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101. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 5
James A. Hartley Guilt-Edge Security
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How does our limited life span determine our choices and our view on the preciousness of life? How would these views change if we lived forever? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, a traveling salesman sits at the bar after a long day drinking bourbon. He is approached and cleverly pitched a new product he has discovered on a distant rim planet, Life. The product stops the aging process. The first batch is free, and the salesman returns eight years later to get into the distribution business.
102. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 5
David Shultz Abrama's End Game
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What does it mean to be alive? Can a computer program be sentient? What would it need to do to prove it? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Abrama is summoned to the Grand Temple by Sir Gödel. Gödel informs Abrama that he is living in a simulated world (a computer game) created by her people as a place to play in their free time. She also informs Abrama that the game is not as popular as it once was and is scheduled to be permanently turned off. It turns out Gödel is an AI researcher that was given permission to test out her AI by implanting characters like Abrama into the game. Over 100’s of versions, the AI continued to improve, and now the researcher feels an ethical obligation to tell her creations their world is coming to an end. Abrama, using this new information, organizes the AI characters in the game and starts trading virtual goods for real-life services from computer hackers that play the game. The computer hackers create computer code and sell it to Abrama. If triggered, or if the game is turned off, the code would expose top secret information to the general public. A bargain is struck, the game will continue on a closed world for the AI characters and, in exchange, the sensitive information will never be made public.
103. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 5
Kolby Granville From the Editor
104. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Shannon Frances Smith Cost of Human Life
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How do you value human life? Is there a price too high to save the life of another? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Donald is testing new AI software that will run the entire railroad system of the future. It has one final test to pass, the classic ethics dilemma, The Trolley Problem; does it pull the lever and kill one, or do nothing and allow five to die? This should be an easy solution for an unemotional machine. However, the AI decides to do nothing, and allows the five in the simulation to die. When Donald checks its programming, he finds the program has determined, after taking into account lawsuits, delayed passenger complaints, and lost revenue, that doing nothing is the more economically valuable choice. Donald is left with the problem of if, and how, to program the AI on decisions related to value human life.
105. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
From the Publisher
106. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Henry McFarland Step Back
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Is natural always the best choice? Should humans should step in and usurp nature? Are there uniquely human experiences that should take place, even if it means greater risk? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Beth and Bob are expecting a baby. However, in this future, womb carried babies have been almost entirely replaced by the far safer “womb farms.” Beth has already decided she wants to have a natural pregnancy and carry the baby to term herself. She is shunned by others who see it as dangerous and selfish. Their neighbor, Sandy is the daughter of a Neo-Shaker family who used science to have their daughter born neuter, that is to say, without sexual organs or gender. Sex, they argue, is no longer necessary and sinful as procreation can now be handled without sex. Sandy self-identifies as female and intends to undergo a dangerous and painful procedure to add female sexual organs to her body. Beth dies during childbirth, but her baby survives. Bob and Sandy continue their friendship, and, overtime, start to fall in love. Sandy is finally scheduled for the operation, but Bob tries to talk her out of it. He has lost too many loved ones already. Sandy insists she must be made the gender to match her mental state and does the procedure.
107. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Helen De Cruz The Cave of Adventure
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Is it better to live in truth, or to live a happy lie? What if you could choose to forget past pain? In this work of choose your own adventure style philosophical short story of fiction, you are in the role of the main character, a female scientist studying the memory length of fish. While walking through the park you take an underground passage that has a new, and mysterious, offshoot passage to a cave full of fish tanks. There, you meet a child, the child you didn’t have, in the relationship that didn’t work out. The child takes you to another chamber with humans floating in water in stasis, living out their most blissful lives in their minds. You are given the choice, to join them in the tank to live out your remaining days as a successful scientist, with a loving husband, and a child or, to leave the cave, and enter the painful lonely life that lays ahead of you outside the cave.
108. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Remi Martin The Freedom Machine
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If you could have a tool always whispering in your ear the best choices, would you use it? Is being the best version of yourself the point of life? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Kiki has a problem, the computer program that continually whispers the best choices, the Infinity System, is broken. She has been using it for years and simply doing what it says. Following its advice has become second nature to her. She heads into the shop to get it looked at, and finds out it must be sent off for repairs. She will be making choices on her own for a few days. The friendly “Mastermind” service representative at the shop asks her out on a date. Without her Infinity System giving her advice, she decides to take a chance and say yes. She ends up getting drunk and sleeping with him. When she heads into the store to check to see if her Infinity System is repaired, she sees the same “Mastermind” using the same pickup lines on a new woman. She storms out. Finally, after several lost days, her repaired Infinity System is repaired and sent to her house. Now she is stuck with the final decision, will she start using it again?
109. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Matias Travieso-Diaz Christmas in Ushuaia
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When you get rid of the worst moments of your life, do you also get rid of yourself? Are horrible life experiences simply required? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Laz has gone to the ends of the earth, the southern tip of Argentina, to throw a diary containing all his life’s disappointments and misery into the ocean, so as to rid himself of these experiences. While dining he sits with an intriguing couple who hear the story of his life and put forth an alternative theory, that our negative experiences are necessary to form our personality. That without our negative experiences, we are left the shell of a person. Laz takes these words to heart, and decides to retain his negative life experiences.
110. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Jann Everard I Do So, Like Durian
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Where does racism come from? How do experiences with other cultures change our views of race? In this work of philosophical short fiction, Holly, a young teenage girl, heads into Chinatown against her mother’s wishes to visit Jon, a teenage boy, she is interested in dating. He is working at his parents’ Chinese restaurant. She has taken public transportation to Chinatown with her mother knowing, and against her mother’s wishes. Her mother has a strong bias against the area and the people. Holly gets off the bus at the wrong place and gets lost, but friendly locals direct her the right way. She is amazed by the differences in food and culture she sees all around her and ends up buying a durian. Eventually, she finds the restaurant (still carrying the durian), and finds Jon working. Jon is surprised and slightly embarrassed to see Holly and explains to her she will not like taste of the durian. Holly is warmly welcomed by one of Jon’s relatives in the restaurant who agrees to take her in the back and show her out to prepare her exotic fruit.
111. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Veronica Leigh In Love And War
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How much do you need to know about someone in order to help them? Is knowing that they need help enough? In this work of philosophical short fiction, Irene lives in Krakow, Poland in 1943 under Nazi occupation. Like everyone, she struggles to make enough money to survive. There is a frantic midnight knock at the door. Terrified, she opens the door to find a stranger that, she assumes, is part of the resistance. She lets him in and finds he is injured, and bleeding. She sews him up the best she can. She offers him sanctuary, knowing that if she is caught doing so, it is certain death. He explains he is not part of the resistance, but a Jew. She agrees to let him stay just one night. They fall asleep. When Irene wakes up, the man is gone, but has left her a heart-shaped locket in thanks. She runs out of her house, down the street, the finds him not far away. Irene coaxes the man back into her house to rest. After he is in the house, Irene weighs her options. The man is likely to die from infection of his wounds anyway. If she is found hiding him, she will be put to death. However, if she turns him into the Germans there will be a reward of much needed money. Irene puts the man to rest in the bed, leaves the house, and heads to the Gestapo Headquarters. God, she reasons, will understand.
112. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Kolby Granville From the Editor
113. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 6
Additional Information
114. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
From the Publisher
115. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
Paul Hilding Taps
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Do you have the right, or even the obligation, to disobey laws that you find personally unjust? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, John is a trumpet player that is called by the VA to play taps at the funeral of a Vietnam veteran. He plays at many funerals for veterans as a penance for having fled to Canada to avoid the draft. John goes to the bridge where Daniel previously lived and finds his camp, complete with purple heart and copy of The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Daniel marked several pages in “Crito” outlining the death of Socrates. Like John, Daniel had disagreed with the war, but decided to serve anyway. Upon his return he went to college, but had a breakdown and was unable to finish. John visits the local church, and visits Daniel’s sister. In the end, he plays taps at Daniel’s funeral while still coming to terms with his own, different, choices.
116. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
Fryderyk Sylla The Perfect Daughter
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If you have the ability to do good, does failing to do so mean you are allowing evil to exist? Do we have a moral obligation to improve our offspring? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Jane goes to visit her parents over the Christmas holiday. She has recently learned that her parents, under a program that favors the rich and elite, had had her genetically modified before she was born to be the best possible version of herself. Jane is crushed at learning that her life success has nothing to do with her hard work and is angry at her parents for having genetically modified her. Her father argues the problem of evil; that it was in his means to do good, and had he failed to do so, he would have been a god that allowed evil to exist. Jane is unhappy with his responses, but now must move forward with the choice of what she will do, when it is her time to have children.
117. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
David Wiseman The Devil You Know
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Is there a moral obligation to always confront evil? Can evil ever be given the chance to live in peace? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, the narrator is walking down a small-town street when he comes across the devil, relaxing on vacation for the holidays. The narrator knows it is the devil because of his horns and goat legs. He also has a few small demon children in tow. The narrator, surprised, stops the devil to talk to him. The devil is cordial and says he has outsourced most of the “hell work” and spends his time traveling around the world moving from place to place. He likes the small towns during the holidays and enjoys the peace and quiet. The narrator feels he should do something, perhaps confront the devil, rather than allowing him to exist in peace. Finally, the narrator has second thoughts, in part because he doesn’t have a suitable weapon. The devil and his children continue in peace on their way.
118. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
Joanna Michal Hoyt Cast Out
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How do you deal with generalized fears? How do you learn to overcome a mental health issue so you can serve others? In this work of philosophical short fiction, Verity suffers from irrational fears. She is afraid the fire in her fireplace will catch her mattress on fire so she puts out the fire and rolls her mattress into the snow outside. A friend comes over, but she is too distraught to spend time with them. She heads to the community building and is told, “Tell truth and shame the devil.” And so she does. She stops trying to hide her mental health issues and, bit by bit, they get better. She gets a job helping the local healer. Eventually, when those from the neighboring community have childbirth issue that need help on the outskirts of town, she is asked to go in the place of the healer. The neighboring community members tell of a “fear plague” that has stricken communities they are fleeing. Time passes, and, eventually, a strange mist comes to the town; the fear plague. When a neighbor goes briefly missing the community jumps to the conclusion it was caused by the strangers on the outside of town. The fear has taken hold of them, everyone is a suspect, and everyone is at risk. Verity rush to the front of the group, talks sense into them, and calms them down. The missing community member is found.
119. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
Harman Burgess The Fortune Teller
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Does believing in determinism mean no acts are immoral? Is the appearance of choice enough? In this work of philosophical short story fiction, Jon and Michael decide, after a drunken night on the town, to visit a fortune teller. She takes their money and hands them each pre-written envelopes to open the next day. Jon opens his and finds an exact transcript of the television from the exact moment he opens the letter. Additionally, there is a warning, that Michael is going to kill him. A moment later, Jon’s phone rings and it is Michael, acting strange. Jon goes to Michael’s house, is stabbed, and nearly dies. While unconscious he can feel the fortune teller feeding off of him. He wakes up before death. Jon and Michael decide to head to the fortune tellers house to “rough her up.” When they arrive, they find that she is, indeed, something beyond the normal world. Michael runs out of the house in fear and Jon attempts to confront her. She disappears. Moments later, the entire house disappears.
120. After Dinner Conversation: Volume > 2 > Issue: 7
Jay Allisan Blackorwhite
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What is the purpose of the criminal legal system? What factors should we take into account when punishing criminals? In this work of philosophical short story of fiction, the prison medical doctor is called in the middle of the night to take care of Fuzzy, an uneducated, mostly toothless, prisoner who has spent the majority of his life behind bars. Fuzzy, it seems, has gotten into eating cheese, something that strongly disagrees with his stomach and causes severe diarrhea. While the doctor waits for Fuzzy on the toilet and treats him for dehydration he learns Fuzzy’s story. Fuzzy was a young child from a poor family when his brother got him into a small-time gang robbing homes. Fuzzy and his brother wanted to get out of their life and move to Houston to look for legitimate work, but need enough money from a big heist to cover their travel fees. Their final heist goes wrong and the police show up. Fuzzy watches his brother get wrongly gunned down and, in a panic, hops in the van to try to get away. In the process he hits and kills a police officer with the van. The remaining members of the gang are captured and found guilty. Fuzzy, it seems, was able to eat so much cheese as it was his “last meal” on death row and assumed he wouldn’t be around for the results. However, there was a last-minute error with the electric chair so he was forced to face the retribution of his culinary choices. Hearing Fuzzy’s story, the doctor feels greater sympathy for Fuzzy and his life.