Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Process of Time

All photographs in this blog post were taken by Mac Tonnies and
found on his Flickr pages. Click to enlarge.

"The future isn't an inevitability; it's a process. It reaches back in time with delicate, enveloping fingers and beckons. We proceed into the future like slender pseudopods straining to break free of a parent cell. The transition is amorphic, dangerous and continuous. We are always on the front lines, waging temporal war within the privacy of our own skulls. The future is not ours, although it can be. Maybe this is what a multiversal intelligence seeks: not the chatter of electromagnetic transmissions, but the intricate lacing that occurs when spacetime is tempered with conscious intent. Finding us, it insinuates itself into our ontological flow. It replicates until its presence is so familiar we cease to even notice. We are silent partners, weaving new matrices of causality."

- From Mac Tonnies and sourced from this February 12, 2003 Posthuman Blues post.


Inside, the crew stirred within their communal environmental VR, roused by an unspecific sense of incipience. Zack felt it in the air, a certain heaviness that descended over the spires and narrow, cobbled avenues. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he stood in front of the noisy café. As he watched, the faces of onlookers morphed into pixilated anonymity. He experienced a rush of strange nostalgia as the sky over Prague grew metallic, strewn with listing spheres and half-glimpsed workstation icons. His muscles tightened and the noise of conversation and scuttling cars blurred into the sound of electronic surf, pounding endlessly against the shores of his consciousness.

A blare of synthesized instruments. Prague had redshifted to a niggling afterimage, and he was alone in a strange green room that smelled of discreetly rotting vegetation. A barbed device, looking something like a spider as conceived by an aspiring surrealist, detached itself from his scalp, leaving a constellation of reddened impressions.
A voice: familiar, unwanted: "Welcome home, Zack."

He sagged into a mattress of gengineered lichen that buoyed his limbs and spine as if offering him up for sacrifice. His ears buzzed. He could still taste coffee. The spider-interface dangled above his head, twinkling mockingly in the glow of the room's diagnostic screens.
"Lights," he heard himself say. "Turn on the damned lights."

The room erupted in yellow light, emitted from organelles embedded in the walls and ceiling. The room was alive; in fact, it appeared to have grown more verdant in his long sensory absence. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief. There had been fear of native biota wrecking the Isis' genetic architecture, leaving the ship an undifferentiated blob of metal and biomass hovering between stars.

Elsewhere, he knew -- or, more accurately, sensed -- his crewmates awakening in dimly glowing rooms of their own. The metal spider curled its limbs into a somehow dangerous-looking sphere and drifted on a tether of fiber-optic cable. For the first time, he noticed the microgravity; the only thing keeping him from ascending was the mattress' faintly adhesive embrace. He freed his arms and watched his thin, colorless hands with the studied patience of a forensic scientist happening across some vital and mysterious piece of evidence.

He hadn't used his body in... 203 years, ship time? Unless something had gone wrong... but the voice had said "welcome home," hadn't it? A chill raced down his spine as he considered the possibility of software corruption. Two centuries of exposure to interstellar space could have plunged the AI into a lethally premature senility.

- An excerpt of an untitled, unfinished science fiction short by Mac Tonnies published in this January, 2008 blog post.


The Dog Days of summer are upon us and, here in the States, all the murder and mayhem that traditionally is said to occur during the months of July and August is in full force. August is also the month of Mac's birthday and the time I make my yearly pilgrimage to his blog and Flickr pages in search of inspiration; some new thing that brings Mac back - if only for an instant - endowing this memorial with a tenuous foothold in the process of time.

And, I am never disappointed; each time I am mysteriously led to posts and photos that I may have merely overlooked in the past but which seem as if I'm seeing them for the first time. Both quotes - and (at least) 3 of the photos posted above - I can swear I've never seen before. The little oddity shown directly above I have seen before but I'm quite sure it wasn't there 9 years ago. The next-to-the-last photograph - a mirror image of Mac shooting photos in a tattoo parlor - is especially eerie to me. How could I have missed that? What's really odd is that in the photo he appears to have tattooed forearms. Is this even possible? Maybe it's just me - always a distinct possibility - but, then, strange thoughts come to my head. And, they're not original. What if, for instance, time is a continuum and, within the process of time, the past continues and the future is already occurring... and each has the ability to change the other? In other words, changes occur across the board... and, maybe, all these new artifacts archaeologists keep finding are new!

And, (maybe) Mac Tonnies has recently tattooed his forearms.


"About a year ago I was in a deplorably ill-conceived suburban coffee-shop sipping espresso and using one of the complimentary computers (which, remarkably, hadn't been trashed by viruses). I struck up a longish conversation with a girl on the adjacent terminal (mostly about subjects covered by this blog, which I was busily updating).

At one point I casually mentioned that the shop in which we were sitting would probably wind up as a bona-fide archaeological site within the next thirty years. I don't think she liked the sound of that, because the conversation ended shortly thereafter.

But hey, she asked."

- Mac Tonnies from this January 26, 2008 blog post.


  1. Superb as always -- posted in a fluid continuation of Time and Space. Loved the opening quote.

  2. Thanks, BG. It's golden nuggets like the opening quote that have kept this blog rolling for almost 10 years.