Children of the New World is a delicious feast of oh-so-plausible science fiction short stories from Alexander Weinstein. He is now on my Read Everything He Writes list. Weinstein is interested in what life will be like perhaps twenty or thirty years from now if certain trends continue.
For example, Google Glass is already putting computer screens right in front of our eyes. Weinstein imagines computers wired right into our bodies. EyeVision, EyeTunes, InnerVision, different programs and technologies that replace traditional interactions like talking. So many today talk about how texting is replacing conversation, even when people are together. Weinstein goes so much farther.
Imagine if we all had public profiles that are projected right into people’s brains as we pass them on the street. For the casual passers-by there is a surface layer, as you get to know people better, you reveal more layers, sharing memories directly. People don’t talk, they reveal memories electronically. If people are really, really, really in love, they can risk total access. Do we really want our partners to know how irritated we are by who they chew their food?
In the title story, a childless couple enter a world similar to The Sims® or Second Life® where they conceive two children. Unfortunately, they accidentally pick up a virus that infects their home with spam. Future spam is so much worse. There’s a pixelated man in the bathroom offering to show you how to add three inches to your penis and a man from Ghana knocking on the door with presents that he can only deliver with your credit card number. Yes, physical SPAM avatars.
Avatars are in many of the stories. In one story, a father whose son is at the rebellious teenage stage takes the avatar of his son for a walk. Meanwhile, no one leaves their houses, ever, except for the bold, intrepid delivery people who risk everything to deliver their online orders.
Robert Frost said the world could end in fire or in ice. Weinstein imagines different global climate change futures, a deluge that washes away topsoil. People actually sell their lawns. Or maybe, an ice age that brings people back to hunting with bow and arrow and living in igloos. However, what is so magical about these stories is that they are about community, family and relationships. These are not stories of derring-do and alien invaders. These are stories of ordinary people living ordinary lives in extraordinary imaginary futures.
I loved this collection of short stories. There is such compassion for humanity in the stories. I also love how plausible the futures are and how they focus on ordinary lives. There is extraordinary creativity and imagination, and it’s blended with a hysterical sense of humor. I giggled out loud with the avatar spam and in “The Pyramid and the Ass” there is a sex scene (if you can call it that) involving sending files back and forth. “I love it when you send me slow downloads.” “Ooh, baby, I’m a torrent player.” Just thinking about it makes me laugh again.
Children of the New World will be released September 13th. I received an e-galley from the Macmillan-Picador through NetGalley.