Nancy Kress' "The Erdmann Nexus" (novella, mysticism, free): Next stage in human evolution is the last one
Whether it is seen as a mystic story probably depends on where you grew up. Indian readers will see unmistakable mysticism here.
Concept is very similar to later parts of Arthur Clarke's "Childhood's End"; & both stories are essentially the same as a major religious doctrine of Hinduism. Let's compare the three:
- One of the major beliefs of Hinduism is: there exists some sort of omnipotent universal consciousness, & the ultimate purpose of life is for our existence to merge into this universal entity.
Universal entity goes by many names depending on sect & locale, but brahm is a not uncommon name. The process of the merger of ... shall we say soul ... of a being with brahm is called moksha.
Different sects preach their own ideas of good conduct that will let you achieve moksha. Sinners keep getting reincarnated - usually in a non-human body - till they ultimately attain moksha. Depending on sect, moksha can only be achieved from human body, or from incarnation as any animal.
I've another note on the subject at the end of my "Childhood's End" post too, including a further link.
- Clarke's story renames brahm as "Overmind". And eligibility for merger with Overmind is not righteous conduct but a fast-spreading mutation that makes small human children eligible.
- Kress' story renames brahm as "the ship". Longer life spans have swelled the number of old people the world over. One fine day, the count of people over 80 years of age exceeds a critical limit, & a telepathic gestalt of these oldies is born. They're the ones whose consciousness is eligible for merger with "the ship"'s consciousness.
Fact sheet.First published: Asimov's, October/November 2008.
Download full text from publisher's site.
Winner of Hugo Award 2009 in novella category.
Related: Stories of Nancy Kress; religious science fiction.