by Tony Daniel
Category: Science Fiction Year's Best Science Fiction Selection
Description: The Grist is the goo of life that links humanity with the collective consciousness of every living thing. Andre Sud, itinerant priest and expert rock balancer, searches for the Large Array Personality (LAP) known as Thaddeus Kaye, who threatens the delicate balance of interstellar events with his suspected ability to control the future.
eBook Publisher: Electricstory.com, 1998 Asimov's
eBookwise Release Date: April 2001
41 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [100 KB]
Reading time: 62-87 min.
"Tony Daniel's novella "Grist," according to an editorial note, is the springboard for an upcoming double-decker novel. Based on this excerpt, the novel should be excellent. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the novella. Despite strong characters, and despite a dazzling future unlike the tired cyberpunk rehash usually offered up by writers these days, it is too obviously a part of a larger whole. Readers looking for a self-contained work of art will be disappointed by the plot, which sets up the situation and abruptly terminates. Luckily, the well-realized characters and the intriguing setting offer some compensation." -Jeff Verona, Tangent Online (Learn more about Tangent Online, the Internet's leading SF&F short fiction review website)
Filmbuff, for all his histrionics, was not one to overstate his visions for effect. The man who sat across from Andre was only the aspect--the human portion--of a vast collective of personalities. They were all unified by the central being; the man before him was no more a puppet than was his enthalpic computing analog soaking up energy on Mercury, or the nodes of specialized grist spread across human space decoding variations in antiparticle spins as they made their way backward in time. But he was no longer simply the man who had taught Andre's Intro to Pastoral Shamanism course at seminary. Ten years ago, the Greentree Way had specifically crafted a Large Array of Personalities to catch a glimpse of the future, and Filmbuff had been assigned to be morphed.
I was on the team that designed him, Andre thought. Of course, that was back when I was a graduate assistant. Before I Walked on the Moon.
"The vision is what's real." Filmbuff put the lhasi straw to his mouth and finished the rest of it. Andre wondered where the liquid went inside the man. Didn't he run on batteries or something? "This is maya, Andre."
"I believe you, Morton."
"I talked to Erasmus Kelly about this," Filmbuff continued. "He took it on the merci to our Interpreter's Freespace."
"What did they come up with?"
Filmbuff pushed his empty glass toward Andre. "That there's a new Tree," he said.
"How the hell could there be a new Tree? The Tree is wired into our DNA like sex and breathing. It may be sex and breathing."
"How should I know? There's a new Tree."
Andre took a sip of his tea. Just right. "So there's a new Tree," he said. "What does that have to do with me?"
"We think it has to do with your research."
"What research? I balance rocks."
"Before I lost my faith and became an itinerant priest?"
"You were doing brilliant work at the seminary."
"What? With the time towers? That was a dead end."
"You understand them better than anyone."
"Because I don't try to make any sense of them. Do you think this new Tree has to do with those things?"
"It's a possibility."
"I doubt it."
"You doubt everything."
"The time towers are bunch of crotchety old LAPs who have disappeared up their own asses."
"Andre, you know what I am."
"You're my boss."
"You're a manifold. You are a Large Array of Personalities who was specially constructed as a quantum-event detector--probably the best in human history. Parts of you stretch across the entire inner solar system, and you have cloud ship outriders. If you say you had a vision of me and this new Tree, then it has to mean something. You're not making it up. Morton, you see into the future, and there I am."
"There you are. You are the Way's expert on time. What do you think this means."
"What do you want me to tell you?" said Andre. That the new Tree is obviously a further stage in sentient evolution, since the Greentree is us?"
"That's what Erasmus Kelly and his people think. I need something more subtle from you."
"All right. It isn't the time towers that this has to do with."
"You don't want to hear this."
"You'd better tell me anyway."