Tuesday, May 21, 2024

"But I Don’t Know Which of Us He Is These Days"

"Fondly Fahrenheit."
By Alfred Bester (1913-87; Wikipedia HERE; ISFDb HERE; FictionMags HERE).
Illustrations by Nick Solovioff (1927-94; Wikipedia HERE
First appearance: Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), August 1954.
Reprints page (HERE).
Online at SFFAudio (HERE).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)

WE'RE all familiar with the human condition, not only because it has been the subject of the world's literature for centuries but also because, no matter how much we'd like to escape from its less desirable aspects, we're destined to experience it every day:

   "The human condition can be defined as the characteristics and key events of human life, including birth, learning, emotion, aspiration, morality, conflict, and death. This is a very broad topic that has been and continues to be pondered and analyzed from many perspectives, including those of art, biology, literature, philosophy, psychology, and religion. As a literary term, 'human condition' is typically used in the context of ambiguous subjects, such as the meaning of life or moral concerns."

   You could say the human condition is universal and eternal, but up until now it's never been contagious . . .

Principal characters:
~ James Vandaleur:
  "Work at what? You know I’m good for nothing. How could I compete with specialist androids and robots? Who can, unless he’s got a terrific talent for a particular job?"
~ James Valentine:
  "'Sometimes,' it said, 'it is a good thing to be property'."
~ Dallas Brady:
  "She screamed and collapsed, her hair and clothes flaming, her skin crackling."
~ Jed:
  "What do we do? Call the police?"
~ Wanda:
  "No. We don’t know if it’s an MA for a fact. If it turns out to be an MA and the killing android, our paper comes first anyway. This is our big chance, Jed. If it’s that android we can run a series of controlled tests and — "
~ Blenheim:
  "I am the wizard of the Theory of Number, Mr. Vole, and I have exhausted the charm of number for myself."
~ Nan Webb:
  "Synesthesia, obviously."

