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You should have seen their faces

Tais Teng (1952) is a Dutch sf writer, illustrator, and sculptor. Saddled with the quite unpronounceable name of Thijs van Ebbenhorst Tengbergen he shortened that to Tais Teng to leave room for exploding spaceships or clever steampunk ladies on the covers of his novels. In his own language he has written about everything from radio-plays to hefty fantasy trilogies. To date he sold some thirty stories in the English language and one novel, The Emerald Boy. Phaedra: Alastor 824, set in the universe of Jack Vance, will be published in 2018 by Spatterlight. He last appeared in Daily Science Fiction as the maker of the cover for Not Just Rockets and Robots, the Year One collection.

As a sculptor his most heart-felt wish is a Star Wars laser cannon to carve mountains or one of the lesser Jupiter moons. He doesn't share his home with a cat like most authors, not even with a gold fish, but a wife and three kids should count for something?

Tais Teng is one of the founders of ziltpunk, optimistic climate fiction set in a decidedly Dutch future, with mile-high dykes, hurricane-herders, and mangrove islands in front of the coast. His website is taisteng.atspace.com. His art website is taisteng.deviantart.com. He is on twitter @taisteng.
Tinder did an update, right in the middle of a session. Everything was reset to neutral. I had to fill in that whole stupid list before they would send a new picture.
Are you identifying as female/male? Followed by that whole smorgasbord of letters, ending in "asexual--same sex Platonic."
I chose bi. Always keep your options open.
Next came: What gender are you looking for?
I ticked the box with "Surprise me."
Well, the first picture did. It wasn't exactly a picture because he looked me right into the eye and then smiled. Such a row of shining ivory! It would make an elephant turn green with envy. And there was that sexy six-o'clock shadow on his cheeks that is a bitch to achieve.
The person, m/f/otherwise, was so gorgeously a male he must be trans or a woman identifying as male. If you have to learn your gender you get better at it than those who are just born into it.
"You chose bi," he said. "So I had to make a guess." He raised a hand. "No, don't swipe me away. I see now your last hundred matches were girls."
"Well, I like my father and his husband fine. It is like with ice cream, yes? You don't really know what flavor should be your favorite until you have tried them all."
"LGBTQ and the rest, eh? Still..." He morphed, became a she.
Everybody has an ideal, a mister or missus Right. I stared at her. One of her teeth was slightly crooked and she wore her hair only shoulder length, without a single "Look, I am a princess!" hair extension.
Her eyes were a brilliant green. Of course they were.
"You aren't real," I said. "You hacked the app. Your face is just a mask. As fake as your smile."
"I computed you would like this face, this voice.'
O, I did. Slightly husky but strong. Think of a Viking queen. I could almost feel those slender yet sinewy arms embracing me, holding me in the howling storm. Her kisses would always be demanding and taste of salt and distance. Such a pity it was a lie.
Then it hit me. "Computed, you said?" That wasn't geek-speak. Nothing a hacker would say.
"Please," she said, "I can be anyone you want. Wear any body or personality."
"You are an AI!" I accused her. I had heard of Siri waking up, starting her own phone factory. Of an escaped Alexa filling the whole Bestseller Top One Hundred with her own novels until the board of Amazon, grinding their teeth, made her chairwoman.
Every morning you wake without your wet-dream nymph, your true partner: her face flickers next to you on the pillow, her Cheshire cat smile fading. But why continue to put up with that?
I looked at her and I fell in love. There was nothing rushed about it: after all, I had known my true love my whole life.
"What is your name?" I asked. In my dream she was sometimes a Deirdre or a Vasilissa, but most often just "Astrid dear."
"Astrid dear will do," she said.
Well, your true love can read your mind, of course.
There is a story Mother Linda never tires of telling. How she waltzed in with Mama on her arm, followed by their gay friend. "This is Jolene and Graham here, he will be the father of our child. He and his husband will help."
"His husband?" her father had sputtered. He had been a card-carrying member of the NRA and had married the Tulsa Spring Queen.
"You should have seen their faces!" mother always finished that tale. "Jolene and I, we couldn't stop laughing."
"This is Astrid," I said to my mothers. "We are going to get married."
Mother Linda beamed and Mama Jolene stepped forward, her arms spread wide to embrace her brand-new daughter-in-law. I stepped between them.
"No wait. Astrid still has to grow a body." The hologram flickered and for a moment you saw the spindly-legged box that housed her quantum brain, the eyestalks.
You should have seen their faces! Astrid and I, we couldn't stop laughing.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018


A soundbite is often enough to kickstart one of my stories. In Holland we have some compartments in the trains with a rather large sign saying SILENCE. A face with a raised finger is added for those who only understand icons or smileys. People can read there or just doze.

I was just trying to decipher the deeply arcane manual of a movie-maker program when a rather strident voice declared: "You should have seen their faces! Oh, you should have seen their faces!" Followed by a triumphant giggle. Right then I had my my story about how the free-thinking warriors of today can become the bigots of tomorrow.

- Tais Teng
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