Friday, May 25, 2018

Five unforgettable prisons in science fiction & fantasy

Corey J. White is a writer of science-fiction, horror, and other, harder to define stories. He is the author of The VoidWitch Saga, containing Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow. One of five unforgettable prisons in science fiction and fantasy that he tagged at
The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi

Trapped by Archons in the Dilemma Prison, Jean le Flambeur—the famous thief and raconteur—is faced again and again with variations of the prisoner’s dilemma, pitted against other criminals and other versions of himself in an endlessly iterative attempt at rehabilitation through game theory.

The original prisoner’s dilemma involves interrogating two prisoners, where if both prisoners stay quiet, they will both get a one year sentence, if one prisoner betrays the other (who remains quiet) they would go free at the expense of a worse sentence for the other prisoner, or where both prisoners betraying the other winds them both with a two year sentence. But when you run an infinitely iterative prison, things do tend to get boring, so simple interrogations are replaced by pistol-packing duels, games of chicken on an endless highway, or trench warfare. No matter the scenario there are always two choices: self-interest and betrayal, or cooperation.

When we first meet Flambeur, he’s not feeling too cooperative—and for his attempted betrayal of a fellow prisoner he’s treated to a bullet through the skull, rendered painfully, utterly real…until the whole dilemma is reset once again.

If all this sounds weird and deep and interesting (and the above is just the beginning—only the first few pages of the novel) then I’ve done a decent job of explaining it—if not, all blame should lie with the author of this article, and not with Hannu Rajaniemi, whose debut novel The Quantum Thief is an utterly unique slab of post-cyberpunk intrigue.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue