Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform May 2018

A novel excerpt and a short film keep Motherboard’s Terraform fiction lineup a little lean for May, but there’s still two pieces to look at that challenge what the future might look at. The stories are very much about loneliness and isolation and the injustice of systems. In both, people become trapped by the world as it is defined by money, by injustice, by misogyny. Moments of real human connection are sparse and, where present, precious. It’s perhaps not surprising that the publication features a brand new depiction of sexbots (a popular trope for Terraform), but I continue to be impressed by the nuance and care given to these stories. It’s not a piece that’s about sex, but rather the power of small moments of vulnerability and mutual comfort. Anyway, it’s a short but moving pair of stories and it’s time to review them!


“The Narcissus of Titan” by Tyler Wells Lynch (1625 words)

No Spoilers: This is a rather strange story that looks at the future of social media. I think. A future that allows a person to craft their reality to match what they want, to create not just a persona to be on social media but to craft a whole life, with instant success and popularity and satisfaction. For as long as the good feeling lasts, at least. Because for me the story explores what it might be like to have that sort of power, how much the line between reality and fantasy might blur, and how people might react to the allure of having something so large tailor made for them, for them to be the ruler of a virtual space that is supposed to give them exactly what they want. It’s a story that gets a bit surreal in places but does a great job of exploring human desire for attention and for validation, and what that drive can look like.
Keywords: Social Media, Illusion, Narcissism, Death, Parents
Review: I like the way this story builds away from where most people are now with social media, interacting primarily with real people with real lives, to a place that is almost more ideal—a social media where everything else is bot, where everything that you do is instantly popular, validated, good. For someone who does spend time on social media, it’s something that can seem like it already exists for some, and the allure of that is great, of that celebrity yes but also the community. People can get pretty lonely these days when work and capitalism have eaten away everyone’s leisure. Where people are only as moral as they are spenders, and where any time a person isn’t online or engaged in entertainment is a failure of advertising and marketing and the idea of the West. It creates a church of Me but one that’s actually in service to a hidden Them that’s really all about selling things. And here we see what happens when that very loneliness is monetized, or at least exploited, how it is offered to people so that they can feel okay, only to have it destroy their life, their potential. They get lost to it, while around them the real world seems to drift away and they come to despise people not as connected as they are, out of defensive insecurity about how much real joy their choices bring them. It’s a difficult story, rather dense and trippy, but it’s a complex look at social media and ego, and it’s a great read!

“Posey Girl” by Julianna Baggott (2011 words)

No Spoilers: This is a quiet and powerful story about sex and about service and about captivity. The main character is a namely sexbot who is programmed to have a certain kind of innocence. Ever-virginal, the narrator must be concerned with their rank, with how attractive and attentive they are. But there’s a deep weariness to them, a dissatisfaction that goes beyond their programming. The piece is heavy with this situation that neither the sexbot nor the young man who visits them can really do anything about. They are both victims, and victims of the same core issues, though it effects and infects them in different ways. It’s a story about help, though, at least for me. About finding comfort in seeing and being seen, of trying to understand each other’s pain, even imperfectly. And the result is rather beautiful.
Keywords: Sexbots, Comfort, Privacy, Programming, Sex Work
Review: I like the way the story balances the need of the narrator to have high ratings in order to avoid punishment and their own desire for solitude. For the moments of relief that they get that are mostly theirs. At the same time, the story really delves into how this situation is so loaded for them, how they are supposed to be caring and nurturing and innocent and yet used and re-used and hurt and hurt. They are in a prison and have been programmed to accept it, and yet even so there is no real joy for them, just a numbness. They are there to be hurt, and even so they are programmed to want to treat the pain of others first. And where that gets complicated is where the story examines the meeting between the narrator and a young man (or presumably a young man) who is sent to them in order to toughen up. Because he has been hurt to, and in that the two can see a bit of their own pain in each other. And, despite all the things they cannot do for each other, something they can do is offer this small bit of comfort. Now, the story also acknowledges in many ways that this is still mostly the narrator performing emotional labor for this young man, not fully able to talk because of her programming. But I do feel there is a spot of hope buried in this, that maybe the two of them can begin to help each other, and maybe see that the prison that they’re all in is bounded by the worst interpretations of masculinity. And that only by rebuilding a better system can either of them be free. And it’s just a tender and rather wrenching read, full of pain and injustice. And it’s definitely worth checking out!


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