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art by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

I Have Read the Terms of Use

No one but Kenneth Schneyer belongs to both the Academy of Legal Studies in Business and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. His stories appear in Analog, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clockwork Phoenix 3 & 4, Escape Pod, Podcastle, Abyss & Apex, and elsewhere. This is his second story for DSF. He attended the Clarion Writers Workshop with the famous class of 2009, and currently hangs with Codex Writers and the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop. He once worked for the law firm of Bingham, Dana & Gould in Boston, where his job included drafting and reviewing long contracts; he still does this occasionally, but only for friends. Born in Detroit, he now lives in Rhode Island with three people who are smarter than he is and a litigious cat.
As a condition of the use and enjoyment of the Body selected for your use, you agree to the following Terms of Use:
You understand that the aforementioned Body is designed for no more than seventy (70) years of operation, and that attempts to employ said Body for any period beyond the aforementioned duration carries no guarantee that it will function in any capacity. You understand further that We have no control over the actions of other vendors, and that consequently the Body selected for your use may be subject to the actions of other models not within Our control, including infection, infestation, deformation, and decomposition before the expiration of the design period.
You understand further that We have no control over the actions of other Licensees, and that We are not responsible for the uses to which they put the Bodies licensed to them, and that therefore We have no responsibility for murder, rape, mayhem, enslavement, oppression, or heartbreak thereby caused to the Body selected for your use.
You agree not to reverse engineer the Body selected for your use or any of its components or subsystems. You agree that its ultimate design and origins will remain Our proprietary trade secrets, and that you will make no efforts to discover the methods, materials, or first causes We employed in its development. You understand that any efforts on your part to discover, deduce, or decode the origins of this Body will lead to false or misleading conclusions concerning Our purposes and plans, and that We have no obligation to correct or otherwise respond to such conclusions.
You understand that the Body selected for your use is a component in a larger system (the "Species") which is itself a component in a larger system (the "Planet") which is itself a component in a larger system (the "Cosmos"). You agree that the function of each component within its system, and its interaction with other components in the system, are Our trade secrets and will not be disclosed to you at any time for any reason. You understand that We will not respond to any inquiries concerning those functions and interactions, and that any attempt by you to determine those functions or interactions will be a breach of these Terms of Use.
You agree that you will be born into a race, class, gender identity, sexuality, state of health, time, and place that will give you no ability to control the circumstances of your own life or effect any change for its improvement, and that whether you are valuable or valueless, skilled or unskilled, ugly or beautiful will depend on the whims of Licensees far away and utterly unknown to you. In the alternative, depending on the availability of various styles, colors, and options, you agree that you will be born into such privilege that you will have no awareness of the customs, preferences, tastes, joys, hopes, fears, or sorrows of any Licensee not nearly identical to yourself, and that, should you obtain information pertaining to your own acquiescence, responsibility, or culpability for, without limitation, the deprivations, pains, illnesses, dismemberment, torture, rape, or murder of Licensees not nearly identical to yourself, you will treat such information as Our intellectual property and none of your business, and will, to the extent practicable, understand such matters to be no fault of yours, and contrary to your own good intentions.
You understand that the Body selected for your use is provided with a number of factory settings concerning the cultural norms under which it will operate (the "Starting Conditions"). You understand further that the Starting Conditions will be predetermined by existing relationships of power and wealth within the Culture of which said Body is a component. You agree that the Starting Conditions will determine your perceptions of morality and ethics, and that those perceptions will regard the existing power and wealth relationships of said Culture to be appropriate, functional, and beneficial.
You agree that you will not use the Body selected for your use to infringe upon, alter, or amend any of the Starting Conditions, and that the distribution of goods, services, nutrition, medicine, affection, sexual gratification, and emotional support shall be substantially similar when you surrender the Body selected for your use as when said Body was initially provided.
You agree to experience persistent confusion and disorientation concerning right action, wrong action, your obligations to your family, friends, community, nation, the Species, the Planet, and the Cosmos, resulting in paralysis and inactivity concerning any matter of ethical or moral significance. In the alternative, depending on market conditions and supplies, you agree to experience irrational certainties and extreme passions concerning such matters, in which case You have sole responsibility for any resultant damage.
You understand that We disclaim any representations or warranties other than those contained in these Terms of Use, and that no oral, psychological, historical, literary, or religious assurances you may have received from persons purporting to be Our agents will be binding on Us. You understand further that We expressly disclaim any implied warranties, including, without limitation, any implied warranty of survivability, likability, employability, health, sanity, or fitness for a particular purpose. You agree to hold Us harmless from any direct, consequential, or incidental damages that may result from noncompliance with any assurances or implied warranties not contained in these Terms of Use.
You agree that these Terms of Use shall be subject to such natural, moral, and spiritual laws as We have previously enacted, and that it is your responsibility to acquaint yourself with such laws. You agree that disputes concerning these Terms of Use shall be resolved by adjudicators of Our choosing, in a time and manner that seems best to Us.
You agree that We may alter these Terms of Use on one generation's notice to you. You may refuse such alterations by surrendering the Body selected for your use, at such time and place as We shall designate.
Any use of this Body, including but not limited to breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping, working, playing, loving, or hating, shall be deemed acceptance of these Terms of Use, and shall be irrevocably binding upon you and your heirs, devisees, grantees and assigns forever.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013


First I heard the sentence about agreeing to be born into a race, class, gender etc. that would give you no control over your life. Then I heard the sentence about agreeing to callous dismissal of the pains and sorrows of others, and I went on from there. I have long hated lengthy, one-sided contracts that no one intends to negotiate in good faith, that commit the nondrafting party to things she'd prefer not to do but about which she has no choice. I also brood about the fact that so much of our lives is dictated by our circumstances, that what we perceive as naturally "right," "reasonable," and "fair" is nothing more than a reflection of the relative power with which we were born. And of course, in the Western religions, God has made covenants with some or all people, promising to do things in exchange for their faith and obedience. These three things together made me imagine God's covenant as User License Agreement, replete with our acquiescence to all the horrible things we suffer and do to each other, to our own ignorance, to our own futility. I suppose it is satire, but like much satire, it contains a sincere cry of pain.

- Kenneth Schneyer

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