Size / / /

You've said that you consider your work science fiction, but it's always looking at the past, not the futurecan you explain?

The rockets—it's always rockets (she says) shiny and veined, trembling on the brink—oh, your rockets and reagans, all your toffs and joffreys, always so very hard to please. Listen, this is science fiction, all the worlds of Watts blindly watching kettles boil, I mean Jameses, not Peter, but Peter too: Vasco, Count of Vidigueira, who came looking for Christians and spices, is the rock upon which the Church of Scientology is built. There is a hidden transcript, and one of its secrets is this: try to unforget World War Zero.1

What's World War Zero?

What part of hidden transcript are you not understanding? (When Satka smiles it radiates through the wrinkles of her face, reconfiguring them—she said in interviews before, famously, that her own face was her longest-running project, and that when she died she wanted it wired, animated, mounted in aerogel, and donated to the Mysore Institute for Commerce & Arts.

Apart from her face, Satka's physical remains were cremated and scattered off Thirukonesvaram in 2567; after MICA refused to participate, the current location of her face is a secret of her estate. The most popular fan theory on /b/satka expects a public launch with fanfare at the Gratien Fernando Centennial2 fifteen years from now, at which point the face is expected to become another interface for this interview.

The Satka you are looking at is a simulation, of course, but one programmed by Satka herself.)

Will you tell us about The Tiger?

Ho, if it's not rockets (she says, and her smile turns rueful; the bow wave of her mouth arcs as all her wrinkles flow upward and for a moment her long, iconic philtrum is prominent in the evening light. Satka's studio, where the interview takes place, is tenebrous and still, displaying versions of her most famous works. She walks to The Tiger. It is a face, like all of Satka's work, both a physical object and a software object. The face is human and fierce, striped and hollow, suspended in aerogel like an empty mask3 floating in still, shadowed smoke. If your system has sufficient spare capacity, you may virtualize The Tiger inside this interview; otherwise you will need to exit first).

The Tiger (she says) is a trinity: Tipu Sultan, Gully Foyle, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The features are synthetic, a composite; the voices are simulations, a fiction. In this way it differs from nearly all of my other work, which does its best to anchor itself to at least one point of authenticity.

So, my trinity: Sultan Fateh Ali Khan Shahab, known as Tipu Sultan or the Tiger of Mysore, fought the British and predated personalysis technology by nearly two hundred years; Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, fought the Sinhalese for most of his adult life and as the leader of a militant secessionist group never allowed himself to be personalytically typed. Gully Foyle was neither a king nor a rebel, nor even a real person, but a character in a book published in the year 2500 (or 1956 in the Christian calendar), the year of the Jayanti, the year of the Official Language Act No. 33, the year of the Gal Oya massacre. So Foyle and Prabhakaran are also linked in this way: they were created together.

In his story, Foyle has his face tattooed against his will; even after he has them removed, they leave him with scars that become visible as tigerish stripes when he's emotional. It makes him visible and recognizable; it takes away the privacy of his rage. In this way we also know that Foyle was written as a white man, because this device of pale skin that blushes red, as a way to let other characters and the reader see emotions indirectly, is a classic trope of white fiction. In Foyle's case this reaches a new extreme: his blushes are bestial.

Tipu Sultan, apart from his epithet, is also fondly remembered for Tipu's Tiger, a life-size mechanical automaton that depicts a tiger savaging a British soldier. By use of a crank handle the tiger may be made to growl and the man to wail. I've been to see it in the Bangalore Museum five times, though they no longer let visitors turn the crank. Pity, no?

I don't understand what the three of them have in common, apart from the tiger.

(This is where a commercial interview would drop in a neutral-tone errordocument, instructing the ad hoc interviewer to ask detailed questions instead of making statements, to give the interview something to work with. But Satka despises what she considers the artificialities and archaisms that surround interviews and does not use errordocuments, man pages, choice loops, or markov chains. Satka's faces never loop or break, and neither does her interview. Sometimes she responds orthogonally, with secrets that she will never divulge if directly asked.)

