Some near-future psych fiction

“I’m sorry if I seem a little preoccupied today, Zhayden is getting his academic aptitude test results back today and it’s really important to both of us that he gets into a good academy. Zhaden, you look a little warm buddy, you want me to unzip you?”

Zhaden, which she pronounced “Jayden”, was the Pomeranian sitting in her lap. This was my last appointment of the day and I was trying my best to focus on ways to engage my client’s better judgment in the pursuit of her mental health and daily functioning, and not of the bottle of bourbon in my lower desk drawer. Knob Creek, very smooth with just the right amount of heat. Dammit, focus.

“Katheryn, I’m concerned that these ‘puppy academy’ folks are taking advantage of your vulnerability. No amount of dog training is worth what they’re charging. Do you remember how you fell for the Puppy Sports leagues? Most of those people are in jail now.”

A darkness passed over her face so quickly that I almost didn’t catch it. A microexpression of absolute terror. Immediately she painted a smile over it.

“I know, right? Zhaden hated chasing that ball around almost as much as he hated the diet. Gluten-free was such a fad.” She forced out a laugh. “Zhaden, I almost forgot, I’m gonna unzip you, is that better?” The Pomeranian did not seem to notice the small degree of freedom from his performance fleece, but instead continued trembling like all those little purse dogs do. His eyes never seemed to focus on anything, like a baby’s. I can’t tell if they mirror the mental illnesses of their owners, or if they’re just born that way, or what.

I paused. Katheryn also looked a great deal like a baby, with her wide eyes, flabby cheeks, and squished-up face. Her infantile mind left her wide open to the flourishing fraudsters who predated upon the mentally ill which, according to a recent study, now included 86 percent of white American women. If such a thing as human spirit exists, the trauma of losing the child had clearly broken hers. But I suppose her trauma couldn’t compare to that which her child had experienced in the six months between the kidnapping and eventually succumbing to her injuries.

Only seven years old. I decided it was time for the bourbon.

“Why don’t we call it a day? I’m sure Zhayden is very excited to get his results.”

She agreed (happily?) and fussed over the Pomeranian for a minute on the way out the door. He trotted out the door with his performance fleece askew, which inexplicably filled me with disgust and revulsion. I waited until hearing the doorbell, indicating Katheryn was safely in the strip mall’s parking lot, before quickly knocking back a shot of the Knob Creek. To this day I don’t even remember doing it, not even the burn. But I saw the glass was wet and the aftertaste was in my mouth.

I calmed myself and poured two fingers into the glass, taking only a small sip this time. The court had ordered the assailant to attend therapy sessions as well, in prison. Actually wait, he was on parole by now. Violent ideation flashed through my mind, which I chalked up to fatigue, convincing me once more that policy makers had been wise to mass produce restraining orders for all parties involved in violent criminal cases. The problem with society, they said, is that there are too many moving parts.

I took another sip, then pulled out my checkbook on a whim. Payable to the account of Raymond Schiffler, $100. Less than the insurance premium for Katheryn’s weekly half-hour sessions. I pulled up Microsoft Word 2020 and began drafting a letter.

Father Schiffler,

I hereby concede our little wager on the question of evolutionary psychology and the sexual impulse, even though according to our terms I have not yet strictly lost. But I am not quite foolish enough to need a study to tell me what my eyes can see well enough. It is obvious that we will have no predictive general theory of sociosexual diversity by the end of the decade.

Though lacking specifics, we in the scientific community understand that the sexual appetite may be fully explained as necessary to the continued vitality of the animal races. However, the infinitely diverse epicycles of this mechanism (which you describe as “mental illnesses” in flagrant disregard of social progress) elude our best efforts to square the circle. The recent, shocking revelation that geneticists will never be able to predict homosexuality with greater than 30% success (that it is not merely implausible, but a statistical fact of the genome) serves to illustrate this failure.

I also concede your point that unusual sexual activities are “perversions” in the most technical sense of the word, though I still ask you to refrain from using such language when “epicycles” communicates the meaning just as well without alienating your religious institution from the modern scientific literature.

Dr. James Hummel

Microsoft Word suddenly crashed, and it took half a minute to reboot the computer and restore the draft from the solid-state drive. Seizing the opportunity, I quaffed the last mouthful of bourbon. My nervous anxiety had abated by now, but my stomach was still unsettled. It was an awkward contrast of sensations. Fraud. No, it was from drinking without eating. I decided against a third glass. Impulsively, I added a postscript.

P.S. It is a mystery to me how you regularly win our bets regarding esoteric matters of the mind, yet science has repeatedly failed to observe any effect at all of faith and prayer except on the well-being of the believer. Perhaps our next bet should concern the paradox of the “is/ought” dichotomy, which our most recent conversation did not resolve to my satisfaction.

I printed the letter, dressed the envelope, and tucked it into my jacked. Then I called my wife. “Honey, I’m in the mood for bad food tonight. Meet me at Granite City? Good, I’ll order us a couple beers.”

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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38 Responses to Some near-future psych fiction

  1. Aeoli Pera says:

    Today I learned that fiction is way harder than nonfiction.

    This is very loosely based on a true story.

    • Pellegri says:

      Something something emotional verisimilitude versus factual accuracy or that’s the way I’ve always thought of it.

      With nonfiction all you ever risk is your readers fact-checking you. Either it’s from a bad source and they’re idiots or you learn something you didn’t know, so it’s win-win (if the resentment doesn’t get you). With fiction you risk readers going “who the hell is this idiot and why is his model of the human psyche so terrible”.

      Or so it goes for me when I inquire of my writer’s block. YMMV.

      • Aeoli Pera says:

        >With nonfiction all you ever risk is your readers fact-checking you.

