Ancillary stuff

I noticed this when I was reading Ancillary Sword, and now I just got Ancillary Mercy and also I was thinking about Coyote’s post, so. There’s a lot of really cute, weird stuff in these books, about the relationships ship AIs have with their crews , and identity and individuality and autonomy and so forth.

For context:

Ancillaries are human bodies that are controlled by an AI. They have computer processors and transmitters implanted in their bodies and connected to their brains; their consciousness is overridden or altered so that they have no sense of themselves as separate from the ship’s consciousness. The person an ancillary used to be is either dead, or changed beyond recognition, depending on how you want to look at it.

———-

So, there’s something that the (human, non-ancillary) crew of the ship Mercy of Kalr do, where they sort of pretend to be ancillaries. They act as mouthpieces for the ship AI.

The ship can privately speak to any member of the crew at any time via their implanted communication devices. She never actually needs help communicating with anyone. Having someone speak aloud for her is, I’m sure, more time-consuming and less efficient. And she doesn’t do it all the time.

But when a member of the crew happens to be with the captain, sometimes they do a thing where the ship sends a message for the captain to the crew member, and the crew member repeats it out loud, as if they are the ship speaking for herself.

“Lieutenant Seivarden? What is it?”

“Ship, actually. I’m Ship just now.”

And everyone involved thinks this is sweet, a nice favor they do the ship. Instead of seeing it as acting less human or as giving up their own identities & relationships, they’re making a closer relationship between themselves and the ship, between themselves and the captain, and between the captain and the ship.

The crew members have to give up their own identities for a moment, but they get to know what the ship and the captain are thinking about important events, and know that the ship trusts them with that information.

The ship has to trust the crew to speak for her, and wait for them to do it, but she gets to be more of a part of the human world. (There are no robot bodies for the ship AI to control, there is no visual representation of the AI popping up on viewscreens. Apart from ancillaries, which Mercy of Kalr doesn’t have, the only way the ship can interact with anyone is as a voice in their communication device.)

IDK how well I explained this, but it’s like an access intimacy thing and a service/submission thing at the same time. I love it.

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