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
A straight forward murder mystery on Mars. Except it is not outright murder, but someone is still responsible.
The setting is a settlement on Mars in its early stages and the story follows Blaine who is working as a marshall, serving the role of the practically missing law enforcement. A dead body of a woman turns up and he sets of to investigate how and why.
Might be a slight spoiler, but there is no murderer per se, but Blaine uncovers an unjust cooperate system that fails to take proper care under tragic circumstances. The woman was married to an employee stationed on Mars, but when he died of an illness, she lost any funding or rights to keep alive on Mars. There is a fine point to the story here about unemphatic cooperations not willing to take responsibility if they are not legally required to, but I had a somewhat hard time accepting this premise. If we ever get a settlement on Mars and have people employed on work contracts there, I am pretty certain lawyers and insurance companies would write up a plethora of clauses to handle every possible and impossible scenario. That aside still a decent story.
Read in Forever Magazine, March 2023
Originally published in F&SF May/June 2021
This debut story had a setup that reminded me of “Welcome Home” by Jendayi Brooks-Flemister in Asimov’s January/February 2022. In a dystopian future Ava is struggling raising her three children alone and she is under constant surveillance by the government. Even minor missteps might get her to lose custody of her kids. One day she gets an offer to relocate to a company owned small community town in Florida and she see no other option to accept.
At her new home she meets with other families like herself and the staff that treats her and her kids well. Their basic needs are taken care of, the kids can go to a good school and everyone is helping one another in this small community. It is almost paradise. Ava barely has time to question the whole thing, but we as readers are just waiting for the catch or the twist. It has an overtone of everything being too good to be true.
Unsurprisingly there is a twist at the end that turns things around, but I found it to be a very rushed and a bit unlikely ending. Still, this is a debut story and I genuinely think the author has successfully written an engaging story with properly developed characters, but the actual plot could use some work.
Read in Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2023
There is a lot going on in this near future thriller. Drones, high tech weapons, rejuvenation technology and more all mixed into a fast moving story about an old multibillionaire, a young scientist and murderous villains.
The short story has a tragic prologue about a boy witnessing the assassination of his parents. The story jumps to the year 2049 and early in the story it becomes apparent that the boy is Jacob Maweela – now a rich philanthropist in his 80s who has recently had rejuvenation treatment making him around the age of 30 again. The story is told from the point of view of a young researcher, Kaela, who is approached by Jacob to further develop her nanodrone technology to provider better healthcare in poor countries. However, Jacob is also under constant threat of assassination from the same people who killed his parents. Kaela and Jacob develops sort of a close non-romantic relationship while the plot unfolds.
There are plenty of things to like in this story, but also quite a few issues that make me wish that it was given an extra round of editorial rework to reach its potential. The story lacks focus in my opinion. Too many elements and plotpoints are introduced that it is hard to keep track of what is actually important. The rejuvenation? The technology that can help poor people? The assassination plot? The relationship between Jacob and Kaela? All fascinating topics on their own, but the story is not long enough to give enough depth or meaning to much of it. The main focus seems to be Jacobs internal struggle with how he can protect his family and employees from the death threats, but since the story is told from Kaelas viewpoint, we only get a distanced look at Jacobs thoughts and actions.
The author does manage to create a very authentic and believable future, which makes the story recommendable, but I feel it is also a missed opportunity for a tighter and more focused plot.
Read in Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2022