Getting To Know You: Stories by David MarusekGetting To Know You: Stories by David Marusek

Getting To Know You: Stories

byDavid Marusek

Paperback | December 30, 2008

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Not since William Gibson and Bruce Sterling galvanized science fiction in the 1980s has the emergence of a new writer been heralded with such acclaim as that attending David Marusek, whose brilliant first novel, Counting Heads, appeared to rave reviews in 2005. But Marusek did not come out of nowhere. Aficionados of the genre had already taken note of his groundbreaking short fiction: masterfully written, profoundly thought-out examinations of futures so real they seemed virtually inevitable.

Now, in this collection of ten short stories, Marusek’s fierce imagination and dazzling extrapolative gifts are on full display. Five of the stories, including the Sturgeon Award-winning “The Wedding Album,” a shattering look at the unintended human consequences of advanced technology, are set in the same future as Counting Heads. All ten showcase Marusek’s talent for literate, provocative science fiction of the very highest order.
Title:Getting To Know You: StoriesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 8.18 × 5.48 × 0.59 inPublished:December 30, 2008Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345504283

ISBN - 13:9780345504289

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Read from the Book

THE WEDDING ALBUMAnne and Benjamin stood stock-still, as instructed, close but not touching, while the simographer adjusted her apparatus, set its timer, and ducked out of the room. It would take only a moment, she said. They were to think only happy, happy thoughts.For once in her life, Anne was unconditionally happy, and everythingaround her made her happier: her gown, which had been hergrandmother’s; the wedding ring (how cold it had felt when Benjaminfirst slipped it on her finger!); her clutch bouquet of forget-me-nots andbuttercups; Benjamin himself, close beside her in his charcoal gray tuxand pink carnation. He who so despised ritual but was a good sport.His cheeks were pink, too, and his eyes sparkled with some wolfishfantasy. “Come here,” he whispered. Anne shushed him; you weren’tsupposed to talk or touch during a casting; it could spoil the sims. “Ican’t wait,” he whispered, “this is taking too long.” And it did seemlonger than usual, but this was a professional simulacrum, not somehome-made snapshot.They were posed at the street end of the living room, next to thetable piled with brightly wrapped gifts. This was Benjamin’s townhouse;she had barely moved in. All her treasures were still in shippingshells in the basement, except for the few pieces she’d managed to haveunpacked: the oak refectory table and chairs, the sixteenth-centuryFrench armoire, the cherry wood chifforobe, the tea table with inlaidtop, the silvered mirror over the fire surround. Of course, her antiquesclashed with Benjamin’s contemporary—and rather common—decor,but he had promised her the whole house to redo as she saw fit. Awhole house!“How about a kiss?” whispered Benjamin.Anne smiled but shook her head; there’d be plenty of time later forthat sort of thing.Suddenly, a head wearing wraparound goggles poked through thewall and quickly surveyed the room. “Hey, you,” it said to them.“Is that our simographer?” Benjamin said.The head spoke into a cheek mike, “This one’s the keeper,” andwithdrew as suddenly as it had appeared.“Did the simographer just pop her head in through the wall?” saidBenjamin.“I think so,” said Anne, though it made no sense.“I’ll just see what’s up,” said Benjamin, breaking his pose. He wentto the door but could not grasp its handle.Music began to play outside, and Anne went to the window. Herview of the garden below was blocked by the blue-and-white-stripedcanopy they had rented, but she could clearly hear the clink of flatwareon china, laughter, and the musicians playing a waltz. “They’re startingwithout us,” she said, happily amazed.“They’re just warming up,” said Benjamin.“No, they’re not. That’s the first waltz. I picked it myself.”“So let’s waltz,” Benjamin said and reached for her. But his armspassed through her in a flash of pixelated noise. He frowned and examinedhis hands.Anne hardly noticed. Nothing could diminish her happiness. Shewas drawn to the table of wedding gifts. Of all the gifts, there was onlyone—a long flat box in flecked silver wrapping—that she was mostkeen to open. It was from Great-Uncle Karl. When it came down to it,Anne was both the easiest and the hardest person to shop for. Whileeveryone knew of her passion for antiques, few had the means or expertiseto buy one. She reached for Karl’s package, but her hand passedright through it. This isn’t happening, she thought with gleeful horror.That it was, in fact, happening was confirmed a moment laterwhen a dozen people—Great-Uncle Karl, Nancy, Aunt Jennifer, Traci,Cathy and Tom, the bridesmaids and others, including Anne herself,and Benjamin, still in their wedding clothes—all trooped through thewall wearing wraparound goggles. “Nice job,” said Great-Uncle Karl,inspecting the room, “first rate.”“Ooooh,” said Aunt Jennifer, comparing the identical weddingcouples, identical but for the goggles. It made Anne uncomfortable thatthe other Anne should be wearing goggles while she wasn’t. And theother Benjamin acted a little drunk and wore a smudge of white frostingon his lapel. We’ve cut the cake, she thought happily, although shecouldn’t remember doing so. Geri, the flower girl in a pastel dress, andAngus, the ring bearer in a miniature tux, along with a knot of otherdressed-up children, charged through the sofa, back and forth, creatingpyrotechnic explosions of digital noise. They would have run throughBenjamin and Anne, too, had the adults allowed. Anne’s father camethrough the wall with a bottle of champagne. He paused when he sawAnne but turned to the other Anne and freshened her glass.