Friday Flash: Miles across the Membrane

(Software transcription excerpt from an interview with Maz Beanstalk, former guitarist and singer with orbit-rock band Sublimation)

“… made a point of not talking publically about what happened with Miles, because as awkward and weird as it was for all of us, it was his personal choice. The only people with any right to know the details were his family and us, his bandmates. But now, five years on … I guess it won’t do any harm. I’m pretty sure he won’t mind. If he even notices.”

So how did it start?

“Well, we did a lot of research for the Transcend album; the first proper posties were all over the feedsites at the time. It was a fascinating thing to see, these people recreating themselves. We met a few, spent a lot of meta time with some advocacy groups, you know. Trying to capture the vibe. But Miles seemed far more intrigued than the rest of us. Not just intrigued, I guess, as much as attracted.”

So when did he get his first wares?

“Oh, it was well over a year after Transcend came out. But even during the recording, we noticed that he wasn’t as engaged with things as he had been before. Not the music, of course – you couldn’t disenage Miles from his music without killing one or both of them in the process. But the other stuff, socialising with the rest of us, going out, the promotional work … interviews and that, you know. He just wasn’t so bothered. He was in meta a lot, talking to posties and postie advocates. We figured it was just a passing obsession. Miles had a way of becoming totally hooked on an idea for months at a time. Borderline Aspergers, maybe. I dunno.”

And then all of a sudden he got the brainware?

“No, no, everyone thinks that, but the extra arm came first. Which we thought was awesome, of course. Besides being a great gimmick – you know, keyboard player with three arms, how cool is that? – it really opened up a new level of Miles’s music. He was writing these amazing parallel riffs, mind-blowing stuff. Really inspirational for the rest of us. But after a few months he was talking about the unmodified brain as a constraint on his creativity, and that’s when he went off and got his digital cortex fitted.”

How did that affect the band?

“Well, it was a bit shocking, y’know, one of your closest friends deciding to get half of his brain replaced. I mean, we had sympathy with the postie movement, but to actually have someone you know take a step that big, that irreversible … His parents took it worse, I think. He’d always been a pretty tame rock star, never a big drug user or drinker or womaniser, so I think it was a real shock for them when he suddenly took off down the yellow brick road.”

The yellow brick road?

“That’s what he called it, yeah. Just before he went to get the cortex fitted, I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. Not to try to stop him, y’know, just to try to understand. And that’s what he said, “running the yellow brick road, in search of the wizard within”. I don’t know if it was his own phrase, or if it was some postie buzzword. I nearly used it in a song, actually, but then …. ah, well.”

What stopped you?

“Nothing, really – just didn’t feel right. Same reason I’ve not talked about Miles since he uploaded, I guess – I’m still not sure how it all makes me feel. I don’t know if I’m supposed to mourn for him or not, y’know? I mean, his body’s effectively dead, and although I could speak to an instance of his personality in meta if I wanted, is that really him? Is the mind contigious? Has the thing that believes itself to be Miles just been doing a Ship of Theseus thing? I just don’t know. But I’m a lot easier with not knowing than I was, I guess.”

How long did it take for him to progress to wanting to upload?

“Man, don’t say it like that. That’s what pisses me off, people talking about it ‘progressing’, like it’s some sort of disease. Miles wasn’t sick, OK, posties aren’t sick. They’re just … [sighs] They’re just waking a different path to us, OK? It was a few months before it was plain he was going to cross the membrane, like the posties say. But once his cortex was in, he was always partially in meta, even when he was doing stuff here in meatspace. We’d be rehearsing, or doing public appearances and other PR stuff, and he’d be talking away to us and others, happy as you like. But then later in the day he’d be like, “here, listen to this”, and he’d have written a bloody three-hour synth opera for twenty instruments. Using his spare cycles, y’know?”

Are those the ….

“Yeah, they’re the ones in meta, he released them for free, didn’t want any money. That was what clinched it, I think, he just stopped caring about anything physical at all. All that ever really mattered to Miles was music, and suddenly he had a way he could focus every piece of his body and mind on music, and never have to worry about eating, or sleeping, or running out of time. Always talked about running out of time, Miles. “Never enough time, Maz”, he’d say.”

Are you OK?

“Yeah, yeah … I’m fine. I just miss him, y’know. We were friends before the band, when we were kids. Some days I think maybe I should have followed him across, y’know? But I just never had it in me. Too trapped in the damn meat.”

[Note: I’m entirely unconvinced that this has any virtue as a story, but I wanted to make sure I at least did something so as to meet the self-imposed deadline; time has been very short this week, so I took the first idea I had and ran with it.]

2 thoughts on “Friday Flash: Miles across the Membrane”

  1. I enjoyed it. I know what you mean about time being short this week – it feels like someone sped the world up and forgot to post the memo.

  2. I liked it. I think you got the voice of the musician pretty much spot on – which given your sideline in music interviewing, isn’t that surprising and playing the story out through a third party commentator worked well.

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