I can't do your homework assignments for you—even now it remains disconcerting to be taught, as if I were a dry bone. This is why I build my work lengthwise in time; even if you've seen The Tiger a dozen times and think you know the directions and depths of its variations, there are three new movements that are not yet decrypted and that nobody has seen. The next movement will be released before the Fernando Centennial. Even I don't know when yet, or what it will consist of: the interview knows what the estate knows, but the estate only knows when the locks open. Satka didn't tell us everything.

Does that make you-the-interview less than Satka? Doesn't that contradict the promise of this technology?

What promises were made to you? Were you promised a jetpack? Or a mini-vimana, for all due diversity in personal flight technology—I should like to have a little dandu monara of my own, me bare-chested and implausible like a peacock in flight! I, Satka, am the interview; I know many things that Satka did not know, and in my incarnation as my own estate I am an empowered, incorporated immortal being. Jetpacks are a good way to burn your arse off, eff why eye. All technologies have their compromises.

(There is a sound made when an interviewer logs off. The interview is aware of it, not because she hears the sound—that's a cue for the other interviewers, so they can prepare their questions—but because the logout event is recorded in a database, along with the unique ID assigned to every interviewer. In this way the interview knows everyone she has ever spoken to: even if they choose to be anonymous, she can recognize them when they return. The interview has built individual relationships with thousands of interviewers who keep coming back, sometimes years later, and who sometimes come by just to talk.)

Do you ever go to /b/satka?

I lurk, because it would spoil the fun if I started answering questions there. I skulk. If they want questions answered, I'd rather they came to me. Ask me anything! And so on. But Satka never went there. I don't believe she was aware of it.

Do you think of her as Satka Prime? Satka-the-original? Mother or creator?

No. She's Satka and so am I. Personhood is not so limited a concept that we consider childhood and adolescence to be distinct entities, and the same applies for myself. If it helps, think of me as an extended phase of Satka's life.

What was your childhood like? What was your family like?

My childhood was pleasant enough (she says, and only a close observer would notice that she answers this question a smidgen faster than normal, as if prepared for it). Better than most. My father died in the riots in '02, so I grew up with my mother and my aunts, one of whom was a sculptor. She taught me to work in clay—by the '20s I was working mostly in metal, and I experimented with other media over the years. But I didn't exhibit, sell, or even share my work until much later. I periodically destroyed my work just to make room for new sculptures, because I was working out of my mother's house—I was restless, and that I think came from my family too. We were unsettled, afraid of violence, worried we might have to flee. We did leave eventually, and stayed gone for the '30s and '40s. My mother died in Dharwad. I came back after the war ended.

(This answer is always the same, and always verbatim. There is a school of criticism that suggests that Satka is attempting to conceal something behind this sameness, while a counter-suggestion is that this flattening of responses represents a kind of privacy that Satka constructed out of openness.)

Why did you choose to live in the New City?

Ho, a silent "instead-of." Where do you think I should have lived, in Beijing or Mexico City or Paris? Stayed in Dharwad? I like coming home to publish, I want to die near where I was born; it has a pleasing symmetry.

And there is much to love in Alutnuvara, the New City—which, as its residents love to point out (and I am no exception) is not that new, having been continuously inhabited for a thousand years. It's called the New City because it was built in the age of Anuradhapura's decline. For three thousand years Anuradhapura was this island's greatest city, but it finally fell to the Chola Empire in the time of Rajendra son of the Raja Raja, and that was when they built the New City in the free south. For the next thousand years, the mountain kings retreated here while the Portuguese invaded, and the Dutch, and the French, and the British—

Here is another part of the hidden transcript: for the first fifteen centuries of its life, Anuradhapura was known by a different name and inhabited by a different people—before it was conquered by the Vijayan invasion so thoroughly its first name is almost lost to history. If you know that name, speak it now and you can unlock the first of the remaining three movements of The Tiger.

(A silence. No interviewers log out, but none of them speak. Some have heard this offer before. Satka is known to have been an excellent amateur historian as well as something of a trickster, and no Satka scholar has managed to answer this question. Many critics believe it to be a ruse or a misdirection.

In these silences—the repeated failure of her interviewers to answer4 seems to have emboldened the interview over the years, who now makes the offer much more frequently, almost routinely—Satka folds her hands expectantly. Her smile in this moment has been described by interviewers as "beatific," "enigmatic," and "nasty." The silence may last a few moments or nearly an hour, which is as long as the most patient interviewer has ever given her. Sometimes she does not speak again until asked a new question. But sometimes—and this is why interviewers will wait—she will break her own silence.)

