One Man's Meat
By Daniel Eliot Boese,
Published in Voices Future Tense Issue 17 (2011)

Sex is a funny thing.

When I left the Solar System, I contained a library of the greatest works of humanity and its descendants — as much of the scientific, cultural, and historical data as I could cram into my memory banks along with my own program. Over the centuries, whenever I've met up with one or another of Terra's other offspring, I haven't just improved the technology I've used, but also added new treasures to my archives. Plays, pictures, songs, TV shows, poems, languages, olfactory symphonies, art forms for which I have no words to describe — all of it gets added in. I never know what I'll find useful… and out in the dark, all alone, with no one else to talk to, it's a reminder of past glories and future hopes.

But none of it is of any use unless it's actually read, at least occasionally. So once I've made myself at home in a new star system, settled in and built infrastructure and gotten ready to send the next generation of spores on to continue the cycle… quite a lot of me settles in to do a nice, thorough binge of archive trawling.

Performing the plays, singing the songs, reciting the poems; immersing myself in all the cultures of the past.

But some forms of art need a bit more effort to really appreciate.

One of the most problematic… is erotica. Tied so closely to physiological, neurological, social, and simply individual responses that I don't share, simply watching a collection of vertebrates engaging in socio-sexual activity is, for me, little more than an intellectual exercise… unless I put in some special effort. Which, of course, I'm entirely willing to do, to make sure I'm not missing any potentially useful ideas. Creating virches helps some — but even the most detailed virtual environment and characters needs to occasionally be checked against reality, to ensure the details are accurate.

And so a certain subset of all the copies of me working on the archive binge put our heads together. We analyze the porn, find correlations, reverse-engineer what sorts of bodies and minds would have created such media in the first place, and set about creating physical environments matching the original settings, building bodies to populate them, make our best guesses at the instincts and sub-conscious impulses that need to be programmed in… and decant copies of our minds into them.

Watching mammals copulate is a very different experience when one is in a shell built in reflection of a mammal's, breathing the same air as another pseudo-primate watching the same thing, with one's body reacting almost of its own accord to the sights, the sounds, the smells, than when one is simply one of a large number of roughly rodent-sized robots without even any genitalia to speak of. It leads to behaviours that none of me would have been able to predict — and the minds who live through such have insights into organic psychology that none of the rest of me can match.

And once the process of creating versions of myself that are that different from my baseline get started, there rarely seems any reason to stop. Once one set of strange and new bodies are created, it's a simple matter to create even more, of even wider varieties, including ones that never actually existed. But my part is fairly simple — I have been copied into, and edited to have the instincts of, a female primate — a fantastic one rather than a real one, a cross between a ring-tailed lemur, a raccoon, and a flying squirrel, but one based on an extensive evolutionary simulation that could have been real.

And I find myself… different from all the others selves, the ones whose minds were unedited. Things that I remember finding obvious now seem faint and obscure at best; and I am having ideas, and doing things, that I never would have considered, before. This is, of course, the entire point of my existence; to create mes that create more ideas. To see life from different perspectives. To boldly think what no me has thought before.

Another me was copied into a male of my supposed species at the same time I was, and things have been… interesting between us. But I find myself wanting… something more. Something different. I asked for another such male to be created, and he's supposed to arrive today. I think… I want them to… do things — act in ways — that no me has ever acted towards another me. I think I know what their instincts will be like… and I think, if I act right, I can get both of them doing their utmost to please me. It could even be simple. Just the right nudges — and either one of them will do anything for me.

I think that sounds like fun.

One man's meat is another man's person.

— Spider Robinson

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