Back when I was deployed on my second and final tour in Iraq I picked up a sci-fi publication that was sent to us in a care package. It was full of short stories that were a good escape from the landscape I found myself surrounded by. There was one story, however, that has really stuck with me. It was written like a sales ad that might be found in a Reader’s Digest or some other similar publication. The “story” was a sales pitch for an artificial heart. It spoke of the special synthetic blood that the heart used to both transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and lubricate its mechanisms. It was described as being purple, which would alter the pallor of one’s skin and it had to be flushed and exchanged every three months, which was an out-patient procedure.
This probably wouldn’t stand out as a particularly interesting story to most people, but it’s been stuck in my brain ever since. Being a fan of Ghost in the Shell, the idea of cyberizing one’s body with high-efficiency prosthetics and artificial organs intrigues me. I feel that the real interest came with the thought of “What If?” that I get when I read things like the aforementioned article. What if I could replace my heart with a high efficiency prosthetic unit? Would it be worth the money? Would the advantages outweigh the cost of not only the unit, but the maintenance? If I could have a prosthetic heart, what other organs would I replace?
The train of thought where this takes me and the world enhanced by cybernetics where it is most comfortably imagined is the focus of one of my stories. Cyberpunk being more of an aesthetic or setting than an actual genre unto itself gives me a little leeway with how I develop the world in which my characters live. Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and video games like Mirror’s Edge all have influenced my concept. The game Android: Netrunner has given more inspiration than I ever expected a card game to give me. Some of the most interesting inspirations, however, have come from the news. AI being used to create music. AI systems creating their own language to become more efficient. We are in a cyberpunk world right now. Everyone carries smart devices and wears an integrated smart watch. We have tablets and laptops. We are jacked into the internet constantly. We are the future we imagined twenty-seven years ago. The future we imagine today could be here sooner than we realize.
My only question in all of this is when can I talk to a doctor about this high-efficiency mechanical heart? Because I love buying new toys.
If anyone who reads this knows where I can get a copy of the story I referenced, please let me know. I’ve been looking for it for 7 years with no success. I can’t remember the name of the story or the magazine it was in. It was all sci-fi short stories and roughly the dimensions of an old Reader’s Digest monthly magazine.