SH Flashback: “Prisoners of Uqbaristan,” by Chris Nakashima-Brown

Here's the next Strange Horizons Flashback story:

Prisoners of Uqbaristan,” by Chris Nakashima-Brown
A dizzying post-cyberpunk melange of media psyops, Borges, pop culture, reality alteration, and the Global War on Terror. (Published in 2004.) (6,000 words.)

Captain Womack recruited me as Hollywood's liaison to the military-entertainment complex, saying they needed more Tinseltown savvy over at Task Force Loki: the only covert operations team with its own reality show. I mean, in addition to the news, which we help program without even asking for credit.

(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)




I think this story is kind of brilliant, especially if you read it fast and just let it wash over you, without worrying too much about getting every single reference. It's suffused with the kind of barrage-of-eyeball-kicks unheimlichkeit that I love in some kinds of science fiction, but instead of focusing on tech, the uncanniness in this story is focused on culture.

Sadly, in some ways I feel like this story hasn't aged quite as well as I'd have hoped; it's very much of its moment. Among other things, there isn't as much Internet in this as I imagine there would be if it were written today—for example, the word “YouTube” doesn't appear anywhere in it. But I think any story that's this deeply immersed in the zeitgeist is bound to lose something as time goes on.

Anyway, I still like it quite a bit.

Oh, and I like the endnotes, too, especially the way that they blend real-life weirdness with fictional weirdness.

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