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"The point sticks in your head: physics rules. Virtue does not triumph unless the physics allows it."
- Larry Niven

Discorporate Sector  
  An electronic afterlife.  

In the novel, a spaceship needs discorporate entities to do jobs that living people can't do.

"Closest way to the Discorporate Sector is through there."

The streets narrowed about them, twisting through one another, deserted. Then a stretch of concrete where metal turrets rose, crossed, and recrossed. Wires webbed them. Pylons of bluish light dropped half shadows.

"Is this . . . ?" the Customs Officer began. Then he was quiet. Walking out, they slowed their steps. Against the darkness red light shot between towers. "What . . . ?"

"Just a transfer. They go all night," Calli explained. Green lightning crackled to their left. "Transfer?"

"It's a quick exchange of energies resulting from the relocation of discorporate states," the Navigator-Two volunteered glibly.

"But I still don't . . ."

They had moved between the pylons now when a flickering coalesced. Silver latticed with red fires glimmered through industrial smog. Three figures formed: women, sequined skeletons glittered toward them, casting hollow eyes.

Kittens clawed the Customs Officer's back, for strut work pylons gleamed behind the apparitional bellies.

"The faces," he whispered. "As soon as you look away, you can't remember what they look like. When you look at them, they look like people, but when you look away—" He caught his breath as another passed.

"You can't remember!" He stared after them.

"Dead?" He shook his head. "You know I've been approving psyche-indices on Transport workers corporate and discorporate for ten years. And I've never been close enough to speak to a discorporate soul; Oh, I've seen pictures and occasionally passed one of the less fantastic on the street. But this . . ."

"There's some jobs"—Calli's voice was as heavy with alcohol as his shoulders with muscle—"Some jobs on a Transport Ship you just can't give to a live human being."

"I know, I know," said the Customs Officer. "So you use dead ones."

"That's right." Calli nodded. "Like the Eye, Ear, and Nose, A live human scanning all that goes on in those hyperstasis frequencies would—well, die first, and go crazy second."

"I do know the theory," the Customs Officer stated sharply.

Calli suddenly cupped the Officer's cheek in his hand and pulled him close to his own pocked face. "You don't know anything. Customs." The tone was of their first exchange in the cafe. "Aw, you hide in your Customs cage, cage hid in the safe gravity of Earth, Earth held firm by the sun, sun fixed headlong toward Vega, all in the predicted tide of this spiral arm—" He gestured across night where the Milky Way would run over a less bright city. "And you never break free!" Suddenly he pushed the little spectacled red head away. "Ehhh! You have nothing to say to me!"

From Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Ace Books in 1966
Additional resources -

Compare to construct from Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson and recorded personalities, from Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Babel-17
  More Ideas and Technology by Samuel R. Delany
  Tech news articles related to Babel-17
  Tech news articles related to works by Samuel R. Delany

Discorporate Sector-related news articles:
  - Will There Be A Digital Afterlife?

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