The Age of Reason was written on a dare, for a suitably broad definition of "dare". The night of March 8, 2000, I dreamed that I was playing a concert using a computer-controlled sample system which wasn't working properly. Attempting to mollify some hecklers, I played a cover of an 80s tune, which when I woke up turned out to have been made up inside the dream (this also happened with Jake Berendes West Covina).
I told Jake Berendes (of West Covina fame) about the dream, and asked him for a title for the song. Jake gave me a list of six titles for songs he wanted me to write. I took the first one ("Buck Wildin' in the Age of Reason") to be the name of the dream song, and since two of the others had titles of the format "x in the Age of Reason", I decided to make a trilogy out of it. Now, a year minus a week later, it's done.
The trilogy spoofs time-travel rock narratives like ELO's Time and Kristofer Straub's The Year 3040. It also engages in some good-natured ribbing of detractors of strong AI (a group I've long felt needs some good-natured ribbing).
The plot concerns Buck Wildin', an inventor who in the year 2000 perfects a time machine and as a test sends himself ten years into the future. Upon his arrival in 2010, Buck emerges from his time capsule to discover that civilization has collapsed through nuclear cataclysm, and that humanity has been replaced by radiation-resistant robots. (Buck Wildin' in the Age of Reason)
The robots are perplexed by the fact that Buck seems to posess intelligence. Robots hold that they alone posess the vaguely defined quality known as "chimney fire", which obsoletes the organic "soul" and without which true intelligence is impossible. One of Buck's examiners briefly wonders what it must be like to be organic, concluding that it's probably not that great. (Chimney Fire in the Age of Reason)
Buck's robot guardian explains to him some facets of robot psychology. Buck, still bitter over the destruction of humanity, challenges his guardian to eat some of his [Buck's] ice cream sundae and tell him how it tastes. The guardian declines, saying that it doesn't like strawberry. Buck, secretly believing that the robot is bluffing, sits and stews. And... well, we kind of leave him to stew. (Strawberry Sundae in the Age of Reason)
As I mentioned before, Jake gave me six song titles that fateful day. There's easily room for a sequel trilogy to complete this plot arc, and I sort of know how such a sequel would have to go. Also, the Lem-esque tale of the Semiotimatic belongs to this storyline, sometime between 2000 and 2010, and needs to be told.
If I decide to come back to it, the titles for the second trilogy will be Quasar Omega, What's Your 20?, and Throw Up the Avenue. Yes, I like writing stuff fitting arbitrary but broad constraints. I should write for McSweeney's, huh?
This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Saturday, August 18 2007, 20:06:07 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Sunday, December 21 2014, 08:00:01 Nowhere Standard Time.