This is the next short story in the Event Horizon 2017 collection of short stories highlighting authors who are eligible for the 2017 Campbell award for best new writer.
Published: January, 2016 in Asimov’s Science Fiction (read it for free at that link)
Genre: science fiction
Length: 10 pages
Setting: Earth, nearish future
Summary: Margery is in charge of a secret operation – she supervises a soldier who is copied to an alien ship where he is responsible for setting up shielding material against some hard radiation. The operation has been going well, but suddenly the clone isn’t focusing and using his time most effectively. Margery decides to clone herself into the ship to see if that will give her any insight into the operation. Her clone forces Margery to acknowledge why she enjoys running the operation so much (because she enjoys the power and control over someone else) and then replaces Margery with a copy of herself. She decides to just copy the clone of the soldier back home to improve results.
Final thoughts: This one got surprisingly dark. There’s just enough backstory to know the government is involved in researching some alien ship that currently has lethal doses of radiation onboard. The real story is with the cloning. Margery is working with alien technology that allows anyone to get cloned from one table to another. There’s a failsafe built into the table so only one copy can exist in each location at a time. When Margery decides to clone herself, she also discovers the cloning tables work in both directions. The original Margery is replaced by a clone of the clone. That clone decides it would be much more efficient to keep sending the soldier clones back and forth from the alien ship. Talk about an existential mindtrip – which version of yourself should have the right to exist? What happens when the original is replaced with an exact copy – is it really the same? If you keep making copies of copies, is there degradation of the signal? Not that Margery cares. She’s just figured out how to get more power and control.
Title comes from: When a clone is sent to the other table, the previous clone is destroyed and turned into a white dust that covers everything in the immediate area.