Semiotic Smoke

For Bruce Sterling

“You used to produce a lot of interesting works of art when you were incomprehensible,” the spokescreature for the alien hivemind said, just after visiting the Louvre.

“One does its best to make some sense when struggling through life as an individual entity,” countered the spokestransgender for the human hivemind. “Fortunately, those times are far in the past now.”


“So many different thoughts and points of view would have driven us crazy long before we could achieve a single consciousness,” the alien representative said later, bemused, sipping uncomfortably a warm nutrient drink of foul taste to conserve its body energy in the cold of the neutral space station orbiting Earth. “How did you manage to do it then?”

“Semiotic smoke and mediatic mirrors, dear,” said the human with a wry smile. “Besides, who told you we didn´t get crazy?,” s/he said, showing the scarred wastelands beyond which lay the stasis bubbles containing the remnants of Still-Human civilization.

“I would like to visit L´Hermitage,” the alien representative said. “I was told the artifacts exhibited there are very exquisite.”

“Indeed,” said the post-human. “You will probably like them very much. Our art during war times was really exquisite.”

“But what about now?,” the alien asked without moving away its transdimensional feelers from the barren vistas on the rust-and-brown world below. “Do you still create art?”

The post-human looked to the alien representative as if it has just committed a diplomatic faux pas.

And s/he willed off the holographic makeup.

The alien representative didn´t looked shocked in the least. Its races were so much ancient than humankind that it was far beyond the human (or even post-human) range of emotions.

“This is part of your semiotic smoke, I suppose,” it said to the massive creature which barely resembled a human anymore.

“More than that”, the voice now boomed from a sound system coming from all the station at once, for the strange shape didn´t seem to have a mouth. “We are the art now. The planet is just a sideshow, a museum for past achievements. History, if you will.”

The alien representative slurped thoughtfully and in silence the rest of the bituminous nutrient drink, weighting the words of the now much changed post-human in front of it. After what seemed quite a long time, he said the words the post-human wanted to hear:

“What do you want in exchange for exhibiting your bodies in the Consortium?”


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