This is an excerpt from the novel Messioph: the First Book of Ido, by Geoffreyjen Edwards, which is coming out with Untimely Books in 2024. It will be the second book of The Ido Chronicles, which are set in a far future where many humans use technology to connect to an oracular game called the Ido. You can find a glossary of specialized terms at the bottom of this excerpt.
<And what do you know about paradox?> Grolier asked his younger sister, Mailka.
<The harmony of opposites? But I still don’t know what that m… means.>
<It’s based on an ancient symbol, do you know it? The yinyang?>
She shook her head. <Hand me your fingerlet and I’ll show you,> he said. He drew the yinyang symbol, less adroitly than she had made her own drawings. The fingerlet had expanded to fit his finger, but the fit was still too tight, making his movements stiff. <You see the similarities between that and the Ido sigil now, right?>
She nodded. <I think I have seen that before. Isn’t it, like, the male and female principles? But what has that to do with para… paradox?>
<Well, let’s take the case of your sister. You have been having trouble with her, but you still love her, don’t you?>
Mailka’s eyes turned inwards. She nodded quickly. <So my relationship with Zafre is paradoxical?> she added, getting the word out right now. She always was a quick one, Grolier remembered.
<In the best sense, yes,> he told her. <Paradoxical doesn’t mean trivial opposites, small contradictions that can be easily resolved. It means the deep ones, the ones that perturb us, that move us away from our comfort zones.>
<So not, like, Zafre’s insistence on having her own pard?>
<Actually…> Grolier reflected. The trouble between the two girls had blown up into a showdown with Zafre over her need for a space of her own. Mailka had felt rejected and the point was still sore for her. But while pards could be shared between young children, adults would never think about sharing a pard most of the time, for good reason. The particular binach ecology associated with each person was different, and the pard’s purpose, in addition to providing shelter and space, was to support and help maintain the particular binach ecology of each indiv. Zafre’s need for a pard of her own was therefore a normal and healthy part of growing up. <I know the issue seemed trivial to you, but it actually was quite deep. As young people grow and change, they need more autonomy, and their use of binach changes. But you are right, it is not really a true paradox. Think, instead, of the broader aspects of your relationship with Zafre. You will develop your own needs over the next few years, and sometimes these will be incompatible with hers. Because you love each other, those incompatibilities pose real difficulties. You can’t merely sidestep them simply by being polite or even out of the generosity of your spirit.>
<So you’re saying there aren’t any simple answers, is that it?>
<That’s part of it, yes,> Grolier agreed. He tugged on the tether again—not a full stretch, as he didn’t want to distract Mailka, but a partial release of built-up tension, just from being motionless. His sister constantly flicked her body around, mouselike, in the parflot that held her, while being careful not to disturb the doskie. <Grandfather used to call it the problem of the two impossibles. That might help you think about it differently.>
<The two impossibles? He always had such wonderful images, didn’t he?>
Grolier nodded. Their grandfather had died several years earlier in a freak accident at one of the Desius work sites. Mailka was right; despite a somewhat gruff manner, he often peppered his dialogue with sometimes astonishing images.
<He used to ask us, Brett and I, what would happen if an irresistible force met an immovable object. That’s what he meant by the two impossibles.> In his undertell he held the image of his grandfather driving one fist into the palm of his other hand, which was how the man had illustrated his point.
<An irresistible …>
<Yeah, a force so powerful it can’t be stopped or resisted, meets an object that simply cannot be moved. One keeps trying to find a way to break down the one, and the other, to remove the impasse.>
<And so what does happen?>
Grolier shook his head. <Nobody knows. But some third way has to materialize from the situation. Paradoxes lead to new possibilities if we stay present for the encounter and are willing to follow it through to the end, whatever that may be.>
<So how does that apply to my situation with Zafre?>
<Well, think of Zafre’s need for control over her own space as an example of an irresistible force.>
<So even if she tried to be more inclusive of me, she couldn’t…> <Right. Her need would reassert itself in other ways. Even if she tried to stop herself, she couldn’t. Now think of your own growing needs for companionship as the immovable object. You were willing to let Zafre have her way with the pard, but you’ve been doing several other things to vary your own social encounters. You’ve found a third way.>
Glossary of specialized terms
binach: the molecular technology, part machine, part organic, that enriches and enhances human embodiment. A conflation of “bio” and “nano” with “tech”;
binup: brain implant used to control a wide range of binach functions directly via thought;
doskie: a binach-enhanced genetic cross-breed between a squirrel and a dog;
fingerlet: a device worn on the finger that interfaces with the binup, used to annotate the visual field;
Ido: part oracle, part government, the organization at the heart of the Humanitat whose goal is the improvement of the human condition;
pard: private space allotted to individuals to support their binach-based activities
parflot: binach-based relaxation environment consisting of hundreds of floating and vibrating binach particles
pseudo-voice: sub-vocalized communications transmitted via binup. The symbols “<” and “>” are used to set apart pseudo-voice from body-voice in written text;
undertell: an informational buffer in the binup used to store mental imagery for transmission along with pseudo-voice