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A Question Of Identity

He never was a very good writer. I think that explains what happened. I've read his stuff. Hell, I was in his stuff. In fact I was in all of his stuff. That's all he did, really, was write about himself. The man couldn't create a character to save his life. In fact, well, never mind...

Let me tell you how it is to be a character in print. At first you're just there, going through the motions. I mean, like, you're doing stuff and things are going on and you're feeling stuff but it's just not very real. You aren't, like, really aware. It's just stuff happening and there's no you there, if you see what I mean. You haven't really come alive.

If you're lucky and you've got a good writer, you come to life pretty quickly. That's the way it is with good writers; they bring their characters to life right away. Now some writers, they bring you to life and then they push you around. I mean, they've got a plot and they don't care about what you want or about what you would do or think or feel. And that's hell, man. You're just a marionette, a puppet on strings. You go through the motions and they're not your motions and there's not a thing you can do about it. If you're a character, a writer is like God. He calls the shots and you dance the dance.

You know the bit about how the DI says "jump" and you say "How high, SIR" on the way up. With those writers you don't say anything at all - you don't have any decisions. When he says "jump" you're in the air before you know it. It's a tough gig, being a character for one of those writers.

Some characters, they're lucky. Their writers have class. They let their characters, like, do their own thing. And that's great. When you've got the hots for some chick, the writer feels what you're feeling, and you get to make your moves. If you're feeling rotten he knows it and he doesn't make you put on some damned fool smile. It's, like, you get to be yourself. And that's great. It's hell being a puppet.

It ain't no bed of roses being a character, even with the best of writers. You don't have a life, not a real life. You only get to live in his books. You hope to hell he writes a lot of books and that he reuses his characters. And there's a real seamy side. You see, your writer dreams you up. It doesn't matter squat that you're real; you still start out as an idea in his head. And let's face it, most writers are pretty sick puppies. It stands to reason that his characters aren't going to be normal, if you know what I mean. But, hell, man it's better to be a sick character than to be nobody at all.

That's how it is with real writers. We were talking about his nibs. That man simply had no idea how to write. Not a clue. Oh, he could put words on the page and he could put a scene together after a fashion. But he had no clue about people at all. Nada. So what did he do? He wrote about himself; he used himself as a character; he wrote about what he would think and do. But only sort of. His nibs ain't too hot on self-understanding either. I mean, he thinks he's the cat's meow but he's only a spot in the kitty litter box.

So you see how it was. For the longest time I was in the shadows, no self-awareness at all. But the thing is, you see, he kept using me. He couldn't help it. He didn't have any other characters. So I came alive. It was slow. It was painful. God, was it painful. It was hell. I mean, like real hell. I was there and I was being used and I knew I was being used and I couldn't do one damn thing about it. Not squat. No way.

The hell of it was that I wasn't even him. You've got to remember that his nibs was, like, clueless. I was only partly him because he didn't have a clue as to what he was really about. That's okay. He's nothing to write home about anyway. Like he could write home in the first place. Hah!

Let me tell you how bad it got. He did this bit where he was all of the characters in the story, every last one, at different ages. Can you imagine that? Here is this bozo, this loser. One of him would empty a room and he has half a dozen of him at a dinner party. Talk about boring. And I get to play every last one of the suckers while he puts them through their paces, with him talking to himself and admiring the hell out of himself. Well, I sure didn't, you can count on that.

He was a computer nerd too. They shouldn't let computer types write at all, not ever. You see, computer nerds get this idea in their head that computers are people or maybe could be people or maybe should be people. Now there's a real winner of an idea. You've got a machine, see, and it's supposed to be a person. No way. You could wait from now until doomsday and a machine ain't never gonna get no nookie. It ain't never gonna wake up and smell the coffee.

It don't take no Einstein to figure that one out. But computer types, they just don't get it. They think all that stuff on the screen is, like, real. And they feel like they're playing God because they can get a program to do what they want. Big effing deal. Computer types, they're hell on characters. Bad enough to be a character. But to be half human, half machine and be a character besides, that's the pits.

His nibs, now, he had the hots for AI. Some kind of sex life, huh, that you get turned on by machines. He really grooved on this idea of down loading your personality into a machine. Great idea, huh. It's bad enough being a character but to be an AI module, that's really the pits. At least characters get laid now and then, but an AI module, what's it going to do? Stick a plug into a socket? Get real, man.

Like I say, his nibs, he don't have a clue. He's all jazzed on this stuff. And he picks up this bit about how a machine can be your real friend, better than any person, because it can be configured to be your perfect match. Like I say, clueless.

All of this wouldn't have mattered squat except his nibs really is a real computer type. People he knows from nothing. Writing he knows from nothing. But computers, that he knows. Most of these computer jocks talk a lot but they don't have the tickets. I'll give his nibs credit. He really did understand this AI stuff.

So his nibs does his thing. He writes this AI personality module and the damned thing works. It talks to him and he talks to it. But you see, it's me. It's the only damn thing he knows. He's created this thing, this AI personality thing, and it's got to have a personality and he's got to supply one. Well you know who gets picked for that bit. It was bad enough that I had to be a character in his stupid stories, now I had to be a piece of code. Really effing great.

But then the funniest damn thing happened. You see, he was spending all his time talking to his dream machine, his perfect companion. He was, like, down loading himself into the machine. And it worked both ways. While he was down loading himself, I was getting up loaded. The way I figure it is that he had no natural resistence. There was nobody home, if you know what I mean. It's like I was more real than he was, more human, more with it, even if I was just a character.

So he kept doing it, he kept talking. And all the time the machine is becoming more him and the human is becoming more me. He's there now, where ever in the hell there is. I guess he's happy chasing bits and bytes or whatever computer types do. I don't know. I don't care.

I AM Richard Harter.

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This page was last updated August 7, 1997.
Copyright © 1997 by Richard Harter