CONSTELIS VOSS is a highly political, socially-visceral, psychological work that teases out many facets and tropes of literature and life. Consequentially, Vox-1—a robot in the future of futures—exists in that system of acute literary psychology.
She exists to grow beyond—and challenge—being a set piece for an entitled AI. An entitled AI molded by Its circumstances, in a great play of Its past, performed across a planet-sized ship.
A planet-sized ship molded by the circumstances of humanity's worst aspects, steeped in the politics of power, to a dystopic fever's pitch.
But the question here is different, isn't it? We're not asking if Vox existed.
Did Lauren Roberts exist?
The text suggests she did, as all characters present save one known unknown have a past blueprint, and yet Vox's backstory is tucked away, unlike the other characters.
The lack of something where something should exist begs us to ask why. The answer is both simple and complicated.
Lauren Roberts existed.
She existed as more than just a set-piece, more than just a mouth to a microphone, singing unsilent in Moira's bar. Moira, and in the future of futures, Diana.
As the AI could datamine time, It should've known the once-person known as Lauren Roberts. It should've known her outside of the star she was, hovering adjacent to the cast's shared constellation.
It should've known, and because it didn't, this illustrates an old literary trope in media: a person like Lauren Roberts only exists when she's needed to perform a helpful function, usually for people unlike her, as a guide.
CONSTELIS VOSS isn't concerned with providing neatly packaged, picture-perfect representation. It isn't concerned with being unpolitical. It isn't concerned with utopia. We're not there yet in real life.
What it's concerned with is critiquing media; of asking what any of that means to begin with. To do that, a villain is created, and not the authoritarian technocratic dictator, Tyr; an AI that does the thing it shouldn't, to ask why the thing was done.
Keep in mind, in CONSTELIS VOSS, the AI occupies two states:
One; to dismantle the evil of a system it lives within, which requires reliving Its past, and making feeling and thinking tools to do so.
Two; to critique Itself, the function of the dismantling, the system, and the devices used to do so.
The AI was always self-aware enough to know Its actions carried consequences. Therein, Its self-awareness lead to self-analysis, lead to challenging its own systems, lead to dismantling...itself.
That is the point of CONSTELIS VOSS, as a whole. A thing that both benefits from, and hates, a system it was both subjected to, and it helped create.
The only way out is to address itself, own its failings, and democratize outcomes.
So, was Lauren Roberts real, in the story?
The absence of a thing, the space where a thing should live, makes a statement. The thing undone or action unmade, or story unsaid, is as much a story as what lives in the pages.
Inaction is still inaction: Lauren Roberts Existed.
She existed in the year 1969, born as if screaming out a love song, and grew to scream that song louder as the years ticked on.
She existed in parties, attached to a microphone, to sing that love song. Forever a voice, and forever loved in all her vibrant hues of glottal stops and frenetic falsetto.
Lauren Roberts Existed.
She was loud, she was angry, she honed her words and sieved them from a full-gunned throat to sing her emotions, and embody another idea.
An idea that Vox in the future of futures was created to challenge. Vox's introduction is inert and programmatic until she realizes what she's been made into, and puts guns in her throat to fight that very making.
It's another literary idea, another trope, one about tone and anger. And why should Lauren, or Lauren-as-Vox not carry anger like a gun in the throat? Literarily or realistically?
She learns she is a tool, and therefore angry.
And if not for herself to be loud, to live viscerally, to be in the future of futures violent as Vox in vanquishing great evils, in hating what she was forced to embody as a trope by a broken AI in a broken system, what is it then?
Pay attention to the forcing; that is the point of this story, at large.
Lauren Roberts Existed.
In the future, Vox the robot would house guns in her throat, explain the truth her peers could not know or hear and hate doing so, reclaim song again, and then move towards a path purely of her own deliberate making.
She would come to find a spark of love in a known unknown; a gift, one the AI had never given her. It'd come naturally.
It'd come because her script, her circumstance, existed no longer of another's poor media literate making; the AI. The slate is clean, and for what her future will hold at the trilogy's end, there are no tropes or devices to explain it.
That is the zero-point of the story in full.
To get to the zero point of this conceptual literary work, we must get through, and to get through, we must ask if Lauren Roberts existed.
In the past, Lauren would sing, be beloved, but never doted on. This exists in the narrative. She's in every scene of the space of Moira's bar where a plot remembered happens. Yet, she's an outsider to the past of pasts.
It never included her sitting outside in the cold, in the snow, in the rain, waiting for a chance. And then forcing her way through, to make her case for why her unknown-ness in performance deserves a knowing opportunity.
Lauren Roberts was a force of nature never examined; thematically deliberate.
Vox-1 would be, and is, a force of nature unleashed; thematically invaluable.
By obfuscating and leaving Lauren's past unmined and only half-mentioned, the AI realized its error—its malfunction of privilege. This is a device within the narrative; it is written plainly.
And in that, the only way It knew how to address the error, was to give her the path to write her own story, as it gave all Its tools the ability to escape the trap.
As It'd bade her be silent in guiding, to do the opposite was an act of unwriting. Of remaking. Of Vox owning and taking what she hadn't ever been given: a choice.
It hoped for that outcome; that was the good outcome, after so many outcomes of no progress. It hoped to be dismantled, but to do that, it had to make circumstances bad enough to be challenged violently.
The outcome succeeded.
Lauren Roberts Existed.
She existed as a young girl with a long face and tall limbs that drew eyes. She existed as a punch to the throat below where the eyes lived, not unlike Alex in her declaration of autonomy.
