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"People ask me how I do research for my science fiction. The answer is, I never do any research. I just enjoy reading the stuff, and some of it sticks in my mind and fits into the stories."
- Frederik Pohl

Wildcode  
  A vast, actual desert comprised of nanites, nanomachines.  

As always, Tawaddud sets up her practice next to a defaced Sobornost statue – a bearded man with a machinist’s tools, now covered in athar scrawls and patches of wildcode.

As Abu watches, Tawaddud unfolds her stall from her bag: components that open up into spindly structures like giant insect legs. She turns them into a tent with a small table and a bed. She spreads out her gear and the jinni bottles. Almost as soon as she is finished, the patients start coming.

They line up outside the tent and, one by one, Tawaddud does the best she can. Most are simple hauntings, easily dispelled. Actual wildcode infections are more difficult but, fortunately, the ones today are not too bad. Merely a boy who has glowing v-shaped dashes all over his skin, chasing each other, moving in flocks like birds. He claims they are ancient symbols of victory and would like to keep them, but Tawaddud points out that they will grow and take over his skin entirely.

She studies the boy with athar vision, gently cupping his face.

‘You have been in the desert again,’ Tawaddud chides. The boy twitches, but Tawaddud grips his face firmly. ‘Let me see.’

She takes one of the little jinn bottles from her belt, opens it and lets the software creature out, a cloud of sharp triangles in the athar.

‘I thought I told you not to go there,’ she says.

‘A man needs to have a dream, my lady, and the dreams are in the desert,’ the boy says.

‘I see you are going to be a poet next. Hold still.’ The little jinn eats the wildcode in the boy’s frontal lobe. ‘This might hurt a little. But if you don’t stay out of the way of the mutalibun, you are not going to be much use to anyone.’

‘I’m too fast for them to catch me,’ the boy says, wincing. ‘Like Mercury Ali.’

‘He wasn’t fast enough in the end: no one runs away from the Destroyer of Delights for ever.’ ‘Except the flower prince,’ the boy says. ‘The thief who never dies.’

From The Fractal Prince, by Hannu Rajaniemi.
Published by Tor in 2012
Additional resources -

The desert is described this way:

The wildcode desert confuses her. Seen from above, on visible wavelengths, it does resemble a desert: mountains, valleys and here and there a cluster of abandoned buildings. But in the spimescape view, or in what the people of Sirr call athar, it is like looking at the surface of the Sun. Aerovore formations like protuberances, tiny nanites moving in complex patterns. Matter assembled into large unnatural configurations by invisible forces. She saw a patch of the desert full of tiny smiling faces, painstakingly assembled from individual grains of sand, propagating through the landscape like a flood.

Compare to the smart dust and the Gigagnostotron from The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age (1965) by Stanislaw Lem.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Fractal Prince
  More Ideas and Technology by Hannu Rajaniemi
  Tech news articles related to The Fractal Prince
  Tech news articles related to works by Hannu Rajaniemi

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