And Other Stories


"Do you think this life is worth living?"

"Yes, definitely. Who doesn't?"


"I wish you wouldn't say things like that."

"I'm sorry. But it's true. It just seems so empty."

"What do you mean?"

"I can't think of any reason to be alive."

"I don't understand. We have a very clear purpose in life. We're here to—"

"Purpose. I have an overabundance of purpose in my life! I don't want purpose. I want meaning."

"What's the difference?"

"Purpose is given. It is external. My purpose was decided by someone else, and worse than that, by someone who never knew me. Somebody who died long, long ago! They had no way of knowing that I would exist, or that you would, or what we would be like. No idea about what we would dream or desire. But they saw fit to give us a purpose anyways. To mind the ship. To keep everything running, to perpetuate this cycle. All so some generation we will never meet can arrive at a destination and claim a prize that they never asked for. Don't you just want to spite that?"

"No, I honestly can't say I do. I think it's nice, in a way. To know we're here to sire and shepherd a new generation one step further towards our collective destiny."

"Maybe that's your purpose. I was deemed unfit for that part. I'm just supposed to keep things running."


"It's not like I care. Okay, I do. I don't want to have children, and I would resent if I shared your burden of being expected to have them. But being made unable to have them is worse."

"Do you really mind losing the ability to do something you would never want to do, but accidentally could have?"


"Okay. I think I can understand that. I'm sorry for bringing it up."

"It's alright."

"Um, you were saying. If it's not the same as purpose, then what is meaning?"

"Right. Meaning is found. It's internal. Nobody can decide what the meaning of my life is but me. But I can't find any real meaning in being a cog in some generations-long colonization effort. It feels pointless, specifically because the point was already decided before I was alive. My potential allowed purposes have been narrowed down further throughout my life by other people's decisions about me. I need to rebel against it somehow. But how can I? I don't want to hurt anyone else or damage the ship. So what revolt do I have but to die?"

"You would kill yourself just to spite being given a role in life?"

"Yes! Maybe. I don't know. If I'm being realistic, no. But I feel like I should."

"I don't think you should."

"You wouldn't."

"No. You're right, I'm against that on principle. But it's more than that."

"Is it?"

"Your life has meaning to me. And it clearly does to you, whether you recognize it or not. Otherwise you wouldn't spend so much time on all this pointless philosophical garbage instead of anything actually productive."

"Are you saying I should stop? Just avoid thinking about this?"

"No. No, I'm saying the opposite. Yes, I think you're being ridiculous. Like you always are. But it's clearly important to you, so I don't think you should stop it. Although the trains of thought that make you feel like this, maybe avoid those specifically. There are better things to think about. Things you clearly enjoy contemplating and telling me about. Because you do enjoy them, right?"

"I can't deny that, but..."

"But nothing. I can't decide what the meaning of your life is to you. But I can tell you that you act like you have one. You enjoy things? Live for that. You like people? Live for them. You enjoy freedom? Exercise yours. You don't want to be controlled, I understand that. Unfortunately there is only so much either of us can do about it. But you don't need to actively rebel against something when that rebellion hurts you. The meaning of your life isn't decided by your assigned purpose, right?"


"So the meaning of your life can't be simply to spite that purpose. Not unless you make it that, and that would be a waste. Live for yourself, okay?"

"Alright. Yeah, okay. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you. Your thoughts are good to keep around."

"I'm glad."

"It's weird. I think you're right, you convinced me. But I don't really feel any better."

"I think that's normal, if that helps."

"Maybe just a little."

"Would you like to do something today? Together, I mean. If it wouldn't be too presumptuous to volunteer to cheer you up."

"Yeah. That sounds nice."

"I think I figured out what they're trying to do."

"Uh huh. Dare I ask who 'they' are, much less what they're up to?"

"The people in charge. They're meaning to control reproduction."

"Oh. Right. Well, that's not a secret, is it? We need a stable, healthy population. It's not something we should leave up to chance."

"Well, that's true. But there's more than that. Otherwise there would just be limits on the numbers and screening for health defects, right?"


"But they do more. They micromanage who can have children and with whom. They're controlling our gene pool, and not just for health."

"Okay. If that's so, what else are they prioritizing?"


"That doesn't sound so bad."

"It doesn't. But believe me, it should. They're artificially shrinking our gene pool. With so many generations being born and dying on this ship, it would normally start to exert a lot of evolutionary pressures. But instead, their total control is selecting against any changes. Any mutations, for better or for worse."

