Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Source Decay

Short Story by Charlie Jane Anders
Free from Strange Horizons

Jeremy is trying to break up his friends-with-benefits arrangement with Tara, and devote himself to his girlfriend Roberta. Tara makes this harder than she has to by being willfully delusional and overly attention seeking. I can't reveal much more without spoilers, but this is a comedic story that is decently funny with a good bit of a satire of modern media and historical revisionism.
3.5 women out of 5 are locked in an eternal struggle over one, kind-of-douchy guy.


So the telephone-game as conduit for comedy isn't anything new, and while the comedy aspects of this story amused me, the social satire and historical commentary are what I really appreciate. Our tendency to continually revise old myths and stories until they have little or no bearing on reality, while insisting they are probably more true-to-life is a fairly common comment, but what I like here is that the initial "true story" was so far from reality in the first place. Who cares about the revisions and political agendas appended to classic stories when the best source material we have is so far off to begin with?

Our cultural love of voyeurism and "reality" that really does need those quotes around it doesn't get enough satirizing. Sure, everyone comments that "reality TV" is stupid, opium-for-the-masses and meaningless, but it is far too rare that someone points out how seriously we still take it as a culture. Sure, the ending of the story is over-the-top, but the middle has some excellent bits, and the ridiculous earnestness-with-no-self-awareness of most of these reality shows needs to be made fun of. As well as the people who care deeply about which constructed-for-TV personality wins some arbitrary competition, and yet can't be bothered to care about any real issues. Anders isn't entirely original here, but hits points too-infrequently hit, and is sufficiently amusing to make this worthwhile satire. Not a favorite, but a definite recommendation, and a good start to the year for Strange Horizons.

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