In celebration of the recently released THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, Tachyon and editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman present
glimpses into the future of science fiction from several of the volume’s
A Series of Steaks
Vina Jie-Min Prasad
known forgeries are tales of failure. The people who get into the
newsfeeds for their brilliant attempts to cheat the system with their
fraudulent Renaissance masterpieces or their stacks of fake checks,
well, they might be successful artists, but they certainly haven’t
been successful at forgery.
best forgeries are the ones that disappear from notice—a
second-rate still-life moldering away in gallery storage, a battered
old 50-yuan note at the bottom of a cashier drawer—or even a
printed strip of Matsusaka beef, sliding between someone’s parted
beef is similar to printmaking—every step of the process has to be
done with the final print in mind. A red that’s too dark looks
putrid, a white that’s too pure looks artificial. All beef is
supposed to come from a cow, so stipple the red with dots, flecks,
lines of white to fake variance in muscle fiber regions. Cows are
similar, but cows aren’t uniform—use fractals to randomize
marbling after defining the basic look. Cut the sheets of beef
manually to get an authentic ragged edge, don’t get lazy and depend
on the bioprinter for that.
of research and calibration and cursing the printer will all vanish
into someone’s gullet in seconds, if the job’s done right.
Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises is an expert in doing the job
trick is not to get too ambitious. Most forgers are caught out by the
smallest errors—a tiny amount of period-inaccurate pigment, a crack
in the oil paint that looks too artificial, or a misplaced watermark
on a passport. Printing something large increases the chances of a
fatal misstep. Stick with small-scale jobs, stick with a small group
of regular clients, and in time, Splendid Beef Enterprises will turn
enough of a profit for Helena to get a real name change,
leave Nanjing, and forget this whole sorry venture ever happened.
Helena’s loading the beef into refrigerated boxes for drone
delivery, a notification pops up on her iKontakt frames. Helena
sighs, turns the volume on her earpiece down, and takes the call.
Mr. Chan, could you switch to a secure line? You just need to tap the
button with a lock icon, it’s very easy.”
Mr. Chan booms. “If the government were going to catch us, they’d
have done so by now! Anyway, I just called to tell you how pleased I
am with the latest batch. Such a shame, though, all that talent, and
your work just gets gobbled up in seconds—tell you what, girl, for
the next beef special, how about I tell everyone that the beef came
from one of those fancy vertical farms? I’m sure they’d have nice
things to say then!”
don’t,” Helena says, careful not to let her Cantonese accent slip
through. It tends to show after long periods without any human
interaction, which is an apt summary of the past few months. “It’s
best if no one pays attention to it.”
know, Helena, you do good work, but I’m very concerned about your
self-esteem, I know if I printed something like that, I’d want
everyone to appreciate it! Let me tell you about this article my
daughter sent me, you know research says that people without friends
are prone to …” Mr. Chan rambles on as Helena sticks the labels
on the boxes—Grilliam Shakespeare, Gyuuzen Sukiyaki, Fatty Chan’s
Restaurant—and thankfully hangs up before Helena sinks into further
depression. She takes her iKontakt off before heading to the drone
delivery office, giving herself some time to recover from Mr. Chan’s
has five missed calls by the time she gets back. A red phone icon
blares at the corner of her vision before blinking out, replaced by
the incoming-call notification. It’s secured and anonymized, which
is quite a change from usual. She pops the earpiece in.
isn’t Mr. Chan,” someone says. “I have a job for Splendid Beef
prefer to remain anonymous,” the man says.
I understand, secrecy is rather important.” Helena restrains the
urge to roll her eyes at how needlessly cryptic this guy is. “Could
I know about the deadline and brief?”
need two hundred T-bone steaks by the 8th of August. 38.1- to
40.2-millimeter thickness for each one.” A notification to download
t-bone_info.KZIP pops up on her lenses. The most ambitious venture
Helena’s undertaken in the past few months has been Gyuuzen’s
strips of marbled sukiyaki, and even that felt a bit like pushing it.
A whole steak? Hell no.
sorry, sir, but I don’t think my business can handle that. Perhaps
you could try—”
think you’ll be interested in this job, Helen Lee Jyun Wai.”
For more info about THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, visit the Tachyon page.