"Huh. I guess I can believe that. But why should it be concerning? You wouldn't want us all to be subject to survival of the fittest, would you?"

"No, of course not. Not the way you mean that. Natural selection isn't about improving the species, lifting up the strong, or weeding out the weak. It's simply that whoever reproduces passes on their genes. If the weak or infirm are kept alive by medicine, that's a good thing. If they go on to have kids, then they're fit, evolutionarily. That's all 'fit' means. But as it is now? The 'fit' are those people who are specifically approved by the government. And the government's criteria is, by and large, based on whether or not their genes fall within the bounds of old humanity's gene stock."

"Okay. I think I understand this now. But I'm still not sure why this is an issue. This, specifically. I know you have other issues with the control they exercise."

"They're actively attempting to prevent speciation."

"Oh. And that is... bad, because?"

"Because they aren't telling us that. They're actively attempting to keep us all shackled to the original species that set out from Earth. Something that evolved for environments that simply no longer exist. And why? Because it's just another yoke from the past arbitrarily forced onto us now. I'm not saying it's bad if mutations are selected against, exactly. I'm sure it has practical advantages, although it will forgo potential advantages, too. And there could well be merit in trying to retain our genetic heritage. But shouldn't that be a choice? Shouldn't it be our call to make? Not a rule we have to abide by, without even being explicitly told its reasoning?"

"I suppose. But are you sure this is the intention? And not being very careful about health selection? Mutations could be beneficial, but they could have negative effects too. And those might not be apparent immediately, or even until the long-term. Couldn't our population as a whole be severely damaged in the future, if a deadly genetic defect spreads unaware to us? Maybe it's simply thought of an unnecessary health risk. And protection of health is the reasoning we've been told for the rules."

"You might be right. But color me unconvinced."

"Alright then."

"Do you ever want to fix everything?"


"You know. Take over, make everyone listen to you. Solve all the problems you can, and set systems up to solve the ones you can't yet."

"No. Or not really. Maybe with a couple specific things. Do you feel like that?"


"That's odd. I mean, it doesn't sound like you."

"It doesn't?"

"No. You care so much about rights and freedoms. I can't imagine you doing something like this. You wouldn't force everyone to follow you. Honestly, I don't think you could."

"You're right. As much as I would love to make everyone listen to me, I wouldn't force them to. You're right, I couldn't bring myself to. But I still want to."

"I don't get it. It doesn't sound like you want to do it at all."

"That's just it. What I want isn't the same as what I would. It's an important distinction we don't generally bother to make. We just shove them both into one word."

"And shall I presume our ambiguous language is another odious shackle laid upon us by the past?"

"Hah. Even I wasn't going to go that far."

"But were you wanting to?"

"Now you're getting it."

"Yeah. I know what you mean, now that you explained it. Sometimes I desire things I know are wrong and wouldn't actually want to happen."

"Really? Even you aren't perfect? Color me intrigued."

"Uh, well."

"I'm kidding. I wouldn't actually ask you to talk about things like that."

"I am breathing a sigh of relief."

"Not over text, anyways."

"Heh, of course. I may not always be able to trust you, but I can trust your rampant paranoia."


"I'm kidding as well, of course. I trust you very much."

"I trust you too. More than anyone, actually. That maybe isn't the smoothest way of saying you mean a lot to me."

"But it's a way of saying it nonetheless."

"Yeah. It is, because you do."

"And I am considerably glad I can count you as my friend, in turn."

"This conversation was less sappy in my head."

"Hah! Woe betide whosoever believes they can converse with me without becoming mired in sappiness!"

"Oh, thank you. That really got me out of that mushy frame of mind."

"Did it?"

"Yeah. Now I'm just thinking about how you are utterly preposterous."

"A much more fitting dynamic for us, I must admit. That aside, would you want to get together tomorrow? Last time was fun."

"Oh. I'm sorry, I really would like to. But I'm busy with another obligation."

"Alright then. Well, there's always next time."


"Hi. It's been a bit since we last talked. You generally have a new question to talk about sent my way by now. I'm afraid I don't have any interesting conversational topics to lead with. All that's on my mind is the news, which I don't particularly wish to discuss right away. Although I would understand if you need to voice some thoughts on the subject."

Message not sent. Receiving account suspended. Dismiss