- Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters
When Hwang finds a time that he likes, he tries to stay awake. The longest he has ever stayed awake is three days. The longest someone has ever stayed awake is eleven days. If Hwang sleeps enough times, he will eventually reach a time in which people do not have to sleep. Unfortunately, this can only come about through expensive gene therapy that has to be done long before one is born. Thus, it is the rich who do not have to sleep. They stay awake all night and bound across their useless beds, shedding crumbs and drops of sauce as they eat everyone else’s food.
Whenever Hwang goes to sleep, he jumps forward in time. This is a problem. This is not a problem that is going to solve itself.
Sometimes Hwang wakes to find that he’s only jumped forward a few days. The most Hwang has ever jumped is one hundred seventy years.
After a while, his daughters stop looking exactly Asian. His genes—previously distilled from a population in a small section of East Asia for thousands of years—have mixed with genes from other populations and continued to do so while Hwang slept. In fact, it all started with Hwang and his ex-wife. Hwang’s daughters are a crowd of beautiful, muddled, vigorous hybrids, with the [End Page 71] occasional recessive trait exploding like fireworks—squash-colored hair, gray eyes, albinism.
Backward, fool, backward! You were supposed to take me backward! He wishes he could find Grishkov and scream at him, but Grishkov is dead, of course. He died sometime that night, the first night Hwang slept and jumped through days, years, decades.
Later, Hwang awakes in a world with no men. Reproduction occurs through parthenogenesis. Scientists discovered that the genes of the father are the ones that shorten human lifespan; scientists decided to do something about it.
There are people walking around who look like men, but they aren’t men. But if they look like men, walk like men, talk like men, maybe they are men?
There are new categories of gender that Hwang is unable to comprehend. Men are men. He finds a daughter who is a man, so she must actually be a son, but in Hwang’s mind—his mind that he cannot change—he is his daughter and always will be.
If you could flip through Hwang’s life like a book—which I am able to do—you would see that Hwang and women have been a calamitous combination. It is not Hwang’s fault or the women’s fault but it is unfortunate nevertheless. I wish there was someone to blame.
Once, Hwang awakes to find no one. He walks around the city for hours before seeing a woman in a coverall. She is pulling vines off the side of a building and stuffing them into a trash bag. I am paid millions a year for this work, she says.
Even for the future, that is a lot of money.
It turns out that everyone has been uploaded into virtual space, but a few people still have to stick around to make sure that buildings stay up and the tanks are clean and operational. [End Page 72]
Later, everyone comes back, because it turns out that no one really likes uploaded life.
Hwang’s wife was a research scientist. When they divorced, Hwang was granted temporary full custody and his wife went to Antarctica. Sometimes she sent their three children humorous emails about falling asleep on the toilet because it was so cold.
When their daughters were kidnapped walking home from school, Hwang’s wife and Hwang both blamed Hwang. Their son turned fifteen, became a goth, and moved in with his mother when she returned from Antarctica.
Hwang, alone, rested his head on pillowcases permanently smudged with black. And slept for days.
Hwang says, When people are able to live forever, that is when I will get my life back. I can marry again. We can have a family. When I awake, they will still be there, old as cedars. My cedar family, planted in...