Thursday, December 5, 2019

Quick Sips - Terraform November 2019

I wasn't actually sure if there would be a release from Vice's Terraform this month, as their publishing schedule has gone rather erratic of late. But they did indeed drop a story toward the end of the month, and it's certainly on brand for near future science fiction that walks a rather dark edge. The piece looks at the future of medicine, not just in the ways that things like nanobots might be used to keep people healthy and prevent illness and damage, but also in the way that technology will effect legislation and the law. The piece is framed inside a courtroom, where the question put the court is where religious objections to medical technology meet criminal actions up to and including murder. To the review!


"Blood of Christ" by Blake Montgomery (3100 words)

No Spoilers: This story is a rather interesting nested narrative, framed as a courtroom scene where one side tries to get a different case entered as supporting evidence for their client. And so the piece, on the one level about a current trial, becomes about a previous one, about a small religious community in a future where medical nanobots have given great health benefits to most of the population. For a small number of people incapable of receiving the bots, and for those who choose to withhold the technology from their children, being "natural" carries a religious and moral weight that must be measured in, it seems, a court of law. At least so far that their religious objections to the bots give them rights to perform procedures on believers that directly result in their death and that have no medical backing. The piece is uncomfortable in part because of the distanced way it is framed, clinical and yet intimate, and it provides a fascinating probe into where religious liberty ends and criminal activity begins.
Keywords: Trials, Religion, Nanobots, Murder, Blood
Review: I like the way the story is framed, the way that the older court precedent (or attempted precedent) acts to illuminate the stakes of what the current case is arguing about, though easily interpreted differently depending on the sides. And it's hard not to see the story as a statement on vaccines, because of how the nanobots work and what they do. In that, the murder case sets up the responsibility of adults on (in this case literally but let's say figuratively as well) killing children through a religious aversion to modern medical practices. Freedom of religion is one of the founding principles of the nation, and yet the story seems to ask where the boundaries of that are. And imo the piece muddies things a bit by the revelation that the people in this case incapable of getting nanobots are outcasts from society, unable to live in cities or the like I'm guessing because of the risks involved. Which weakens my reading a bit because the opposite is true for people unable to get vaccinated, them being safe among people because of herd immunity rather than forced to live in isolation. Here I feel it's at least some the government's fault that these people would be vulnerable to a cult-like organization that would give them protection and some medical care, albeit flawed care. And really I feel that the story keeps things rather neutral, definitely coming down against murder with a cover story of religious beliefs but not necessarily disagreeing that an individual should have to undergo medical care even to save their life if it clashes with their religious beliefs. The real question here seems to be who gets to make that decision, and what the repercussions for that decision will be, given that it's not always as simple as examining who is directly effected. For me at least it's a story that provokes, that brings forth a lot of difficult questions without providing easy answers or exists. This is a subject that's not easy to parse, but it does say that murder is still murder and is not religiously exempt. The rest of the matter, as the story itself closes, hasn't been decided, and the story comes down rather firmly that the two issues here are not necessarily linked, even though both involve religious objections to medical procedures. And I think that's a good question to ponder, and it makes for a rather compelling read very much worth sitting down with!


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