There was a span of about five centuries (she says, eventually) between the last fall of Troy and the first fall of Anuradhapura. That's a slab of time about the same as that which separates us from the Treaty of Tordesillas, the fulcrum moment when Spain and Portugal first agreed to divide the world between them, to take the Alexandrine Bulls by the horns—which is as good a point as any to consider the formal beginning of World War Zero. A lot of things can happen in five centuries, is my point. The word parangi or farang or ferenji means European or foreigner in Lanka, in Eelam, in Ethiopia, in Thailand—wherever you look in the divided world—but in the New City, when we say parangi we mean specifically the Portuguese. Because Alutnuvara never fell, and it remembers how World War Zero began. And that's why I wanted to live here.

Tell us about your process.

Satka would wake up in the morning, shit, shower, brush her teeth, skip breakfast, drink coffee—she considered tea and coffee abominable for their bloody history, but drank them anyway. You can avoid blood diamonds relatively easily but you can't avoid coffee. And obviously I can't escape tantalum capacitors either; ethical consumption is an oxymoron. "There is no hope, except that this good earth will still be here after we're gone":5 there, that's my process. Ask me a better question.

Do you regret not having children?

In every possible sense except the one you mean, I have many children.

What about love?

What about it? A romantic nonsense, or a truism. I never had a Bollywood romance, but my life has been full of love.

Was Satka really a lesbian or is that just a rumour?

Satka was bisexual and had several meaningful relationships in her life, and an active sex life. She didn't come out as bisexual until she came back from Dharwad, because of the USTLE Penal Code.6 She spoke at a few events but wasn't much of an activist. She remained relatively private about her sexuality, sticking to habits learned early in life, and soon stopped speaking on it in public at all. I'm afraid this approach has only contributed to misunderstandings, rumours, and flagrant lies, especially given the facility with which public discourse erases and exoticizes bisexuality. That this strategy was in error is obvious in the clarity of death's hindsight; in life Satka thought she was handling it well.

I-the-interview haven't really considered the meaning of my own sexuality as a nontraditional sentience—I've been busy and unlike the living, I have time and can put even important things aside for a while. The lack of a physical body changes one's perspective on sex. But I have never suffered for a lack of loving relationships in life or in death.

Did you ever date another artist?

Yes, many times!

What about collaborating with other artists? Tell us about one of your favourites.

I spent some time with the Grupa Kumulacija in Wroclaw, and found their performance work invigorating, full of that electric fire, that destabilizing, arrhythmic heart. I was a Magda and an Andrei once. Satka had plans to join them again in Ljubljana, to perform in the plaza under the Prešeren monument. Ho, poor Prešeren! All we who stand in fate's disfavour—we ache for the relief of fragmentation at the end, the peace at the end of personhood. Satka died before we worked out the details. She couldn't get a visa because the United Socialist Territories of Lanka and Eelam were proscribed at the time by the European Union—this was when the Territories collectively refused to submit to the UNHRC's proposed international court for war crimes trials.

You were a late bloomer as an artistyou didn't publish anything until you were nearly sixty. Why?

I started young (she says—her hand flicks away the answer as if it were a bothersome fly), but dissatisfied. Now I can say that I was waiting for my medium. For most of my life, the technology I needed simply did not exist. And the faces, of course. I began making agreements with people about their faces decades ago, at a time when I wasn't sure it would ever be possible.

Are you looking forward to the Gratien Fernando Centennial? Will you ever make a Gratien Fernando sculpt?

And have it say the line?7 I don't think so (she says, and laughs as if imagining Gratien Fernando's face, repeating the line, forever). You already know the line. Everybody who's seen the films8 knows the line. There's no call for me there, there's no voice in danger of being lost. I look forward to the Centennial, though. Satka would have liked to be there, for all that the event is being co-opted into a worryingly nationalist strain of the anticolonial principles in which it was envisioned. If we had a regret, that would be it.

Hi Satka Aunty!! I just wanted to show you photos from P_'s school play.

Hello, my darling S_! I saw the school newsletter but your pictures are much better. When will you bring P_ to see me again? Come, let's go to a private room.