        I hadn’t thought of it that way. The main problems I ran into were keeping a tight rein on my verbosity and remembering a week’s worth of insights in the correct order. However I’m very pleased with the result.

      • Pellegri says:

        I think that’s my biggest stumbling block, and why I can generally slam out work for school in a couple of hours while most of my fiction-writing time is spent trying to justify why something I think is awesome is not in fact shitty worldbuilding. If it isn’t something you worry about, more power to you!

        Verbosity is one you can worry about in an editing pass, though there’s something to be said for getting things down in a readable form in the first pass.

        I really like the use of “epicycles,” though.

  2. Heaviside says:

    You know that the Persians already have a vaccine for homophilia, right?

    I propose that we give them the Savannah River MOX facility and EBR-II in exchange, a win win for everybody.

  3. TE says:

    wtf dude? what’s the deal?

    This is way good writing imo… and it’s fiction which I don’t recall you doing before… so you been practicing this in secret or just spontaneously started writing this stuff?

  4. minwu says:

    Off topic:
    Guess what happens when a snakemeloness lusts after an amud pretty boy.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      I was going to argue that all races can have pretty boys, etc. But I gave it some thought and realized what an extreme case this is (the story of Troy gender-swapped), and came to the conclusion that you’re probably close to the truth.

  5. I like where this is going. Reminds me a bit of Ted Chiang’s “Understand”. Near future psych sci fi narrated from the first person. Keep it up, bud.

    Idea: get a Patreon account. I’ll happily throw you some dollares.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      It goes against my nature, but I will admit it’s becoming more tempting every day.

      • Edenist whackjob says:

        You’re against getting money for your writing? Do you realize this philosophy of yours is actively reducing my quality of life? Shut up and take my money.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          You won’t convince me by appealing to libertarian ideas :-).

          >You’re against getting money for your writing?

          I’m against a lot of things, but in this case it’s because it feels absurd to take money for something that makes me happy, which I’d do regardless. It’s very nice to have an audience now, but I’ve been blogging for more than a decade and I don’t see myself ever stopping.

          Christian charity, on the other hand, I would accept despite being shamed by it. A little shame would probably be good for me.

  6. Pellegri says:

    This made me frustrated while reading it. Good frustrated–in response to the world you presented and how it carries forward the world’s current perversities. I too want to see more.

  7. j says:

    evokes dread. thought to self, can SWPL/SJW sociocultural infrastructure even survive/exist in the morlock future? even heavier dread. i suppose that was intended.

    also my synesthesia explodes in response to your prose. occ + brainz ftw. literary version of tasty burritos.

    • j says:

      should have said “DMT-enriched alcoholic elven candy” for teh right feelz (smooth and utopian) instead of greasy burritos.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >evokes dread. thought to self, can SWPL/SJW sociocultural infrastructure even survive/exist in the morlock future? even heavier dread. i suppose that was intended.

      “Intention” isn’t really the right word (because CREATIVITY), but I was playing with a lot of implicit tension.

      >also my synesthesia explodes in response to your prose. occ + brainz ftw. literary version of tasty burritos.

      First of all, lol, second of all, thanks for more or less confirming that theory of mine regarding synesthesia. There was a lot of stuff going on in the story and I’m glad you were able to sense it.

  8. Koanic says:

    I stopped feeling bad about not being able to write fiction after I read this.

    The truth is, the inside of my head is a cruel place that nobody would willingly inhabit. Yours is more pleasant, so despite not being a liar you are able to sustain at least short fictional bursts by telling the truth about yourself and others in a slightly different setting. This is how Tolstoy wrote.

    • Pellegri says:

      Peter Watts does well, though.

      Although since you’ve read him I imagine you’re amply positioned to say you’d write things cruelly than what he does.

      • Koanic says:

        If I was writing in Watts universe, maybe crueler. In mine, kinder.

        But the fundamental difference is that Watts is more humane than I am. So he can write more cruelty and more kindness. This is not just a physiognomic difference, but also an outcome of ideology and life trajectory.

        Most of the humane emotion that should go into fiction is irrelevant to me now and always has been, due to lifelong possession of an (evolving) Master Plan that dominates individual human significance. This indifference renders my fiction stillborn.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          Also, I think experiencing chronic physical pain has brutalized your empathy, so that when you mirror other people (simulating their experience) you think “What, you’re worried about THIS? Sack up, pussy.”

          So I’d compare this acquired extreme pain tolerance to your extreme associative horizon and intelligence. It’s just plain hard for you to communicate ditonally.

      • Pellegri says:

        Got it. Thank you for explaining.

      • Koanic says:

        Pain-derived indifference and affect-flattening fatigue compete with relearned emotion and socialization. I was a happy bubbly kid till the testosterone transition, when the Purpose dropped with my balls, settling my face into a stoic mask. Unfortunately there was no Ultramarine Legion recruiting office in my township, an oversight I intend to correct.

        Also, I used to think it mattered what the average person thought, so I was motivated to interact. Now I know that people take their color from the system and its leaders, and are thus irrelevant. (Aside from their function of propagating the scattered vectors of the altruistic genetic legacy.)

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Good essay.

      I wouldn’t describe the inside of my head as pleasant- this story was, after all, a sort of barely controlled scream at the world.

      I didn’t set myself as the protagonist, or at least not by intention. But if you imagine this is more or less the world I already inhabit (rather than being 2022 or whatever), my thoughts and opinions will probably make a great deal more sense.

  9. Wog Slayer says:

    “The truth is, the inside of my head is a cruel place that nobody would willingly inhabit.”
    Except perhaps by one with an equally cruel mind and an even greater deal of heartlessness.

  10. Heaviside says:

    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

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