"Will my grandmother have, like, laser guns?"
March 4, 2021 10:52 PM   Subscribe

"So your grandmother is a starship now: a quick guide for the bewildered" by Marissa Lingen

Other writing on nature.com by Marissa Lingen.

Marissa Lingen's short fiction previously.

And a more recent previously on Lingen's "Present Writers" blog posts.
posted by sibilatorix (36 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
That was short but sweet. It's like a FAQ from the future.

The title made me think of Scotty from Star Trek.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:46 PM on March 4

She will be magnificent.
posted by clockwork at 2:26 AM on March 5 [17 favorites]

Yes she will - sadly I will not live long enough to be a starship - maybe my grandkids will
posted by mbo at 2:41 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

That was great!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:47 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

My grandmother is a steam shovel. We're working-class, and proud.
posted by pipeski at 3:16 AM on March 5 [27 favorites]

I feel oddly comforted.

My maternal grandmother plied the seven seas in the 60s, though as crew, not a ship. My paternal grandmother never travelled, until my grandfather passed, and then my father and aunt convinced her to not save and skimp for their inheritance's sake, and she travelled for a few years, cruising the Rhine at one point and staying at the shores of Lake Garda another time, reportedly having a grand old time.
posted by Harald74 at 4:18 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]

this makes me want to see if there are old Homeworld fanfics where Karan S'jet was a mother and grandmother in addition to being a neuroscientist, and she refined her abilities over tracking multiple emergent threats and opportunities by trying to simultaneously publish papers on hyperspace and organic computing while also keeping a bunch of kids out of trouble.
posted by bl1nk at 4:29 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]

"When I am an old woman, I will have laser gunports and an FTL..."
posted by rmd1023 at 4:41 AM on March 5 [23 favorites]

Excellent! Don't mess with Granny is good advice, regardless.
posted by skippyhacker at 4:53 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]

How cool to wake up this morning and be presented with with Marissa Lingen's short fiction! I highly recommend venturing down the Nature.com rabbit-hole consisting of her past short pieces in the sidebar. I'm reminded of Ted Chiang and Italo Calvino.
posted by Agave at 5:51 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

That was great!
posted by Wretch729 at 5:54 AM on March 5

kids these days with their Alcubierre drives and their bussard ramjets

when i were a girl all we had was liquid rocket boosters and we had to carry the LOX to and from t'launchpads ourselves
posted by lalochezia at 6:07 AM on March 5 [13 favorites]

Grandma has the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:32 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]

I'm almost tempted to re-visit the old Anne McCaffrey "Federated Sentient Planets" novels on my shelves ( in boxes, etc.), featuring this as a central theme, but fear that -- like so much -- they won't have aged well and yet another element of my youth gets milkshake-ducked.
posted by mikelieman at 6:33 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

Also makes me think of Ann Leckie's Ancillary series. Great means of exploring questions about consciousness and identity, glad to get this new writer to check out.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:11 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]

When I imagine a grandmother as a starship, I keep thinking of Bargie from Mission to Zyxx, even though neither of my grandmothers, to my knowledge, were A-list holofilm actresses who fell on hard times.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:20 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]

Bonus question:

Will my grandmother be a starship, or will the starship merely contain a *copy* of my grandmother's consciousness? Will my grandmother, the individual I've known my entire life, still die?

This is a complicated question. It is also a profoundly *annoying* question, and perhaps not the best question to pose to a starship equipped with greater destructive capabilities than the combined armies of the First, Second, and Third World Wars.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 9:18 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]

...and if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a wagon.
posted by Uncle Ira at 9:20 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]

Will my grandmother be radioactive?
posted by slimepuppy at 9:34 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]

I wonder if being a starship feels as disappointing as having a bionic arm.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:37 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]

Is the problem that you’re uncomfortable thinking of starships as having goals and needs, or grandmothers?

Oh, this is lovely.
posted by SunSnork at 11:05 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]

A nice palate cleanser for for the more ominous MMAcevedo
posted by pwnguin at 12:00 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]

I plan to upload to a thermostellar device. Let there be light.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:14 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

What should I do if my mother’s become a bioengineered mecha with rage issues? My first impulse is to get really angsty, passive, and avoidant but I dunno.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:39 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]

I plan to upload to a thermostellar device. Let there be light.

You won't consider another course of action, for instance, just waiting around awhile so we can disarm you?
posted by hanov3r at 12:57 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

I wonder if being a starship feels as disappointing as having a bionic arm.

I just read that article, and maybe there won't be any "expectations" of conforming to the biped standard to weigh someone down? Why have the standard five-finger and forearm config when a different config suits needs better?

I actually remember watching Star Trek the movie as a kid and really wanting to be something like V'Ger. Still do. I'm not afraid of death per se, I just want to experience new ways of being.
posted by ntartifex at 3:46 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

I'm not afraid of death per se, I just want to experience new ways of being.

It’s not all it’s rumored to be.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:02 PM on March 5

This article made me cry, because I saw my own experience in it.

If it helps, your grandmother has made a very long series of choices in her life, some of which resulted in you, so she has extensive practice at doing it. You might want to trust her judgement.

I wish someone had told my children that during my transition. Perhaps I wouldn't have lost them.

and there is:

But I don't want her to be.
Too bad.

Yeah, exactly that.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 4:07 PM on March 5 [18 favorites]

Can I be a starship now, please?
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 4:39 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

Immediately made me think of the James McElroy novel Plus which I found both amazing and sad.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 5:45 PM on March 5

Well, that explains why starships choose names like "Of Course I Still Love You."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 PM on March 5 [14 favorites]

I was toying with the idea of the elderly modding their assistive exoskeletons until they were armored and weaponized, but this is so much better.
posted by mecran01 at 7:32 PM on March 5

I was getting a strong Daniel Mallory vibe from the advice. That is to say, it seemed extremely good advice for that particular situation!
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:13 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]

I'd forgotten who Daniel Mallory was, but since I did a search the Google abstract of Wikipedia helpfully reminded me of his deadname. The system working as intended, I guess.
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:14 AM on March 6

I should have said Danny M. Lavery a.k.a. “Dear Prudence” at Slate. I never thought I would enjoy reading advice columnists; in fact I used to go there just to hate–read the awful advice given by previous writers. Now I go there to wonder at the effortless way he (potentially) resolves complicated situations:


Me: Haha, put on dark sunglasses, change your name, and run away to Argentina!

Dear Prudence: “It can be hard maintaining professional boundaries while working with family, but I'm more concerned about your spouse's response to the eggplant situation. If you have communicated your vegetable fears previously [etc.]”

Me: Ohhhh … that's actually really insightful.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:06 PM on March 6

I finally found time to read this and I loved it so much! Seconding the Ancillary vibes, but with a great sense of humor, which I think was the only thing that series was missing.
posted by Mchelly at 6:32 AM on March 8

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