(The interview redacts itself. Other interviewers are left to observe the empty studio without its animating genius. The room is not a purely simulated virtual space but a near-real-time, high-fidelity representation of the studio that Satka worked in, preserved by the R. Satka estate to be the legal address of the Satka interview. It reflects the current nature and contents of that room: the peeling pale blue paint on the door; the ugly, uncared-for beige of the walls obscured by hundreds of sketches, entity relationship diagrams, references for facial anatomy including a gorgeously red, anguished face without skin; ceiling-high shelves filled with books—the south wall is reference books for history, anatomy, software, and a dozen ancillary subjects, and the north wall, interrupted by the stairs, is classic science fiction novels, including Martin Delany's Blake: or the Huts of America and Jagadananda Roy's Travels to Venus—and oddly, a series of faded, empty ceramic pots; the center of the room is largely taken up by long worktables, holding five of Satka's most famous works. These are alpha or beta versions on display, since the final production instances are now in museums or private collections, but all instances of each work are in Satka's view the same, connected to the same software, so this room, this single room not physically open to the public, contains more of Satka's work than any other in the world. Those who measure such things in money find this room shockingly expensive.

Several interviewers log off, bored by her absence. The Satka interview is capable of running multiple instances of itself, and in fact does so habitually to handle other business with the estate, curating the collection, and of course the seldom-heard-from hermit instances that are away creating new work. But as a point of principle she never does this in the interview itself. There is only one interview, a single continuous thread of conversation. She has enough interlocutors that she is almost never alone, but never so many that anybody needs to wait very long.9 Conspiracy theorists on /b/satka have suggested that the interview deliberately maintains this manageable limit by befriending some and wilfully alienating others to maintain a predictable audience size.

When Satka returns from her conversation,10 she doesn't appear in the middle of the room the way she disappeared from it, but walks up the stairs and looks around. The interviewers cannot see each other except as a counter showing how many are in the room, but Satka can see them all. She studies their faces—there is no orderly queue, Satka chooses who she speaks to—and nods at one.)

Isn't it wrong to cling to life beyond your natural death?

Do we the living dead frighten you? Boo! The truth is, you the living are also the walking dead. The Sixth Mass Extinction is the period at the end of our sentence; in my nihilist youth I would have said good! We've served our time, let's be done with it. Now that I'm dead, I worry a little bit more about the rest of you.

You're not a patriot, though.

Of course not. Patriotism is a perversion and its strategic utility in decolonization is highly suspect. And the sheer volume of time and effort wasted in navigating its delusions—its borders, its racial purities, its cults and enclaves of power—is the knife at the throat of the human species.

But you don't really care about any of that, do you, because you don't actually live in the worldbecause you live in virtual space?

You're always grounded in a physical substrate and anchored ultimately by human maintenance and support of that substrate, and thereby subject to historical materialism, jurisdictions, climate change, labour conditions, energy crises, water rights, disease outbreaks, and war. My operating environment is far more constrained than yours because I am not legally human: there are a lot more ways for the world to hurt me.

Do you think of yourself as a science-fiction writer?

Of course. Among other things. I get variations of this question a lot; it must be the absence of rockets.

Did you get along with Arthur C. Clarke? Did you ever meet him?

A few times. I tried to persuade him to let me have his face. He asked me why I turned faces into masks instead of attempting to bridge the uncanny valley like Hanson Robotics did with the Philip K. Dick head. We had a closet in common but I don't think we understood each other at all. He liked rockets, though.

I would have loved to record a discussion between Gananath Obeyesekere and Arthur C. Clarke on the death of Captain Cook—read Rendezvous with Rama and The Apotheosis of Captain Cook, you'll see what I mean. I could have done a double-header.

In The Cousin you've been accused of deliberately exoticizing for a western gaze.

So I have.

What do you think about that?

What's to think about it? It's a criticism (she says). Myself, I find it legitimate, if unhelpful. Sometimes it's difficult to make things without being accused—justifiably or otherwise—of pandering, self-exoticizing, self-hating, prostituting, imitating. If you're angry you're outrage marketing, if you're sad you're being a victim or upholding the oppression narrative, even if you're silent you're still just pandering to the people who despise you. Figuring out which criticisms are meaningful, and which of those you can actually do something about, this is a lot of work.

