Thursday, February 5, 2009

“The Dead” by Michael Swanwick

Author: Michael Swanwick
Title: “The Dead”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 7
Length: 10 pages

Author Info:
Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work. Stations of the Tide was honored with the Nebula Award and was also nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. "The Edge of the World," was awarded the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1989. It was also nominated for both the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. "Radio Waves" received the World Fantasy Award in 1996. "The Very Pulse of the Machine" received the Hugo Award in 1999, as did "Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" in 2000.

Summary: One night in a fancy restaurant with Courtney, the vicious businesswoman determined to get him in her company, Donald is offered a new position in a company, which desires to make death as profitable as possible. In a world, where zombies are a commodity, you would have to wonder what can happen when the business world wants to introduce them to the mass market. One world is dying slowly and a new one is born in the shadows and Donald is left in quite the tight place, as much as he is revolted.

Favorite Snip: Then he was down; he’d never even had a chance. He must’ve known early on that it was hopeless, that he wasn’t going to win, but he’d refused to take a fall. He had to be pounded into the ground. He went down raging, proud and uncomplaining. I had to admire that. But he lost anyway. That, I realized, was the message I was meant to take away from this. Not just that the product was robust. But that only those who backed it were going to win. I could see, even if the audience couldn’t, that it was the end of an era. A man’s body wasn’t worth a damn anymore.

This is another accusing finger pointing at humanity, but this time directed towards the rich and influential businesspeople. Reality has proven that as a species we can we cold hearted and this story takes the idea of how perverted individuals might become after an unhealthy corruption, money and power. You have heard the tales. Ruthless confident sharks in their fields do whatever it takes to seal a deal or skyrocket a project of theirs no matter the consequences outside their micro cosmos or the collateral damage. The same people allegedly have replaced their heart with a calculator and cross moral boundaries light-headedly.

Well this is story is about these people and everybody knows that these people exist to one degree or another otherwise there wouldn’t be a massive chunk of entertainment culture devoted to them. But then of course the image is elevated to new plains. Enter the zombies, which are nothing gruesome, quite the opposite. They are manufactured like everything else today and cost quite a lot. Trading people and handling them like goods isn’t a new idea. We have the sex slave market, the black market for newborns and well the mysterious kidney legends. However if you did anything to a human being after death, the act is perceived something of a taboo.

Now imagine planning to replace people with zombies in companies thus creating the economy’s biggest problem yet, while virtually getting rotten rich. On top of that then imagine using your zombie slave as a sex toy. Even though that body is fine and functional it’s still necrophilia. This is the business world Swanwick presents through Donald’s eyes, but the works so well, because Donald still belongs to the old world, an epoch where people had boundaries one way or another. Swanwick shows how resistance is futile, when money demands the change and it’s quite shocking really to see how many lives will be affected by the conscious decision of handful for the worse.

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