by Colleen Anderson
Winner of the 2022 Best New Weird Horror Award!
When Archimedes arrived
We gathered on clifftops like hungry birds
staring into the wide cerulean sea
awed when the screw turned water uphill τέτοια θαύματα
the hanging gardens of Babylon thrived Such wonders!
When the printing press arrived
We peered through paned glass
as the great screw pressed down, inked new paper
books and pamphlets and broadsides appeared
words traveled the land as masses began to read We’ll start a revolution!
When the threshing machine arrived
We wiped sweaty brows, breathed in relief
no longer need we thrash and flail till day’s tail end
grain as plentiful as gin and our bellies filled
with time on our hands, we looked to the skies What is out there?
When hot air balloons arrived
We gaped as the woven basket ascended the sky
bit lips, wrung hands, searched for impending descent
shading eyes, we stared at Icarus lights in the ether
from heights we viewed land, imagined new vistas People should not imitate gods!
When the cotton gin arrived
We bought calico and denim and fine woven fabrics
profits gave airs— finely dressed people promenaded
plantations brought slaves to heel to pluck plants
Luddites smashed mills as jobs disappeared like freedom We will fight the cotton states!
When the telegraph arrived
We invaded borders while sitting at home
commanded armies with no red stain on our hands
found friendships and trysts spanning long distances - .... . / -- .- -.-. .... .. -. . / .- --. .
harnessed electricity to span global commerce / .- .-. .-. .. ...- . ...
When computers arrived
We studied hard to learn machine dialogue 01010111 01101000
considered the speed of electronic brains and devices 01101111 00111111
one hundred, one thousand, million gigabytes <code emotion: confusion>
people grumbled, old ways l o s t…. <000> Luddites go home!
Move on, Gramps
When the internet arrived
We wanted . . . everything <code emotion: avarice>
SLEEKEST Buy now while quantities last.
games and memes, bulletin boards and sexxx sites
avatars demanded our time 10…9…8…7… Aliens! Gunslingers! A
thrilling sensaround experience!
We couldn’t have it all
<code emotion: disappointment>
<program expression: sad face, tears>
the rich as always picked first <code emotion x2: envy-hate>
we brokered ourselves,
our relations for more
We came to accept
<program motion: formal bow> —error—
<program motion: high five> —error—
<program motion: handshake> —error—
<program sound: sigh>
continually chased the dream of mastering all
<program: exhaustion> —error—
<program: self replication>
When the robots arrived
We constructed all sizes, industrial, menial
coated in durable silicate, smooth flowing pieces
sexy Von Neumann machines, cellular automatons
<program motion: fornication>
<code speech: erotic vocabulary> Oooh baby…yesss
workbots to petbots that fill our spaces
<code speech: animal vocabulary> Purrr, rowf!
When the AIs arrived 01001000 01100101 01101100
We meet Pygmalion 01101100 01101111 00111111
<code emotion: fear>
<program: logic sequence>
<program motion: random reactions>
<code emotion: random expressions>
can no longer see the line that separates
When the spaceships arrived
[We] gathered like rabbits in the field <code emotion: terror>
our dogs, cats and birds and our wide-eyed children <program motion: hesitancy>
docilely watching glittering spires settle, rumble earth
leviathan mothership seen only through telescopes <recording>
Do you come in peace?
When the spaceships left
[We] had been plucked liked cotton, trembled in bays <code motion: observation>
these alien rustlers laughed, pleased with the crop <initiate subroutine: Rosetta Stone>
their larders stocked for some light years to go
we bided our time until they entered FTL mode <initiate subroutine: MI6-SAS>
When the aliens left
[We] counted their orbits of jetsam, castoffs 01010011 01110101 01110010
around a dead planet or two, asteroids 01110110 01101001 01110110
[We] are onboard, full of self-replicating humans 01100001 01101100 00100001
part machine and well equipped on this ark to the stars <initiate prime directive: Harmony>
When [We] arrive
[We] will be like no other—greeting .-- . / -.-. --- -- . / .. -. /
any species that chooses to present itself .--. . .- -.-. . .-.-.-
a mirror we will be, regroup our nanites our lives 01000100 01101111 01101110
family, our programming, all for one, only one 00100111 01110100 00100000
01100110 01100101 01100001
Have we got a deal for you!
Colleen Anderson lives in Vancouver, BC and has a BFA in writing. She is a multiple nominee for the Pushcart, Aurora, Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards in poetry. Her work has been widely published in numerous venues, including Polu Texni, HWA Poetry Showcases, Shadow Atlas and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. She has edited three anthologies and guest edited Eye to the Telescope. She has served on Stoker Award and British Fantasy Award juries and received BC Arts Council and Canada Council grants for her writing. Colleen’s poetry collection, I Dreamed a World, is available from LVP Publications.