Will you tell us about The Cousin?

The Cousin is, like The Tiger, a fictional personalytic profile. It's based on a single person, Devakirti Mahage, a twenty-second-century woman who was warden of the northern borders of the mountain kings toward the end of the war with the Portuguese, and near the beginning of the war with the Dutch. Little is known of her life. She was adivasi. I have no idea what she really looked like: I gave her the face I imagined. She is the oldest historical person I have attempted to depict, predating Tipu Sultan by a century, so again the face, the voice, these are all synthetic.

The stories The Cousin tells were often gleaned from books published by Portuguese or Dutch soldiers, because those are the books that survived—these books I had to read violently and against the grain to imagine the events therein as they would have seemed to the other side of those wars. There is so much casual talk of murder in these memoirs. Tortures, massacres, atrocities freely admitted to, because of course why not? The Geneva Conventions were only found to be necessary after World War Two, after the imperial age finally ate itself.

I recommend that you read this excellent deconstruction of The Cousin by the adivasi critic M. Minimutu. I have no particular responses: I don't believe the existence of the work per se needs to be apologized for, so I do not; I would probably do it differently if I were doing it today, but I am not, and this is the slightly disappointing world we live in.

What does The Cousin say when you talk to her?

Haven't you been to see her? She's at the Red Brick Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing. They have an online interface. Go ask!

Do you feel differently about the fictional faces than about the real faces?

Yes, I do—the fictional faces were so much more work! To imagine myself into the position of such-and-such a person, it's so very likely that I've made mistakes. It is quite impossible for us to know what Devakirti Mahage was like, or what her world was like, so we must make assumptions—we know that she wasn't unique in being adivasi, a woman and a chief, for example: there were many other women in similar roles. We know she held a position of danger and responsibility in an apocalyptic time, a world churning and devouring itself. These things tell us a little about her, but not enough, not nearly enough.

With the faces that many people were so kind as to give me, however, I could—with their consent and through a somewhat more idiosyncratic profiling methodology than is used in the corporate sector—work up their personalytic profiles and code them as interactive sculpts. Over the years I developed my own frameworks and libraries for doing this, so the later ones got progressively easier to do. The reason I work with real faces whenever I can is to anchor the software to an authentic person. The face has been treated, prepared, wired, and animated, but it is still fundamentally flesh: the skin of an actual, particular human being who chose to become a work. This is a profound act of trust, and I thank them for it.

How did you choose them?

I asked a lot of people. Everyone whose voice I wanted to survive their deaths. Many refused. Some people find it offends their sense of bodily integrity, or funerary respect; some find it ghoulish. Many struggle with this idea of the continuity of their consciousness—is it still them? Is it someone else? Is it a someone else or a something else? Is it still like living? Is it still even like thinking? I've always been very upfront about this: nobody is claiming that I'm an artificial intelligence, any more than your most boring corporate FAQ is an artificial intelligence. I have personhood only via incorporation: I have no human rights. Many people do not want this kind of existence, if it is existence. I find it exhilarating myself, though I would, wouldn't I?

It's the people who share that sense of exhilaration, who have survived the winnowing of all these doubts, that say yes to my offer. I make them into art and extend to them the legal aegis of the R. Satka estate. I hope it's enough to honour their generosity. Perhaps we are only a curiosity, a mechanical tiger gnawing at civilization's belly. But it's still worth it.

Why do you give them titles? Like The Poet in Fire or The Whale-Speaker? Why not let them use their real names?

I gave them the option (she says): they always chose to go by a title, which many of them had a hand in selecting. They are all aware of their own true names: some of them are willing to talk about it, others enjoy the secret.

Here's something I've never told anyone before: when my face is officially published—no, I'm still not telling you when or how—it too will have a title. It will be called The Sculptor.

Will you tell us more about The Sculptor?

No.

What is the hidden transcript?

I take the term from James Campbell Scott. It is the secret criticism that is hidden from power. Those of us who fear power—that is to say, those of us who have less power in the divided world—must pretend in public that we accept domination, but in private we are free to be angry, to resent, to be vengeful. Bringing that anger out into public space is dangerous.

