Word to the Wired: Personal Advice, Science Fiction Style

We live in the future, which means that many of the problems that baffled our ancestors have been solved. Need to get somewhere in a hurry? Try teleportation! Running out of bookshelf space? Try an e-reader! Dying of the plague? Try antibiotics!

But love is a mystery no machine can make sense of and artificial intelligence can’t replace a good heart-to-heart chat; some problems will never be solved by science or advanced technology. Where can the modern citizen of the universe turn when facing a personal problem? “Word to the Wired” will resolve all your futuristic dilemmas, from time travel troubles to alien relations.

I traveled back in time and accidentally killed my own grandfather! What should I do?

First: calm down. Current time travel theory suggests that you’ve just created an alternate future—you’re not going to disappear, create a universe-destroying paradox, or anything like that, so you have some time to plot out your strategy.

If you return to your present, you will officially no longer exist. This is convenient for a superhero, spy, or otherwise-incognito type. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a job if you don’t officially exist, and without one how are you going to pay for all your gadgets?

You might decide just to live through your past and into the future, meaning that—unlike most time travelers!—you will have no idea what’s to come, since you cannot predict how you’ve affected the future. This is not a bad way to go; instead of being the creepy clairvoyant who keeps predicting disasters, you will be a fully-engaged member of human society, with the neat bar trick of being able to quickly pick up new technology. See if you can find a representative of a temporalocal time traveler’s organization to provide you with fake identification documents, depending on the time period (this will be less important if your grandfather lived in ancient Rome).

Alternately, consider tracking down your grandmother and impregnating her (consensually, of course).[1] Sure, it’s incest, but remember that she’s probably still young and hot, and you do share approximately 25% of your grandfather’s genetic material.

[1] There is some anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of this technique; see, for example, well-known historical scholar Robert Heinlein’s famous “—All You Zombies—.”

There’s this girl in my class that I like, but I think she’s a different species (I’m human). Can we still have a real relationship? Do we even have the same genitals?

Now that the outdated laws prohibiting interspecies sexual relations have been repealed, there’s one definite advantage to this situation: the safest sex since abstinence. No matter how much extraterrestrial species resemble Terran humans, every single one is sufficiently genetically different from Homo sapiens that reproduction is impossible. Even better, no diseases have yet been recorded that can be transmitted from sexual contact between sentient species. (Keep away from non-human Terran species, though.)

As for whether you’ll be able to connect on a physical level as you have on an emotional level, it shouldn’t be too difficult. (And, by the way, don’t assume that “girl” is a girl until you know for sure how her species divides up its sexes.) You’ve got everything from the Ndalill, who resemble Terran humans down to the smallest detail except for the antennae and that green tint to their skin, to the Ovvunutopians, whose limbs are retractable, leaving them looking more like a large beach ball. But they all still want to be held. Our genetic makeup may be different, but almost every species still desires some kind of physical stimulation, and patience and humor will always lead to good results.

On the off chance that you’ve fallen for one of the (admittedly rare) species who have telepathic sex, though, Gods help you.

I have always been in the habit of tipping my doorman at the New Year. However, this past year, our building installed comprehensive AI. Do I tip my robot doorman?

As of this writing, robots haven’t achieved the right to possess property or money, so a cash tip would seem inappropriate. (A number of groups agitating for suffrage for bio-mechanically engineered persons would say that this state of affairs won’t last for long, and you’ll be able to return to your past habits. Nonetheless, for now, it may have trouble spending your gift.) Also, given the ease and inexpensive nature of interstellar importation, remember that the year on your robo-doorman’s planet of origin may be of a different length, so it would be polite to first inquire about local customs.

That said, a personal and practical gift never goes amiss. Since frequently opening doors can put a lot of stress on a poorly-oiled metal joint, you might consider oil. My personal robot assistant prefers a combination of motor oil and essential oils for aromatherapy, both of which help it relax after a long day.

Need guidance of a speculative nature? Leave your questions in the comments and they may be answered in a future column!

Art by Kim Nguyen


Ellen B. Wright lives in New York, where she works in publishing and takes an excessive number of pictures. She thinks we ought to start looking into preserving Miss Manners’ head, brains, and/or genes, whichever seems most scientifically feasible, because we’re really going to need her in the future.

Kim Nguyen is a DC-based graphic designer fresh out of university. In her free time, she rock climbs and shoots zombies.

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