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From the bonus novelette, “Morino’s Souvenir Photo”:


The prohibition of graven images in the Old Testament is more accurately a prohibition against the worship of idols. To avoid this criticism, those who champion the use of icons draw a line between “worship” and “veneration.” Icon venerators declare that icons are not used with the intent to worship the image itself, but rather to call to mind that which the image expresses. The thinking is this: Though the image is to be treated with respect, this respect does not make it the object of worship. In discussion, proponents frequently liken the icon to the image of a loved one. A drawing or a photo of a loved one is not the actual loved one, but the person enduring a separation from their beloved cherishes the image. The assertion is that the sacred icon similarly causes the bearer to recall the existence of God or the saint—or the vestiges thereof—through the image.


When I look at photographs for work, I analyze the various bits of information shown in them. I think about composition, shadows, the lens, the way in which these elements are combined, the chemical reaction that occurs, and the deeper impression the photo makes on the viewer. I can’t help but be conscious of the idea of the “symbol.”

The act of taking a photo is one of positioning a symbol into a square frame or one of finding it there. The person with the camera may press the shutter with some vague intention, but in most cases, what they capture is nothing more than a scene of high entropy. Given all the information scattered about in the image, viewers don’t know where to rest their eyes. Thus, the photographer makes sure to control the many disparate elements. They make the illumination brighter or the shadows darker, or they fiddle with the lens and the aperture to blur the background, in line with their own style. Cutting out and framing a piece of the natural world in this way creates all sorts of symbols, symbols which helpfully and clearly tell the viewer what kind of photo they are looking at.

I imagine that words are symbols. As long as a person is alive, they have no choice but to use words to infer the intentions of others. And when a person is producing some kind of work, they have no choice but to rely on these same words. There is something that must not be forgotten: the fact that the symbol itself has no intrinsic meaning. It is not the circle or the square that moves people. These objects are only symbols and have no greater meaning in and of themselves. To have faith in the object is the same as worshipping the image.

In many religions, the worship of images is forbidden. People likely learned this from years of experience. God cannot be drawn or sculpted. The moment it is drawn, it is no longer god; the moment it is sculpted, god becomes a fake. The moment it is expressed, its divinity peels away and recedes from its true nature. Which is why all personages drawn in pictures are a compromise between god and human, like Christ or Mary—you rarely see God, the father of Christ himself, depicted in icons. The sole reason for this is that the expressive possibility for Christ and Mary is as symbols indicating that they themselves are in the presence of God.

A symbol is a fixed concept. However, its true weight is in the context hidden in the gap between symbol and object, the world on the other side of the symbol. Emotion, the ability to move someone, is not a part of the symbol itself. Which is why when I take photos, I do everything I can to eliminate symbolic elements. But there are limits to what I can control, and nothing ever goes the way I expect. What troubles me most is the subject of the photo.

On December 6, I killed a girl.

Gene Mapper

Sascha Leifens was subtitled across her chest. So this was the reporter my waitress liked so much.

Sascha shrugged her shoulders and tossed her bobbed red hair as she stepped down. I knew she was an avatar when her hair returned to exactly the same position. Most casters use RealVu to at least give the impression that they’re communicating facts. Not Sascha.

“There you have it. What do you think?” It was the voice from the interview. “The operating system he coded in a trance, while ignoring his responsibilities to society, has an astonishing flaw.”

A large chart appeared above her head with a string of thirty or so ones and zeros along the top. Below the ones and zeros was a date readout: years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds.

“These are time values for Unix. Look closely. He used a 32-bit integer to express these values to the second, even though he knew very well that Unix would have to be viable for at least decades. The way he coded it, the time value will reach its overflow point next year—at seven seconds past 3:14 a.m., January 19, 2038.”

The time count on the chart rolled toward the overflow point.

Now almost all the numbers were ones. Sascha made a pistol with her thumb and index finger and took aim at the chart.

“Bang!” (more…)

Red Girls

Manyo looked out of place in the village and when she went into town, but the young couple took care of this strange child, occasionally severe, occasionally affectionate with her. They also sent her to school, but for some reason, Manyo could not manage to learn her letters. “I can’t read,” “I can’t write,” she would say; her studies were of no use.

She would instead make strange predictions every now and then. At that time, the Third Jurisdiction Corps of the National Police Reserve (later known as the National Safety Forces), which was cre­ated by MacArthur after the war, was stationed in Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, and each member carried a carbine thanks to a loan from the US military. The corps was basically made up of young people of that generation, born in the area and also coming in from other regions, who had missed out on deployment to the front. The carbine, a mysterious weapon from which fire erupted, naturally terrified the villagers. Even now, the provincial culture of the Edo period lives on in the village. When someone commits a crime, the people rally at the village headman’s house, use spears and nets to catch the criminal, and then turn the offender over to the authorities.

When the young men in their khaki uniforms swaggered into town, clutching their carbines, little, illiterate, dark-skinned Manyo pointed at one of them, and said, “Be bright, scatter.” (more…)


Makura Katsuragawa placed her hand over her nose as if to cover up the ravages of frostbite. “You’ve been saved,” she said.

“Saved? What does that mean, saved?” Kayu Saitoh asked.

“Well, this isn’t Paradise, if that’s what you mean.” Makura Katsuragawa grinned. “We’re on the other side. Of the Mountain, that is. The Mountain’s between us and the Village. So the Villagers won’t find us here. It’s a good place. Now isn’t that a comfort?”

Kayu Saitoh had never thought about life outside the Village during the seventy years that she had resided there, so Makura Katsuragawa’s words gave her a new shock. She understood vaguely on a theoretical level that there were places outside of the Village, of course, but the idea that she herself was no longer in the Village was beyond her comprehension, in the same way that she understood that birds could fly but couldn’t imagine flying herself.

“So you Climbed the Mountain too, right, Kayu?” Makura Katsuragawa lowered her face. “I was mighty sorry to see you in the state you were, collapsed in a heap at the top. But everything’s all right now. We dragged you along to Dendera.”

“Den . . . dera?”

“That’s what we call this place. When I was dumped in the Mountain eighteen years ago I was all afeared and cold, the crows were pecking at me, but then the people of Dendera saved me, just like you. Sasaka Yagi and Naki Sokabe and Nokobi Hidaka all Climbed the Mountain that year too, and all of them were rescued as well.”

“This place . . . has been here since before you Climbed the Mountain?” Kayu Saitoh asked. (more…)

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