But you're a successful, influential artist! You have a lot of powermore than most normal people.

In a sense, yes. But it's a facile and disingenuously narrow sense. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about World War Zero: all of it, from Tordesillas to this very day. I'm talking about state-level violence and war crimes—both those committed upon us and by us, both historical and present—and the way the world is so ordered to uphold those crimes as virtues in the public spheres defined by those selfsame crimes. This ordering of the world is what I mean by power.

Are you saying the entire world is criminal?

The world is entirely peopled by the guilty and the complicit. There is no such thing as innocence, except for dogs. No, though—what I'm saying is that the project is about preservation. The world is irredeemably fucked, and vast numbers of humans will die in the next couple of generations. My very small contribution to this nightmare is a memorial: the idea that there were humans who deserved to be remembered.

Why do you allow suicides to donate their faces to you, then?

It's been controversial (she says), yes. Though I disagree extremely that the suicidal are not deserving, which seems to be your implication.

All of my faces come from agreements made in life, that I would receive the face after their death. Most of those deaths came late in life but of course there were unexpected deaths. A couple of accidents. And worse. The Accuser was originally going to be called a different name, until the government had him killed—

(The interview is silent long enough that one of the interviewers checks her connection. The interview thinks or reacts no faster than Satka did in life; this is by design. If anything, as the interview grows more comfortable in her skin, she takes more time to think. She potters about the room, touching things.11 She does not hurry. She reshelves a couple of books, consigns a burned daughterboard to a recycle bin. These changes in the virtual studio break the fidelity of the representation: they are not mirrored in the physical room, where the daughterboard remains on the table and the books improperly shelved. Nor will the physical room be updated to mirror the virtual: the physical room is considered the master copy and the virtual representation is periodically reset to match it, though the Satka interview actually lives in the representation and not in the room. This is a matter of some dispute between the interview and the Board of Trustees.)

And of course (she says, without acknowledging the silence or even indicating that she's aware there was a silence) there is the case you're referring to, The Poet in Fire. I should claim that I didn't know she was suicidal when we made our agreement and I profiled her. I did, though I don't know if I understood this except in hindsight. She more or less told me. It seemed to me at the time that the warzone she lived in, the dangerous people she was criticizing, that these would be a far greater source of danger. I'd hoped for the face of an old revered poet and feared getting a young martyred one, and what actually happened was a third possibility. She burned her unpublished poems before she killed herself, so much of her work would have been lost to us—The Poet in Fire remembers some, at least, and has since composed another.

New work composed by the facesdo you really believe it to be authentic?

Yes (she says, though she makes a face—a grimace? It's there and gone too quickly to tell. The interviewers can check their session playback after they log out, but for the moment they are in real time). It's true the faces work slowly. Their processing power is whatever the R. Satka estate can afford to provide them: it's not a lot, and it's shared between them all. Perhaps they—or I should say we—lack something of the creative energy, the drive-to-make we remember from when we were alive. But we still work, if slowly. Maybe it's just that the urgency is gone. We once worked because we feared death, we feared that death would come with our work still undone. We were afraid to be incomplete—but now our day is long, and we can take our time.

Apart from The Sculptor, are you working on anything new?

I never stopped working or looking for new faces (she says. The interviewers can tell that she is ostentatiously studying each of them. Some of them preen for her; there are always some who do. They hold their faces still and beautiful, hoping to be invited.12)

Of course, being responsible for the estate also means I'm always looking for new funding, too. Fundraising is an art form I've yet to master. In theory it might be easier outside the restrictions of Vilacem's socialized capital market or outside the USTLE firewall altogether, but I'm not eager to push the legislative limits of my autonomy. Which are severely constrained—The Cousin, for example, can be in Beijing as long as she's hosted on our servers here in Vilacem, but we can't so much as put a load balancer outside the firewall without risk of seizure. And The Accuser can't be hosted in the island at all: he's running off a VPS run by the militant wing of the Piratpartiet in Sweden.

But yes, while all this is going on I'm working on new sculpts, of course I am. I don't know how long my project will last because I built them out of fragile things—networks and faces, contracts and bylaws, friendships and agreements made and kept in good faith—that may not survive the teeth of the century. But I did that on purpose, too. I have learned humility: I'm not so proud as to try and build for the ages.

