“Pattern Recognition” in Diverse Energies

Diverse Energies, an anthology of YA dystopian short stories, contains my story, “Pattern Recognition.”

Diverse Energies

This post contains spoilers after the break.

“Pattern Recognition” has as part of its background China’s “urban villages”) (城中村). I first found out about them while translating Chen Qiufan’s story, “The Flower of Shazui” (《沙嘴之花》). (That story is coming out in Interzone next month. It’s really lovely and sad and beautiful. Be sure to check it out.)

I’ll leave you to read up on urban villages, but suffice it to say that they’re among the strangest, most depressing side effects of China’s unequal economic development.

Another source of inspiration comes from Taiwanese companies like Foxconn, which are in the news a lot for their labor practices. Every time this happens, some in China as well as the West would jump to the defense of the companies. And it’s interesting to me that only these particular companies get defended and that the defense is often so vehement.

Finally, there’s the science: human-based computation is real, and it’s a way for us to solve NP-complete problems using heuristics. See Human Computation: Synthesis Lectures on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, by Edith Law and Luis von Ahn, 2011. The multiple sequence alignment “game” played by David is modeled on the game of Phylo, available at http://phylo.cs.mcgill.ca/.

I pushed all of these elements together until the story of David emerged. There are no simple solutions for complex problems, but it doesn’t mean we can’t judge right and wrong at all.