This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries (the voting link will be posted at the main community after the Tuesday night deadline). This week's topic is "Inconceivable."
If you're reading this in the far future, you might be reading this through osmosis. Or perhaps it is being sung to you by a space griot. Maybe it was downloaded into your computer-enhanced brain. Whoever you are, hello. Some friends and I have been talking about you.
This past weekend I participated in a fascinating panel at Philcon, called "What Will Literature Be Like When The Audience Is No Longer Entirely Human?" We were asked to imagine a post-human future and predict what literature might be like. We built off each other's ideas to contemplate what you might be like, post-human reader.
Some preferred sticking to the hard SF definition of "post-human" as a sentient being evolved from humans. Others considered a post-human world with sentient beings derived from other sources.
Perhaps you communicate via phermones, like many animals. Your books might resemble the ones Cat read on "Red Dwarf": a book of smells.
Perhaps you participate in a group mind, where everything is "crowd-sourced," and each individual's contribution expands the stories you tell, in whatever medium you use.
Perhaps technology has become either impractical or limited. If you live in an apocalyptic world, it might be difficult to make and distribute books. Yet, you might tell stories orally, transferred like the West African griots (who sang stories and histories).
With your advanced brain, can you devour a novel in the blink of an eye (if you still have eyes)? Has literature become more multifaceted, interweaving storyline and commentary and supplementary contemplation? Perhaps you are reading this essay, future beings, at the same time you're reading "Ulysses" and balancing your futuristic checkbook (not that YOU would ever make a mistake).
The only thing we know for sure about you is that, whatever sentient life exists, 10,000 or a million years into the future, we cannot conceive of it. Just look at the clunky visions of space travel from the early days of science fiction: steam-powered time machines, or flying cars that looked like Studebakers with glass domes. How wrong they all were.
Do you interface with mind computers or scrape the dirt for subsistence? Do you communicate through dances, just like bees? Or have you lost the ken for art and imagination, only interested in communicating the latest financial market data and star charts?
Are you aquatic, keening stories in long sounds suitable for underwater listening? Are you bodiless beings who transmit information through mind links? Have you reverted to ancient storytelling practices of drum and dance, tapestries and tile mosaics? Smoke signal and semaphore?
What do you know of us, we small-brained, earthbound creatures? Do you have any idea what it's like to be human?
Let me tell you: however slow-moving our existence might seem to you, our imagination traveled at light speed. We saw things that were not there: a human could ride on a crowded city bus, look out a window at paint-peeling homes under a flat, gray sky, and imagine a sunlit vista. We stared at desiccated leaves and remembered the children we'd once been.
Despite our physical limitations, we reached for celestial summits. We lived for imagination, for storytelling, for moments of elevation when the sun struck a rock and rendered it otherworldly. We lived for the words we shared through song and book and movement, through theater and film, through blogs and instant message, retold over coffee on a crisp fall day. We imagined more than we could ever possibly understand.
And oh, how much we wanted to meet you.