This magazine contains six short stories themed around technology altering perception, along with a brief essay about film funding.
‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card. In a future where Earth’s Military trains the best children to be generals in the war to save the human race, Ender Wiggin struggles to win his first augmented simulation as platoon leader. Card successfully captures both the innocence and brutality that stem from children’s focus and inexperience, producing an engaging take on military science-fiction. This is the original short story rather than the novel, so focuses on a number of key moments rather than the entirety of Wiggin’s childhood and training.
‘Lost in the Mail’ by Robert J. Sawyer. When a man receives an alumni magazine for a college he chose not to attend, he is amused by the coincidence; however, as more letters arrive nostalgia turns to fear. Carefully building tension, Sawyer presents an empathetic image of a man forced to confront the road he didn’t take.
‘Purchasing Power’ by Eric Del Carlo. In a world where targetted advertising is so accurate that not buying the product is inconceivable, one man choses not to buy. Mixing the grimy backstreet action with modern fears about internet privacy, Del Carlo creates a techofuture worse than cyberpunk predicted.
‘The Pink Life (La Vie En Rose)’ by Nathan Susnik. A young executive’s augmented reality system glitches, exposing her to the imperfections of her surroundings. Susnik mixes brief uplifting descriptions and hashtags with longer, more ambivalent paragraphs, providing the reader a strong sense of what it might be like to have image filters on life—and then to lose them again.
• ‘Enhancement’ by David R. Grigg. When a young woman abandons her augmented reality tour in favour of a human guide, she discovers illusion might be more necessary than she thought. In contrast to the common corporate dystopia trope, Grigg explores how romance might change if one didn’t have to see reality.
• ‘PeaceCon’ by Ernest Hogan. The cyborg mascot of a security company starts to experience blackouts, blackouts that coincide with him disappearing from live feeds. Taking the fusion of wrestling and advertising to its extreme, Hogan crafts a high-octane world where personal security companies display the eminence of their product by using it against each other as a scheduled part of a conference for peace activists.
‘How Rocky Horror Saved the Day’ by John Koch. In an anecdote from his childhood, Koch gives a glimpse of both the method and unpredictability of film investment. Koch skilfully deploys small details to build emotional connection, preventing this from feeling like a dry report of events.
While each of the stories White has selected is marked by interesting nuances, there is a common feel of social media superficiality to several of them. This similarity is emphasised by his choice of order. Thus, readers are likely to either better note the subtle contrasts or experience a slight “hashtag” fatigue.
In contrast both ‘Lost in the Mail’ and ‘How Rocky Horror Saved the Day’ are in no way augmented reality stories; whether this acts as a palette cleanser or deviation will depend on the strength of each reader’s preference for the edition’s theme.
The ebook edition lacked an embedded table of contents. Thus readers wishing to return to a specific story will need to scroll through the entire publication or guestimate location if their ereader offers a goto page function.
Overall, I enjoyed this magazine. I recommend it to readers seeking perspectives on how augmented or falsified realities might shape our actions.
I purchased my copy of this magazine and was not asked to write this review. However, I have published one of the editor’s short stories.