References and resources:
- "Androids can't destroy. They can't harm":
  "The tension between the nonhuman substance and the human appearance—or even human ambitions—of androids is the dramatic impetus behind most of their fictional depictions. . . . Android stories, therefore, are not essentially stories 'about' androids; they are stories about the human condition and what it means to be human. . . . One aspect of writing about the meaning of humanity is to use discrimination against androids as a mechanism for exploring racism in society, as in Blade Runner." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Lyra Alpha":
  More properly, Alpha Lyrae, also known as Vega: "Vega is the brightest star in the northern constellation of Lyra. It has the Bayer designation α Lyrae, which is Latinised to Alpha Lyrae and abbreviated Alpha Lyr or α Lyr. This star is relatively close at only 25 light-years (7.7 parsecs) from the Sun, and one of the most luminous stars in the Sun's neighborhood. It is the fifth-brightest star in the night sky, and the second-brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "All reet! All reet!":
  Our author seems to be echoing a 1940s Cab Calloway jive tune. (See SongMeanings HERE; Archive.org HERE; Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Lalande . . . Lacaille . . . Indi . . . Eridani":
  Lalande: One of the stars named by a French astronomer (Wikipedia HERE) . . . Lacaille: One of the stars discovered by another French astronomer (Wikipedia HERE) . . . Indi: One of the stars located in the constellation of Indus (Wikipedia HERE) . . . Eridani: One of the stars found in the constellation of Eridanus (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Theory of Number":
  "Number theory (or arithmetic or higher arithmetic in older usage) is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers and arithmetic functions. German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) said, 'Mathematics is the queen of the sciences—and number theory is the queen of mathematics.' Number theorists study prime numbers as well as the properties of mathematical objects constructed from integers (for example, rational numbers), or defined as generalizations of the integers (for example, algebraic integers)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Antares II, Alpha Aurigae, Acrux IV, Pollux IX, Rigel Centaurus":
  Antares II: "Antares is a red supergiant star with a stellar classification of M1.5Iab-Ib, and is indicated to be a spectral standard for that class. Due to the nature of the star, the derived parallax measurements have large errors, so that the true distance of Antares is approximately 550 light-years (170 parsecs) from the Sun." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  Alpha Aurigae: "Capella is the brightest star in the northern constellation of Auriga. It has the Bayer designation α Aurigae, which is Latinised to Alpha Aurigae and abbreviated Alpha Aur or α Aur. Capella is the sixth-brightest star in the night sky, and the third-brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere after Arcturus and Vega. A prominent object in the northern winter sky, it is circumpolar to observers north of 44°N. Its name meaning 'little goat' in Latin, Capella depicted the goat Amalthea that suckled Zeus in classical mythology. Capella is relatively close, at 42.9 light-years (13.2 pc) from the Sun. It is one of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky, thought to come primarily from the corona of Capella Aa." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  Acrux IV: "Acrux is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Crux. It has the Bayer designation α Crucis, which is Latinised to Alpha Crucis and abbreviated Alpha Cru or α Cru. With a combined visual magnitude of +0.76, it is the 13th-brightest star in the night sky. It is the most southerly star of the asterism known as the Southern Cross and is the southernmost first-magnitude star, 2.3 degrees more southerly than Alpha Centauri. This system is located at a distance of 321 light-years from the Sun." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  Pollux IX: "Pollux is the brightest star in the constellation of Gemini. It has the Bayer designation β Geminorum, which is Latinised to Beta Geminorum and abbreviated Beta Gem or β Gem. This is an orange-hued, evolved giant star located at a distance of 34 light-years, making it the closest giant to the Sun. Since 1943, the spectrum of this star has served as one of the stable anchor points by which other stars are classified. In 2006 an extrasolar planet (designated Pollux b or β Geminorum b, later named Thestias) was confirmed to be orbiting it." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  Rigel Centaurus: "Alpha Centauri (α Centauri, α Cen, or Alpha Cen) is a triple star system in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It consists of three stars: Rigil Kentaurus (α Centauri A), Toliman (α Centauri B), and Proxima Centauri (α Centauri C). Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun at 4.2465 light-years (1.3020 pc)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a lone flight of bustards":
  "The birds were once common and abounded on the Salisbury Plain [in England]. They had become rare by 1819 when a large male, surprised by a dog on Newmarket Heath, sold in Leadenhall Market for five guineas. The last bustard in Britain died in approximately 1832, but the bird is being reintroduced through batches of chicks imported from Russia. In 2009, two great bustard chicks were hatched in Britain for the first time in more than 170 years. Reintroduced bustards also hatched chicks in 2010." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "in a lunatic rumba":
  "The rhumba dance that developed on the East Coast of the United States was based on the bolero-son. The first rumba competition took place in the Savoy Ballroom in 1930. Nowadays, two different styles of ballroom rumba coexist: American style and International style. From 1935 to the 1950s, the Mexican and American film industry expanded the use of the term rumba as rumbera films became popular. In this context, rumberas were Cuban and Mexican divas, singers and actresses who sang boleros and canciones, but rarely rumbas. Notable rumberas include Rita Montaner, Rosa Carmina, María Antonieta Pons and Ninón Sevilla." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Projection, Wanda warned me":
  "Psychological projection is a defence mechanism of alterity concerning 'inside' content mistaken to be coming from the 'outside' Other. It forms the basis of empathy by the projection of personal experiences to understand someone else's subjective world. In its malignant forms, it is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against disowned and highly negative parts of the self by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others, breeding misunderstanding and causing untold interpersonal damage. Projection incorporates blame shifting and can manifest as shame dumping. Projection has been described as an early phase of introjection. . . . Freud considered that, in projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one's own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else. What the ego refuses to accept is split off and placed in another." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- It's been years since we last examined Alfred Bester's work, in this instance "Star Light, Star Bright" (HERE).

The bottom line:
Philippe de Champaigne's "Vanitas" (c. 1671)

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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