Mama, We Are Zhena, Your Son

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Crosshill, Tom. "Mama, We Are Zhena, Your Son." Lightspeed: Year One. An on-line anthology available here[1]. "Zhena" available here.[2] Print version: Gaithersburg, MD: Prime Books, 2011, conveniently accessed through Goodreads.[3] Abridged audiobook version (which Erlich has consulted), edited by John Joseph Adams (Skyboat Audio, 2012) available directly from[4] and iTunes.[5]

Summarized by Dione Basseri on GoodReads site, "Zhenya is part of an experiment, trying to create a 'quantum brain' by placing a young child in a digital quantum environment. And the experiment succeeds. Unfortunately."[6]The idea is that " A young mind can learn to think qantumikally in a simulated qantumikal environment," as Zhenya writes to Mama. In the experiment, the environment is like a video game of the dungeons and gnomes variety, and the boy is "there" — in what appears to be a castle — with his dog, Sulyik. Both are "there," in the game/experiment via what Zhena sees as a helmet, the material part of a series of GUI's, where, Zhenya is told, GUI plus a number "means gnome user innerface [sic]." The boy is eight-years old and the experiment motivates him with hunger, blows, ontological dread, and other highly negative reinforcement, including being laughed at by gnomes, who chant "hai-zen-berg! hai-zen-berg!" when Zhenya is trapped in a Heisenberg-ian dilemma; so the story is also a thought-experiment in ethics, where the scientist(s) do poorly. In the game, Zhenya finds the "treasure" and finds it interesting, although his dog dislikes it: "There are so many handles you can pull, it’s like a big yellow hedgehog, with twisting knobbly gears which are never in the same place when you look. Dr. Olga said she couldn’t understand the treasure because it’s a qantumikal motor and it needs a qantumikal brain but I should understand it because I’ve got one.

She’s right. When I’m everywhere at once, I get all tangled up with the treasure and the handles become my arms like I’m conducting an orchestra, and I understand everything. But it’s scary when that happens, Mama. " The practical goal of the experiment seems to be the theft of energy from other universes. It seems they get far more energy than is safe.

CAUTION: "Zhena includes the death of a dog, also of Moscow.

RDE, 06/II/17