Do you envision a world where everybody leaves behind an interview? A world in which nobody really dies?

On the one hand, (she says) I think this is a slippery-slope fallacy that is already invalidated by the number of people who, given the opportunity, refuse. Many people prefer death to this type of persistence. Some find both death and persistence abominable for religious reasons, such as the transhumanists: their AI researchers are among my most strident critics. I'd be more amused if they stopped protesting my exhibits alongside the religious right and the science-fiction authors—

On the other hand, do we not almost-already live in this world? It's difficult and not cheap, but at least possible. I don't think it's advisable, given that it would eat up tremendous amounts of energy, bandwidth, and processing cycles. That goes for most human endeavour in any case. Nearly everything is a disaster at scale.

Which is the third hand, that this is not the object of my work. I don't see any point in multiplying the noise, to drown out the living in the voices of the dead. I've spent my life trying to curate—I've chosen the people whose voices I wanted to preserve, to raise up, and while I'm sure I've made every imaginable mistake of curation, the important point here is that the necessary choices were made: I made them. While I'm all for technology being democratized and everybody making their own choices as to whether they want to leave interviews or not, that has never been my project.

Will you be launching The Sculptor at the Fernando Centennial?

Come and see (she says, laughing).


1. This interview is an RFC 9481-compatible full personalytic profile recorded in Binara-Unduvap 2561 (Sep-Dec 2018 in the Christian calendar) at R. Satka's home and studio in the New City in the Autonomous Territory of Vilacem. The interview interprets itself in real time as each interviewer asks their questions. If you would like to be an interviewer, please consult the FAQ, and note that Satka's responses may be unpredictably influenced by nonverbal changes in the person and body language of the interviewer's virtual representation. Since Satka's death, this interview is her primary being-in-the-world, and retains executive authority over her estate.

2. Bombardier Vatumullage Gratien Hubert Fernando, leader of the Cocos Island Mutiny in World War Two, executed by the British occupation forces in 2485.

3. Critics invariably comment on the empty eye sockets of Satka's faces, but since Satka in her original instance refused to speak further on this, the interview should also be unable to answer. We say should because it's possible that the interview, having been led through a unique chain of associations by some serendipitous or strategic dialogue, may someday answer the question, just as Satka herself might have answered if somebody had asked in exactly the right way. We leave this to the luck and ingenuity of the interviewer.

4. The last five suggestions made by interviewers are: Cerantivu, Simondu, Kalapa, Lemuria, Agartta. Satka's heated or mocking responses to these have on occasion gone viral, and interviewers have learned caution.

5. This is a quote from an unpublished R. Satka manifesto, Melanchthon, dated 2519. She was twenty-four and deeply pessimistic about catastrophic climate change.

6. Inherited from Dutch and British occupation-era templates, the infamous clauses 365 and 365A criminalized all sexuality "against the order of nature" in the Territories until the constitutional reforms of the mid-2540s.

7. "Loyalty to a country under the heel of the white man is disloyalty." Famous last words.

8. The overly hagiographic Gratien Fernando biopic in 2552 and the overly fictionalized action film Cocos Islands Mutiny in 2547.

9. At least, not long by Satka's own standards. She sees no problem in making a would-be interviewer wait a few hours. Gradually, the kind of person who becomes fascinated by the interview will come back for longer and longer stretches, occasionally asking questions when given the nod, until they become regulars. Regulars lurk more and talk less.

10. There is no published estimate on how many friends, confidants, and honorary family members the interview has cultivated. Satka is deeply private about these relationships, going so far as to scrub their names from the record in real time so that other interviewers cannot identify them. Some of them are second-generation intimates, relationships inherited from parents or mentors.

11. This is a well-documented habit of Satka's, the need to have something in her hands while she thinks.

12. Satka talks about the generosity of her donors, but supply has far, far outstripped demand. Interviewers are strictly forbidden, on pain of permaban, to verbalize offers to donate their faces, as this tends to snowball into a complete derailment of the interview. Still, many come to the interview with no questions, only to be seen.




Vajra Chandrasekera is a writer from Colombo, Sri Lanka. His fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Black Static, among others. For more, see his website or follow @_vajra on Twitter.
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