A True Thoughtcrime Experiment

Therese Arkenberg’s “Goldenseed” is the story in the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology that best fits the project’s name. Xan, a recognizable, though altered, Johnny Appleseed, wanders the countryside engaged in a political experiment:

“Mostly because they’re beautiful. But also for the gold.”

“No, I don’t want to become rich in the least. But I want more gold in the world.”

“You want to become rich?”

“Not at all.” Xan shook his head grimly. “No, I don’t want to become rich in the least. But I want more gold in the world. Look.” He gestured at the trees. “I’ve planted orchards like this all across the West. They’re all open, unguarded. I don’t care if people take golden fruit by the bucketful. In fact, I want them to take it.”

“So everyone can have gold?”

His head bobbed. “Yes. Free for all.”

“But…” I frowned. “Say someone was poor, with no money, and picked one of these—” I hefted the Orel—“and took it to the store in town. But why should the shopkeeper give him anything, when he can walk out here and pick a fruit himself?”

“There’s no reason he should,” Xan said. “No reason at all. By putting out gold like this, I’m making it utterly worthless. Oh, it’ll still be pretty, good for jewelry, but no path to wealth. That’s what I’m hoping for—though I pity the poor man in your example.”

I looked down at my Orel and felt a sudden urge to throw it away. It wasn’t that I hated Xan’s idea, not exactly, it was just so strange. “But without using gold, how will people buy anything?”

The story is about the reactions others have to Xan’s radical ideas about money–their lack of understanding, their fear, and their greed. It’s a poignant look at how an idea and a person can have attractive vision, and yet ultimately repel and alienate others because that vision asks people to risk too much of the status quo.

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