his death-bed the year before, herpes blooms run riot over his skin and bones in the absence of any immunoresponse. The memorial service featured a framed photo of Liam at his graduation; his body was donated for medical science.
Liam's death really screwed things up for Murray. He'd gone into one of those clinical depression spirals that eventually afflicted all the aging bright young coders he'd known during his life in tech. He'd get misty in the morning over his second cup of coffee and by the midafternoon blood-sugar crash, he'd be weeping silently in his cubicle, clattering nonsensically at the keys to disguise the disgusting snuffling noises he made. His wastebasket overflowed with spent tissues and a rumor circulated among the evening cleaning-staff that he was a compulsive masturbator. The impossibility of the rumor was immediately apparent to all the other coders on his floor who, pr0n-hounds that they were, had explored the limits and extent of the censoring proxy that sat at the headwaters of the office network. Nevertheless, it was gleefully repeated in the collegial fratmosphere of his workplace and wags kept dumping their collections of conference-snarfed hotel-sized bottles of hand-lotion on his desk.
The number of bugs per line in Murray's code was 500 percent that of the overall company average. The QA people sometimes just sent his code back to him (From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: Your code... Body: ...sucks) rather than trying to get it to build and run. Three weeks after Liam died, Murray's team leader pulled his commit privileges on the CVS repository, which meant that he had to grovel with one of the other coders when he wanted to add his work to the project.