A common thing for science fiction stories is to take a current trend and extrapolate it into a more extreme form. This short story looks at social media influencers in a future where the technology allows a bit more following than today.
Amber is a popular influencer with many followers. She gets lured into taking it to the next level with an operation that gives her an implant in her brain, allowing her follows to hear, see and feel literally everything she feels. Anything just short of reading her thoughts. At first she is horrified, she didn’t read the fine print in the contract, but accepts her situation since it is only 6 months.
Most of the story is pretty straightforward and somewhat predictable with its message, however it takes a rather dark turn in the end. A good story but I was slightly annoyed that the whole premise relied too much on Amber not reading anything about what she actually signed up for. I thought that could have been handled better.
Read in Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2023
This was a good and very Analog-ish story with believable scientists doing science. Which I always love.
A young professor is given some papers from his former supervisor after his death. Among the papers is a long list of various mathematicians, physicists and cosmologists from around the world. Many names with a checkmark next to them, some without. One of the names is his own – without a checkmark. At first he tries to ignore it, but he becomes increasingly intrigued by the puzzle.
This will be a slight spoiler for the story, but I think most readers will be able to see broadly where this is going. The names that has a mark have all died – some of natural causes and others by more strange circumstances, usually at a young age. All were doing interesting work in their fields, though without any clear link. It is revealed that all the scientists were doing work that could potentially lead to the invention of time travel. And something is trying to prevent that of happening.
This premise have been done at least a couple of times before, but that doesn’t take anything away from Chase who has written an engaging and thought provoking story about the limits of scientific research.
Read in Analog March/April 2023
McAuley sets this long novella at around 2060 in a world trying to deal with climate change, though that is not central to the story – merely an inevitable pre-condition.
The plot moves rather slowly and mostly concerns world building, with a few somewhat crude jabs at what people in our present time did wrong. We follow Rose who suffers from being a victim to some sort of psychic weapon. She knows of a clinic in Czech Republic that might have a treatment, but she needs some money first. She comes across some information about a stack of soul chips that could be valuable. The so called soul chips was an attempt for people to upload their minds into a chip in the hope of living forever once the technology has advanced enough. Though it becomes pretty clear that it was more or less a scam based on crude machine learning creating superficial simulations of human personalities. However, in this lower-tech future some collectors find them intriguing.
This story is really mostly about our present and less about this future. The characters have plenty of conversations about our time and how people were back then, their hopes for the future and naive outlook that things could just continue forever. I think McAuley gets across what he wants to say without being overly didactic and still giving the reader an interesting story on its own.
Read in Asimov’s March/April 2023