Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unexpected Outcomes

Short Story by Tim Pratt
Read for Escape Pod by Tom “Devo Spice” Rockwell

Tim Pratt and his girlfriend break up when the world comes to an end in 2001. We've all been living in a simulation, and it turns out that it's over. We can't just be turned off for ethical reasons, but there is going to be a "reduction in non-essential services." With no more weather, or other chaotic systems, and the knowledge none of them are real, society starts to break down. A couple of young science fiction authors, better at dealing with this than some, decide to resist the urge to surrender silently.

It's a great end-of-the-world story, with some Matrix themes, but the best part of this is all the metafiction. I've seen some whining about writers having main characters be writers, but the metafictional, autobiographical aspect of this story adds a lot of emotional power, and makes me think about what the me in this other world would be doing. Maybe I'd become friends with Tim Pratt.

Seriously, the author as a main character absolutely makes this story. In some stories it can seem a bit wankish, but it can also be a useful device, as Pratt shows us here. And all the winking little references to real life add some nice humor. I saw this described somewhere as "Chicken Soup for the Post-Apocalyptic Soul", but it is darker and more combative than that would imply. Tim Pratt is not endorsing passive resignation to our fate, even if we are all simulations.

The best part of the story is both Pratt's anger toward the end, and the reader's ability to capture it.

4.5 out of 5 science fiction writers would be leading the resistance in worlds with more science-fictional threats.

No comments: