Tom Noir (tomnoir) wrote in jmbt_intp,
Tom Noir
tomnoir
jmbt_intp

you or someone like you

I've been hesitant to post this because it might sound an awful lot like self-promotion, but I think it might be of interest to other INTPs.

I recently had a short story published in a little online science fiction mag called 'Electric Spec'. It deals with, basically, that odd simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion that one gets when they're exposed to someone very much like themselves. On the one hand, there's this sense of 'cool, they're like me!' On the other there's a feeling of 'ew, I'm not like that, am I?' My story wasn't explicitly inspired by hanging around INTP communities like this one, but there are definitely times when I get that same feeling here.

The story is entitled "The Comfort of Mirrors" and it's about a scientist who has had a large number of clones made of himself - and what he does when several of them commit suicide. It also involves a rogue economist, and I can't tell you how proud of myself I am for slipping that in.

If that sounds interesting to you, or if you just want to know what a sci-fi story written by an INTP sounds like, check it out. If not, don't.

I'd love to hear some feedback.
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i read it and found it extremely intriguing, conceptually. i also enjoyed your narrative style.

(p.s. i think you mispelled "apothegm").
Thank you!

(nope! just a variant. the editor would have caught a mistake that glaring)

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Do. Consider this a reminder.
Interesting. I've given a lot of thought to the concept of suicide; this is another facet.

Have you read about the mass suicides? Or whatever they're called - those events when a celebrity or someone important kills themself, spawning similar suicides.
I haven't heard of this. Sounds interesting...
Finally got around to reading it thizmornin.

I'd forgotten how bad I was expecting it to be after the opening paragraph until I came to write this, and its testament to the rest of the work that I had genuinely forgotten. My gut feeling at the conclusion was that it'll be one of those stories I'll remember for the concept, like a 'Twilight Zone' or some old Stephen King number. Please don't take that as a negative on the composition though, as I was compelled to reach the end even after a shaky start, something which was doubtlessly coloured, at least in part, by my own expectations.
Heh. Thanks! It's definitely a very conceptual story, I certainly don't take that as a negative.
As a reader, your story has renewed my faith in shortstorykind: it really is possible to enjoy them! (I've been trying to get through an awful anthology of short stories for University, and I was beginning to feel a little like the clones). As a writer, I’m extremely jealous of your talent and originality.
Wow, thanks! The day my stories become purely dull and literary you can beat me with a stick.
Is the narrator really Allen? And have you seen The Prestige?

I don't normally read this group, but I had a bit of time due to the holidays and was curious about what INTPs post online. And, I would normally not post without having familiarized myself with the group a bit first, but I liked the story a lot, and my curiosity won out, so I had to ask.
Thank you! For enjoying the story, I mean.

I don't think there's any rules around here. Dive in.

I have seen The Prestige. Pretty cool film. Alan is intended to actually be the narrator. Although it intrigues me that you would ask about that. What makes you think he might not be?
There's nothing to thank me for -- it's a very enjoyable story. I should be the one thanking you for writing it. Thanks! :)

> Alan is intended to actually be the narrator.

Hm. Very interesting.

> What makes you think he might not be?

Maybe because I'm a J...?

I still didn't understand why Alan himself would attempt suicide and convince Allen to go along, and "Alan's" newfound interest in economics seems rather sudden and odd. The story says Alan studied Allen earlier, and he seems to a have rather immediate intuitive grasp of why his clones do what they do, so I thought it likely that he must've understood Allen's reasons for studying economics before the suicides started happening. Why would learning economics directly from Allen suddenly change his career?

Allen, however, is called the practical one earlier, and a "calm, practical mind" is cleaning up the "suicide" at the end. Allen admitted to being a monster. What that meant to me is that he recognizes that the rest of the world sees him as a monster and that he's capable of being rather ruthless. It also sounds like Allen's unsavory reputation might've prevented him from having a wife, and his clone status might put ceilings on how far he can go, in spite of his talents and ruthlessness. He might be realizing that his reputation is putting limits on the type of interesting work he can get. He might find some of his treatment unfair, just because he's a clone. So, he has plenty of motive to want the "full human" status, the wife, the shiny reputation of the original Alan, as well as a potential clean slate to start economics over again so that he can do it right this time. "One never knows, I might even do somebody some good this time." Alan did plenty of good in mathematics, and people want clones of him because of it. It's Allen who might not have done good with economics and might want a chance to do so: "remorse for what he could have been".

