Rec: “Tav” by Dustin Kennedy

Tav” by Dustin Kennedy, Compelling #5 (Feb/Mar 2017), science fiction novelette

This story takes place in the near future when VR is quite advanced. William and Tav have been the primary movers behind a company that has gotten phenomenally large and powerful. After a celebration party for William at his home, Tav (the viewpoint character) is invited downstairs by the host of honor where William’s very special VR, and an entity in it, is revealed. The three then tour the realm and have a psychologically and existentially loaded conversation that creates a remarkable degree of tension and even spookiness. It leads Tav to make a radical move.

Between the VR and the existential question of “is it live or is it Memorex?” that occupies a good chunk of the story, it’s not the most original thing I’ve ever read but it takes an unusual approach in terms of its viewpoint character. It is also not unusual in being mostly conversational but, as I mention above, it makes that conversation unusually dramatically effective. Also, it doesn’t use its VR basis as an excuse to write a fantasy in SF’s clothing, hewing to merely “enhanced” reality, and provides fairly detailed descriptions of the VR tech and the entity, which were deftly exposed mostly via the subjective experiences of the viewpoint character and only minimally via the conversation. The one serious criticism I might have involves the finale but even though it feels a bit easy, it’s in keeping with both William’s and Tav’s characters and seems plausible in that sense. The story maintained my interest, was sharply delineated and, unlike much other webzine fiction, felt like genuine science fiction, and I definitely enjoyed it.

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Rec: “The Perfect Porn” by Carl Franzen

The Perfect Porn” by Carl Franzen, Terraform 2017-02-14, science fiction short story

This is a tale of a company (and particularly an employee who is also our narrator) creating an AI which, in turn, creates specially tailored porn. The product is initially so compelling that their hit rate goes through the roof and they get richer as intended but it becomes more and more irresistible and its influence becomes much more significant.

I have to appreciate the cynicism or sense of irony or whatever it is that goes into making the special Valentine’s Day story a story about porn. It’s reminiscent, in a limited sense, of part of Steven Barnes’ “Fifty Shades of Grays” though, strictly in terms of fiction, it’s perhaps only adequate. In terms of content, it says what it is right in the title, so shouldn’t surprise anyone and it should be redundant to say that it may not be suitable for all audiences. However, if you’re willing to try it, you may be as impressed as I was at the bold commitment to the story and the extrapolative vigor which, in the end, carries the satire regarding its “Satyr” to absurd lengths. Certainly not a run-of-the-mill story.