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Constellation Games Bonus Commentary #4: "Pey Shkoy Benefits Humans" >

Constellation Games Bonus Commentary #3: "Dana no Chousen": It's Tuesday, time to turn over a rock and uncover "Dana no Chousen", the most violent story I've ever written. My very first concept for bonus material was an excerpt from a sleazy, bloody Dana Light tie-in novel, illustrating the source material from which the Dana we see in chapter 35 took her personality. But I can't really do a long-form pastiche of a totally foreign style (that would be Kris). I don't even enjoy reading such pastiches (sorry, Kris).

And I'm less interested in Dana's source material than in Dana herself. There are a lot of unanswered questions and just plain plot holes in Constellation Games, but the only ones that still bother me have to do with Dana. As Brendan points out, Dana gets a really raw deal in the book—not just from humanity but from the Constellation. Why did Curic agree to uplift Dana in the first place? It seems like asking for trouble. Why did Smoke agree to send one of its subminds to be a human's girlfriend? And why does Dana never come out of the sandbox at the end of chapter 35?

I tried out a number of explanations: 1) Hypotheses about the behavior of fictional alien anarchists cannot be tested. 2) Back before the Greenland Treaty was a sure thing, Dana 2.0 looked like a good opportunity to land a spy on Earth. I did not like these explanations. The explanation I used for background in "Dana no Chousen" is that Dana is caught between different conceptions of identity.

Daniel Dennett's multiple-drafts theory of consciousness suggests that human minds, like Dana's and Curic's and Smoke's, are made up of subminds. Human psychology makes the simplifying assumption that the subminds add up to a single "person". But Curic and Smoke accept persons as the emergent properties of other, smaller persons.

To Ariel, splitting Dana out of Smoke feels like creating a new person. But as far as Smoke and Curic are concerned, that person already existed within Smoke. When Curic looks back on this, she's going to think her big screwup was trusting the human socialization of Smoke-Dana to a couple of videogame-obsessed flakes like Bai and Ariel.

(This is hard to square with Curic's guilt-trip of Ariel in chapter 9, the first time he asks for an Edink-English translator. I wrote that section very early, and I should have come back and revised it after adding Smoke to the story. But I think the problem is a lot smaller if you read Curic as suggesting the creation of a brand new AI for purposes of the guilt trip. Sometimes when we don't want to be bothered we exaggerate how much work it really would be to do something.)

A person can function even if some of its subminds are unhappy or psychotic. Sometimes an unhappy or psychotic submind can even help the larger mind get something done or come up with new ideas. But an unhappy submind of Smoke might be as big as a human, or bigger. Should you worry about that?

Curic doesn't worry because she doesn't believe Smoke-Dana is all that big. Smoke will worry if it feels a problem, but Smoke is the size of a society. It doesn't have the computing power to police the happiness of its entire tree. But Ariel, uh, knows Dana. And Ariel can't let this go. A person went in there and didn't come out.

So Ariel puts on his pith helmet and goes into Smoke with his human outlook and his human standards of morality, and it turns out there's a problem with the sandbox. Dana found a way to game the system without her supermind finding out. Ariel goes in and rescues Dana from her own cruelty and Smoke's complicity. A happy ending! By human standards.

We're almost done! Come back in two days for the Leonard/Adam joint commentary on "Pey Shkoy Benefits Humans," when Tetsuo will say, "Hot damn, it's business!"

"Dana no Chousen" banner by Brendan Adkins. Savannah photo by Scott Oves.

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