On the plane, the story made a point that they must've looked like twins. When they pulled the trigger, Alan says he looked into his own face, which was an interesting expression that can be taken slightly more literally. Allen is the one with lots of experience with guns, and they were Allen's guns. Alan doesn't sounds like the type to have much experience with guns. It would've been very easy for Allen to have chosen which gun didn't fire. Alan extended the invitation to the institution, and by doing so, he demonstrated to Allen that Alan is feeling unstable but not ready to go over without some pushing. It would've been easy for Allen to say the right things to push Alan over and convince him to become fully suicidal. Why would Alan want to take Allen with him? Why would Alan suddenly forget Rebecca and try to commit suicide when his thoughts of Rebecca have always pulled him back before? Allen's the so-called "monster", and throughout the story, he showed absolutely no signs of being a danger to himself. Maybe the narrator swapped when midnight came, as midnight is often accompanied by unusual things happening.

Is your story maybe a "mirror" in and of itself...? If so, nicely done. (Even if the mirror isn't intentional, it's still nicely done. ;)
Oh wow, I love this! It is completely awesome that you've come up with this totally alternative view of the story! Would it be alright for me to post some of what you've written on my journal with some comments? I just think that it's really cool to have a reader interact with my story in this way. It's not exactly what I intended, but I think that stories tend to have a life of their own. I like your idea of a mirror story within the story, although I don't think I can take credit for that!

Now as for "my" version, a couple of points. The "twist" ending, i.e., that one of the clones is trying to off the original, crossed my mind when I was first coming up with the story but I didn't wind up writing the story that way because I worried that it was too obvious. Also the thing that interested me most about the story was really the psychological aspect, more so then just the idea of clones.

The reason that Alan and Allen, the original and his most successful clone, would try to kill themselves is because of a psychological domino effect. 'Cascade' might be a better word, actually.

Alan has a vested interest in how well his clones are doing, whether he wants to admit it or not. They're biologically identical version of himself, released into the wild to thrive or fail in a wide variety of circumstances. They ARE Allen, for all intents and purposes, as he might have been if things had been different. "There but for the grace of God go I."
Alan initially assumes that he has gotten where he is because of his character and the choices he has made, not through mere luck. As he sees increasingly successful clones of himself fail spectacularly, his faith in this is gradually eroded. Is he really any different from any of them? Not only this, but any flaw that would cause one of his clones to take their own lives must in some way be reflected in himself. Perhaps there is something terribly, fundamentally wrong with him.

When Alan is committed with the remaining clones, he is face to face with all the flaws and failings of people who are for all intents and purposes just like him. He becomes painfully aware of neurosis or weakness or vice that he might have, magnified several times over. Eventually this, combined with his increasing uncertainty self-doubt, wears him down to the point where he seriously considers taking his own life.

There is also a sense of inevitability about it. The more he believes that he is just like these other people, the more he believes that he too is a suicide risk. Eventually it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy - clones of Alan commit suicide, Alan is just like his clones, therefore he must commit suicide.

Allen is the ultimate manifestation of Alan's latent 'dark side', if you will. He is Alan gone monstrously bad, using his intellectual gifts for evil. Each clone that dies in some way reflects Alan's fears or failings, but Allen is like the summation of all of them. When he says that he really is a monster, he speaks in a way for both of them.

Now there IS some question of whether Allen really meant to go through with it. After all, if he's completely twisted why would he care if he found out that he's fundamentally flawed? But Alan DOES mean to go through with it, and kills Allen anyway. Providentially, Alan discovers that he's been given a second chance.

Now, why turn to economics? Well, I don't know if I really hinted at it in the story, but there's certainly an idea that Alan is not young and probably does not have much left to contribute to mathematics, where young geniuses often get all the glory. His best years in that field are probably behind him. Not only does economics represent a fresh start for him, there's probably some idea of doing penance for Allen's crimes. It's a fresh field for his natural talents, and one that he already has some proof that he'll be good at.

Does that make any sense? I hope so. This story unfolded in my mind very quickly and very intuitively, so this is me sort of haltingly trying to explain it further.
> Would it be alright for me to post some of what you've written on my journal with some comments?

Sure; as far as I'm concerned, anything I post to a public group is in the public domain.

> one of the clones is trying to off the original, crossed my mind when I was first coming up with the story but I didn't wind up writing the story that way because I worried that it was too obvious.

True, and I agree that the story would not have been interesting if it's clear that Allen takes over. I had decided that there's enough evidence for both interpretations to be equally likely, which is why I had to ask. (If I had thought that one interpretation or another were more likely, I wouldn't have been able to override my disinclination to intrude on the group.)

I did also partly think that the story could've been about Alan integrating his dark sides and becoming more at peace with himself as a result. The change to economics could've also symbolized Alan's acceptance of his Allen inclinations. As in, we all have "bad" impulses. We can succumb to them (like the clones), we can reject and disassociate from them (and this might've been Alan at the beginning of the story), or we can accept, integrate, and channel them into something positive (as maybe Alan did at the end of the story).

> Does that make any sense? I hope so.

Thank you very much for the explanation. I did pick up the cascade and the predetermination bits from the story, and while I can see the logic unfold, I don't really "get" them. Having to follow a pattern merely because one sees it is a completely foreign idea to me. Come to think of it, that sounds very much like some descriptions of Ne (the secondary function of INTPs).


By the way, the double murder as a means of suicide just strikes me as unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. I suppose I can see how some people might view it as romantic somehow, but the line of clones have mostly been presented as having rather efficient methods of suicide. This inefficiently elaborate double murder breaks the pattern. I can see double suicide, but why would these two switch to double murder unless someone's trying to hide something?

The comment that "Alan DOES mean to go through with it" brings up another question I find interesting: Did Alan intend to go through with murder, or did he intend to go through with suicide? Does he even know? Is the messiness of the double murder a Freudian defense mechanism covering a subconscious desire to break the mirror and destroy Allen, the reflection of Alan's dark side?

Once they're standing in the penthouse, I think Allen probably failed to pull the trigger intentionally. If Allen had intended to kill Alan, his experience with guns makes it very likely that he would've done so. If Allen had intended neither person to die, then he could've ducked while not firing to make sure. It makes some sense from an Evolution point of view for Allen to not kill off his original. But, I don't know why he would go along with the double murder plan in the first place.

Sorry, I'm probably getting carried away with this. ^_^; I tend to love the short story format because the brevity leaves a lot of room for the imagination to explore. I do see how other people may find it to be psychologically more realistic the way you intended it, but my personal views on many things do tend to be backwards from most people I know.

And, totally unrelated to anything, Happy New Year!
Thank you very much for the explanation. I did pick up the cascade and the predetermination bits from the story, and while I can see the logic unfold, I don't really "get" them. Having to follow a pattern merely because one sees it is a completely foreign idea to me. Come to think of it, that sounds very much like some descriptions of Ne (the secondary function of INTPs).

Well, here we'll have to agree to disagree! I'm sure you are right, that that confused self-identification might be foreign to some people. To me, though, it feels like a very real thing. I don't have any clones to test it with, but I suspect that I could identify more subtle ways in happens in my every day life.

By the way, the double murder as a means of suicide just strikes me as unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. I suppose I can see how some people might view it as romantic somehow, but the line of clones have mostly been presented as having rather efficient methods of suicide. This inefficiently elaborate double murder breaks the pattern. I can see double suicide, but why would these two switch to double murder unless someone's trying to hide something?

Well, part of the deal is that they're once they've both determined that they need to escape the institutions so that they can kill themselves, they need each other to make their 'recovery' convincing. So they're initially together anyway. And then I'm sure the fact that Allen had lots of guns came up in conversation at some point, and things just naturally went from there.

I mean, honestly, the double-murder scene is in there somewhat for dramatic effect, but I don't think that it's that far fetched that these two functionally identical people might help each other out in this way. Once you accept "I am you and you are me"...

I definitely think you're onto something about Alan needing to come to terms with his dark side. Not that he needs to give into it, but he needs to admit that it exists, face it, and conquer his fear of it. Which he does.

As you point out, the interesting thing about a short story is that it leaves a lot to the imagination. There's time to cover just a few, very specific points, and that's about it. I think there's a whole world of questions that the story leaves on the table. At the same time I'm pretty satisfied with how it came out!
> As you point out, the interesting thing about a short story is that it leaves a lot to the imagination.

Yup. I used to read short story anthologies, and there were many times when I wished I could've asked the authors what else they might've had in mind when they were writing. I greatly enjoyed being able to do that this time, and I hope I get the chance to read more of your stories in the future.

Thank you very much for the story and the discussion!
Oh and Happy New Year to you as well.
BTW, you had said, "It also involves a rogue economist, and I can't tell you how proud of myself I am for slipping that in." Was this a joke about something said in this community earlier, or what's special about slipping in a rogue economist...?
I just found the idea of a rogue economist rather funny. I mean, is there any profession that seems more dry, dull and respectable to an outsider? Of course in reality I don't think it is (at least, it doesn't have to be), but the idea of one going 'rogue' seemed silly at the time. As it happened, though, it lead to a pretty interesting character.
Aren't fingerprints formed in the womb and not by genetic content? So the clones would have different fingerprints to Alan, making everything a lot more difficult. But, I think people can have the same fingerprint as someone else but it's really uncommon and so they continue to use this system of identification. Anyway... little details isn't it. Cool idea.