“Wait a minute!” shouted Benjamin, waving his arms above hishead. “I get it now. We’re the sims!” The guests all laughed, and helaughed too. “I guess my sims always say that, don’t they?” The otherBenjamin nodded yes and sipped his champagne. “I just never expectedto be a sim,” Benjamin went on. This brought another round of laughter,and he said sheepishly, “I guess my sims all say that, too.”The other Benjamin said, “Now that we have the obligatoryepiphany out of the way,” and took a bow. The guests applauded.Cathy, with Tom in tow, approached Anne. “Look what I caught,”she said and showed Anne the forget-me-not and buttercup bouquet. “Iguess we know what that means.” Tom, intent on straightening his tie,seemed not to hear. But Anne knew what it meant. It meant they’dtossed the bouquet. All the silly little rituals that she had so looked forwardto.“Good for you,” she said and offered her own clutch, which shestill held, for comparison. The real one was wilting and a little raggedaround the edges, with missing petals and sprigs, while hers was stillfresh and pristine and would remain so eternally. “Here,” she said,“take mine, too, for double luck.” But when she tried to give Cathy thebouquet, she couldn’t let go of it. She opened her hand and discovereda seam where the clutch joined her palm. It was part of her. Funny, shethought, I’m not afraid. Ever since she was little, Anne had feared thatsome day she would suddenly realize she wasn’t herself anymore. Itwas a dreadful notion that sometimes oppressed her for weeks: knowingyou weren’t yourself. But her sims didn’t seem to mind it. She hadabout three dozen Annes in her album, from age twelve on up. Hersims tended to be a morose lot, but they all agreed it wasn’t so bad, thelife of a sim, once you got over the initial shock. The first moments ofdisorientation are the worst, they told her, and they made her promisenever to reset them back to default. Otherwise, they’d have to workeverything through from scratch. So Anne never reset her sims whenshe shelved them. She might delete a sim outright for whatever reason,but she never reset them, because you never knew when you’d wake upone day a sim yourself. Like today.The other Anne joined them. She was sagging a little. “Well,” shesaid to Anne.“Indeed!” replied Anne.“Turn around,” said the other Anne, twirling her hand, “I want tosee.”Anne was pleased to oblige. Then she said, “Your turn,” and theother Anne modeled for her, and she was delighted how the gownlooked on her, though the goggles somewhat spoiled the effect. Maybethis can work out, she thought, I am enjoying myself so. “Let’s go seeus side-by-side,” she said, leading the way to the mirror on the wall.The mirror was large, mounted high, and tilted forward so you sawyourself as from above. But simulated mirrors cast no reflections, andAnne was happily disappointed.“Oh,” said Cathy, “Look at that.”“Look at what?” said Anne.“Grandma’s vase,” said the other Anne. On the mantel beneaththe mirror stood Anne’s most precious possession, a delicate vase cutfrom pellucid blue crystal. Anne’s great-great-great-grandmother hadcommissioned the Belgian master, Bollinger, the finest glass maker insixteenth-century Europe, to make it. Five hundred years later, it was asperfect as the day it was cut.“Indeed!” said Anne, for the sim vase seemed to radiate an innerlight. Through some trick or glitch of the simogram, it sparkled like alake under moonlight, and, seeing it, Anne felt incandescent.After a while, the other Anne said, “Well?” Implicit in this questionwas a whole standard set of questions that boiled down to—shallI keep you or delete you now? For sometimes a sim didn’t take. Sometimesa sim was cast while Anne was in a mood, and the sim sufferedirreconcilable guilt or unassuagable despondency and had to be mercifullydestroyed. It was better to do this immediately, or so all the Anneshad agreed.And Anne understood the urgency, what with the reception still inprogress and the bride and groom, though frazzled, still wearing theirfinery. They might do another casting if necessary. “I’ll be okay,” Annesaid. “In fact, if it’s always like this, I’ll be terrific.”Anne, through the impenetrable goggles, studied her. “You sure?”“Yes.”“Sister,” said the other Anne. Anne addressed all her sims as “sister,”and now Anne, herself, was being so addressed. “Sister,” said theother Anne, “this has got to work out. I need you.”“I know,” said Anne, “I’m your wedding day.”“Yes, my wedding day.”Across the room, the guests laughed and applauded. Benjamin—both of him—was entertaining, as usual. He—the one in goggles—motioned to them. The other Anne said, “We have to go. I’ll be back.”Great-Uncle Karl, Nancy, Cathy and Tom, Aunt Jennifer, and therest, left through the wall. A polka could be heard playing on the otherside. Before leaving, the other Benjamin gathered the other Anne intohis arms and leaned her backward for a theatrical kiss. Their gogglesclacked. How happy I look, Anne told herself. This is the happiest dayof my life.Then the lights dimmed, and her thoughts shattered like glass.

Editorial Reviews

“Marusek [has] the potential to make an indifferent audience care about [science fiction] again.”–The New York Times Book Review“Marusek is one of the best-kept secrets of science fiction, a wild talent with a Gibson-grade imagination and marvelous prose, and a keen sense of human drama that makes it all go.”–Cory Doctorow“David Marusek, showing a potentially volatile synergy of technology and human foibles, is a writer who gives the impression that he’s been to the future, seen it work, and has come back to tell us all about it.”–Locus“Superb . . . Marusek’s ‘shiny ideas’ sparkle.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)