Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Prayer" by Mike Buckley

Buckley, his bio says, "is a practicing futurist who uses Science Fiction prototyping to inform corporate/governmental policy," and the extreme ideological stupidity and meanness that suggests combines in this story with an apparent desire to create something grim for grimness' sake (is "grimdark" a term exclusive to fantasy? if not, it's probably what this is) to create a good deal of tedious grotesquery; in particular, when a man writes a story with this much women-being-hurt (particularly by other women), you have to ask why: why violence, why this violence. But, as Sandra Newman once wrote (to widespread horror) of especially pre-1980 American science fiction, these questionable ideologies and ethics coexist, almost (but, let's not forget, not actually) as if the other side of the coin, with an extraordinarily bonkers conceptual anarchy that feels alive in a way so much recent sf does not. Continent spaceships with communal water holes; the uploaded minds of malevolent wealthy people dwelling in AIs occupying neural networks in nearby stars; hallucinations; quantum teleportation (?) on a mass scale; religious experience reduced to a human level, or maybe vice versa: it's not so much any one of these things but their uneasy coexistence in such a small space — and, importantly, the story's willingness to follow them into the language of exposition. Any "corporate/governmental policy" "informed" by this "prototyping" would be even more horrific than what already exists (either that or so incoherent it would fail immediately, which would be nice), but as sf it does things to my brain that only sf can do, and too little does.

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