Andrew M LeBlanc’s story “Reproduction in a Closed Loop” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 5 October 2018.
Time-loop stories are typically finite. In Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, the protagonist gets to exit the time-loop once they’ve achieved their goal (whether that goal is military victory or love). But what if the protagonist’s goal was impossible? What if they could never leave the time-loop?
I was driven to ask this question by “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North and “Into the Breach” by Subset Games. Both stories have protagonists that struggle with an eternal existence iterating through the same loops again and again—but in these stories the need to determine the meaning and purpose of their lives is put aside to deal with some larger threat.
I wanted to write a story where the quest for purpose was the primary goal of the protagonist, and the answer was not found in victory over the antagonists but through the desire to engage in conversation and to create something new. It was important to me that the story had a hopeful ending. Short fiction in particular often lends itself to the downer ending, so stories with uplifting endings always stand out to me (such as “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer).
In relation to hope, this story was heavily inspired by my two year old son. Deciding to create an entirely new person is an enormous responsibility, and I wanted to convey the fears and hopes expectant parents have for their child, as well as the abnegation of the self that often accompanies such a creation.
The invaders were partially inspired by a comment Samuel R. Delany made at a panel at Readercon. He believed that the primary characteristic of the alien is inscrutability—and so I set out to create aliens whose thoughts and motivations could not be unraveled via communication or observation. As I expanded the invaders’ role in the story, I also took inspiration from watching my toddler son wobble around our apartment. In a way, his intelligence was very alien to mine—it was fascinating to watch him mimic me, and destructively investigate everything he could get his hands on.
The title refers to 1) the reproduction of results within different iterations, 2) Gen’s desire to reproduce, 3) the invader’s reproductions of objects/people they absorb/destroy.
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