BY SAVANNAH SUMMERLIN
In honor of October being Black Speculative Fiction Month and in response to the lovely and informative piece written by Naomi, another Inklette Blog Editor, I’ve decided to try my hand at writing black speculative fiction. Naomi’s piece featured a writing prompt, steps one and two being to write down something that is interesting about the world around me and consider the rules that govern it and the way that exists. The next step is to write an alternate history for whatever I’ve chosen that gives the same end result regarding its use and purpose, but in a different way. I consider myself to be a bit technologically inept, so I decided to reimagine how cell phones and texting came to be:
It’s easy to understand why adults constantly complain about millenials and the cell phones we seem to be unable to live without, but only if you know the history of how their lives were before. It’s not just cell phones that they hate; they despise the very idea of technology made for communication, because they know of a time when it didn’t exist, and didn’t need to. Though they may not have been there to experience it themselves, the stories that have been passed down in their DNA for generations, along with a loathing for the technology today’s age cannot function without.
Long before the invention of the telephone, humans needed only their minds to communicate, even across long distances. Survival of the fittest truly was the law of the land, and it didn’t take long for humanity as a whole to realize they’d be much better off if they had better communication methods. Humans first discovered they had the gift of telepathy in a small town in South America. Two sisters, Jana and Lucia, swore up and down that they could hear each other’s thoughts at night when they slept, but no one believed them. The pair quickly tired of being ridiculed, so they took it upon themselves to prove their talent.
For weeks neither Jana or Lucia spoke a word aloud. They spent countless hours each day in silent meditation until finally their father Daniel had had enough of their behavior. He took Lucia by the shoulders and shook her fiercely, demanding she stop her foolishness and speak to him. Lucia chose to communicate in a different manner, and sent her response straight into her father’s mind. It only took a few seconds for Daniel to go from shocked to curious and proud of his daughter’s feat, eager to learn himself. By the next afternoon, the news had spread all over the town, and because Jana and Lucia were excellent teachers, it didn’t take long for many to master the art of telepathy.
Urged by their desire to spread their gift, Jana and Lucia left their home as soon as their expertise was no longer necessary. They travelled all over South and North America to help anyone who would listen. Lucky for them—and humanity as a whole—they encountered more people eager to learn than not, and in only a few years time, telepathy became the norm. As new generations were born and were taught the craft, humans learned how to send their thoughts further and further than ever before.
Then along came the Industrial Revolution, and with it trouble for humanity.
Men and women found themselves bogged down by the stresses of the day, unable to easily communicate with one another across dinner tables and office spaces, let alone send their thoughts to far away relatives. They began to panic; was this the end to life as they knew it? What would society become? They still had their oral language of course—the first humans to learn telepathy had been sure to caution that they mustn’t lose their ability to speak should something happen to their mental gift, and oh, how right they had been—but what of quick long distance communication? How would they survive in a snail-mail run world?
Enter Alexander Graham Bell. Graham Bell invented a middle man to ease the stress telepathy was putting on the humans: instead of sending their thoughts directly to one another, they would use a device to help transmit the signal of their thoughts. Once he’d completed his invention, Graham Bell gave the honor of testing it to a descendant of Jana and Lucia, Deeana. Deeana was already located far from her husband Thomas because of work, and the strain of keeping in touch with him was draining on both their relationship and her mental health. When Deeana picked up a telephone for the first time and heard Thomas on the other end, as clear is if he had sent his thoughts to her from the other side of their shared bed, she nearly wept with relief. Deeana’s seal of approval of the telephone all but guaranteed its success, and soon telepathy was a thing of the past.
SAVANNAH SUMMERLIN is a recent graduate of NYU Gallatin where she made her own major entitled “The Intersection of Arts and Activism.” Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds; no, she doesn’t have any idea what she wants to do with it. In her free time, Savannah enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and binge-watching Netflix original series.