In the history of my website, I’ve reviewed and adored countless fictions that tackled future formations of the media landscape. Spurned in part by the explosion of television ownership in the 50s, pop art’s obsession with filmic iconography, and popular studies on advertising, science fiction compulsively explored futuristic formulations of media performance and manipulation, exploitation and paranoia (SF Encyclopedia). I’ve decided to put together a review series of short fiction that will continue my exploration of the theme.
It is devilishly difficult to organize all that I’ve reviewed so far but here are a few of the highlights that suggest different routes I might traverse. As I do not plan on rereading stories I’ve covered in the past, feel free to track down some of the gems below.
Christopher Priest’s “The Head and the Hand” (1972), John Brunner’s “Nobody Axed You” (1965), Robert Sheckley’s “The Prize of Peril” (1958), D. G. Compton’s The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973), and Robert Silverberg’s “The Pain Peddlers” (1963) explore the intersection of media and the spectacle of suffering. Pain recorded. Deaths televised. Media as death blow.
Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great” (1967), Carol Emshwiller’s “This Thing Called Love” (1955), and James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1973) scrutinize the emotional bifurcation between the audience and their love of the starlet or influencer as presented and constructed. And the ways in which the audience controls the construction…. and by extension the performer.
Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s “Well of the Deep Wish” (1961), Keith Roberts’ “Sub-Lim” (1965), and Kit Reed’s “At Central” (1967) speculate on the methods media can be used as social control. Of course, in the both the Biggle and Reed, the real world outside has utterly transformed since the audience has slipped into new worlds.
And, of course, I have to include Barry N. Malzberg’s extensive oeuvre–such as Revelations (1972) and Screen (1968). His work often demonstrates the pernicious addiction and desperation audiences and participants project into the media landscape hoping for truth and real experience. The media landscape is yet another mechanized artifice pandering to our obsession with dark spectacle.
I hope you enjoy this series. Feel free to join in (I include a link to the first story below)!
And we have a doozy to start with!
4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)
Lino Aldani’s short story “Good Night, Sophie” first appeared under the pseudonym N. L. Janda in Futuro, no. 1 (March/April 1963). Futuro, edited by Aldani along with Giulio Raiola and Massimo Lo Jacono, was the first entirely Italian science fiction magazine (it contained some translations of Polish SF) (contents). I read it in Franz Rottensteiner’s anthology of European science fiction in translation View from Another Shore (1973). You can read it online here.Continue reading