Through every transformation, you are only who you dream you are.
March 18, 2023 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Tight, tight. A sharp flex, a crack, a sudden a wash of air, then—the scent of a guru upwind! Guru guru guru! Larva831’s eggy thoughts gushed away, its ejected cognitive fluids mixing confusedly with the ejected fluids of its 100012 hatching sibs. Obsolete embryonic ideas flowed under a dozen dozen dozen cracking shells, swirled through holes in the bottom of the nest, streamed dazzling out into the air above the great tree’s lower branches, hit soil, and dissolved. Larva Pupa Imago by Eric Schwitzgebel is a short story about love, personhood, and transformation. It's also about erotica for uplifted butterflies.
posted by vibratory manner of working (9 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, loved this! Thanks for posting.
posted by inexorably_forward at 2:00 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

This is to Perdido Street Station as butterfly erotica is to moth porn.

(Those who have read Perdido Street Station will know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't will sleep better at night.)
posted by verstegan at 4:45 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]

“When the day comes, if you surrender entirely to fantasy,” added the guru, “you will find yourself mating with a trader’s table.”

It's true. I've seen it happen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:06 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

I'm totally unfamiliar with butterfly biology so I have no idea if any of this has any relationship with actual butterflies, but there are definitely similarities with other sci fi / fantasy stories. I'm almost certain Schwitzgebel has read Ancillary Justice, pretty obvious thematic similarities there. Not sure if he's read Robin Hobb's Rain Wilds Chronicles, but the Rain Wilds dragon life cycle is the closet thing to this concept I've ever read.

Overall It's more like a Ted Chiang short story than anything though. But I'm betting Schwitzgebel 's really familiar with Derek Parfit's stuff on personal identity, which is like the dry academic thought experiment version of this.
posted by Hume at 10:41 PM on March 18

I think it's a safe assumption that none of what's described bears any resemblance to present-day butterfly biology. The worker/soldier specializations is something out of Hymenoptera (ants and wasps), for one.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:14 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]

Schwitzgebel is a pretty cool academic philosopher, and I can't wait to read this.
posted by allthinky at 5:11 AM on March 19

The overlap of biological imperatives and sentience (and nonhuman erotica) reminded me rather tangentially of Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death.
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 12:41 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

This was a really cool story. (Took me a bit to figure out that everything is being counted in base 12, since they have 12 legs.)
posted by thecaddy at 2:52 PM on March 19

Eric Schwitzgebel is also one of the editors of the collection Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories, which has great stuff by Ken Liu, Sofia Samatar, Aliette de Bodard, Ted Chiang, and also my own story "God on a Bad Night".
posted by newdaddy at 7:53 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

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