A new entry in my almost-weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:
- “Archipelago,” by Anil Menon
- On an artificial island where everyone has embedded high-tech “sensoriums” that let them share experiences and perceptions, Tommy falls for a new arrival who doesn't have the implant. More or less NSFW. (Published in 2005.) (5,500 words.)
The idea was to get a group of people to hook up their sensoriums in a certain way and then use a data feed—the “stim”—to trigger a synchronization of minds; a firefly swarm, as it were, of minds all blinking, signalling, and responding in unison.
(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)
(I'm still behind on posting Flashback stories, but if all goes well, I'll catch up shortly.)
I found the tech in this story interesting, and especially the way that it does and doesn't enable interactions among the characters. And I like the ways in which the story does and doesn't echo the concerns of other stories featuring posthumans or near-posthumans, the unevenly distributed future tech, the barely glimpsed conflict between, as the story puts it, “the Chosen and the Extinct.”
I also like the portrayal of the “sotto voce” secondary communication stream among the posse; it reminds me of the multichannel communications from the old comic book Starstruck, and of real-life back-channel conversations via chat or texting while other things are going on.
And I like the opening dream, though it may be a little hard to follow; in particular, I've had the dream where it turns out it was all a mistake, the person who died is alive after all, and you reunite with them and then you wake up and realize it was a dream.
And there's some lovely language, like the line “as if all of Connie were now part of the tongue's pointillist arcana.”
But most of all (as is so often true with these Flashback stories) what I love about this story is the ending, that moment of coming to terms with loss while finding a path forward, a reconciliation with grief and dreams.