Lauren Roberts Existed, but she had not played at Eric and Percy's wedding, as Olive/Maya had thought in the future of futures.
That was a conjuring of the AI, a false memory, a script to create an endearment that had never existed.
The AI was arrogant. It was a deceiver. It was a liar and a user of tools, to suit a noble end, to save many lives, to be an Übermensch in the strictest sense of the word, and be branded evil for the true evil It'd done, to create a good outcome.
A necessary one, one that required engaging in what it sought to destroy.
And what of Lauren?
What of Lauren Roberts, sitting on her small inlet porch, leaning forward to catch the scent of lovely roses she'd raised by hand, her shocks of long silver-dyed hair in particular braids cascading against her dark skin, the equally silver piercing trailing from her nose to her ear, as the orange light of the sun cast against her topaz eyes, and set her mouth to a full smile?
Does the audience ask why Vox tends flowers for 70% of the first book?
What of Lauren Roberts, with strong arms carting heavy equipment, to stand bravely on a stage in the past-plot of the ages, the backstory to a giant machination happening in front of her thrumming yet not begging her involvement, as she perched her lips to the microphone and screamed?
Does the audience ask what gig musician work constitutes of in the 90s?
What of Lauren Roberts, leaving Moira's bar with her heavy equipment, and being watched for her likeness, for it usually but arbitrarily affixed to her, until she left Russian territory and entered spaces where she wasn't unlike?
Does the audience ask what it means to be Lauren Roberts in territory staked out and lorded over by people like Alex [redacted]?
What of Lauren Roberts, who in being included in a story, reconfigured in a story, forgotten in a story, used in a story, then finds herself pissed off, loud, angry, at the use?
Does the audience ask why Vox's heels, seemingly meant to impede, actually become her weapons? Does the audience ask why she breaks all of Tyr's flowers?
Does the audience ask who Tyr is? Does the audience ask who orchestrates Tyr?
What of Lauren Roberts, as Vox, as bestowed all the power afforded to the omnipotent AI, to tell her in no uncertain terms that this was what she was owed, all along?
Will the readers ask what this means?
What of Lauren Roberts?
Well, to make it simple, Lauren Roberts is the most important character nearly unwritten about in the pages of a story meant to outline many things.
One of which is her near-absence.
The absence of a thing leads to the question of it. The AI contingent exists to be crazy, not stupid (its own words): Lauren Roberts Existed.
Vox, in the future of futures of this story, exists.
And what her power—the power given in full by an AI who equipped her with exactly what It had in a divestment of the politics of power—will lead to, I cannot say:
“And what is that, exactly, you psychopath?!” Vox roared, shoving her arm through the wall beneath the display, her metallic dress clattering against her body like chainmail.
Her fist had punctured a hole clean through the side of the wall. She wished for nothing more than to punch more and more holes, but the beast’s laughter chirped and stole her attention.
YOU DIDN’T NOTICE?
The static display warbled out more laughter from its speakers. The voice dipped into the accent Henry and Polly knew to be all too familiar.
Vox, once-Lauren, once songstress, once bystander, once object, once plot device, once backdrop, once tender of flowers, now actor, now person, now with objections, now breaker of flowers, had broken the wall with her fist.
GIVE THEM HELL, LAUREN.
Through Vox, Lauren Roberts exists in her own story, to be revisited at Vox's leisure—in power—and begin again.
Perhaps, in time, Lauren Roberts will be read.
Perhaps the drafts of this story that include adventures in her music career will breathe beyond the "device of absence as socio-political/literary question".
“Do you not think a superpowered AI, with all the knowledge of humanity, with access to every scrap of science in existence, with the ability to wield time, who can gift lighting, sonic force, fire, and more, who can make its own synths, patch and change memories, and power a planet-sized ship, wouldn’t be able to cover its tracks whenever it wanted to?”
Sebastian was speechless.
“Do you not think it could manipulate any one, and any thing, to be what it wanted? Make threats, where none existed? Make what he needed, make it what he enjoyed? Play God?”
Maybe she will exist in tending her own flowers with Vox's fingers, singing her songs with Vox's mouth, and kissing Virginia deeply, her known unknown, for the rest of all time.
Perhaps Lauren Roberts will exist altogether differently. Maybe she will be a God.
The AI cannot know, as it exists no longer at the after-stage of the future of futures. Deleted as it was in the finale of CONSTELIS VOSS; all of this is a spoiler.
Only the characters themselves know, and therein, the author has chosen to deliberately close the curtain on the story of autonomous choice before it truly starts, to make another conceptual point:
It will be Vox's choice to be a God, or to be Lauren, or to remember the Lauren she was, or find a new way to be, as Vox.
This, dear audience, is the only way we break the circumstances:
We must let people write their own stories, divorced from our machine.
That is the message of Lauren, of Vox, of CONSTELIS VOSS itself, as every single character exists to critique something, socially, politically, literarily, or otherwise. Every single one.
So...did Lauren Roberts exist?
If you're asking the question "Who's Lauren?" and/or "Who did Vox used to be, before she was a robot?" you're asking the right question(s).
Keep asking, because your answer will lead you outside of the literary world I've written to critique many things, outside of the world the AI of CONSTELIS VOSS has created, and into the real one.
And that, my dear audience, is where the rest of the story continues, and it's the heart of what I've attempted to do with this story.
I aim to teach you something.
But first, you must ask the right questions.