cover image Communications Breakdown: SF Stories About the Future of Connection

Communications Breakdown: SF Stories About the Future of Connection

Edited by Jonathan Strahan. MIT, $22.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-262-54646-1

For this hit-or-miss anthology, World Fantasy Award winner Strahan (editor of The Book of Witches) commissioned 10 SF authors to envision “what happens when communications break down?” He also asked them to consider technology’s unequal distribution among the poor, the old, and other marginalized peoples. The result is a mixed bag, with stories ranging from zany and intense to dull and strained, and mostly familiar commentary on gender, capitalism, and AI. “Less Than” by Lavanya Lakshminarayan follows a competitive gamer rallying against Free India’s “patriarchal-capitalist power-sponsored algorithm.” In Cory Doctrow’s “Moral Hazard,” a homeless MIT graduate writes a computer program enabling squatters in Seattle’s Discovery Park to set up shell companies, giving them access to government bailout funds earmarked for corporations, and in “Company Man” by Shiv Ramdas, an employee buys a heart replacement on credit. Two tales—“At Every Door a Ghost” by Premee Mohamed and “My City Is Not a Problem” by Tim Maughan—describe scientists battling sentient AI gone haywire. Also included: an interview with privacy activist Chris Gillard, who speaks out against facial recognition and “luxury surveillance,” and original artwork by Ashley Mackenzie. There’s plenty to chew on here, but not all of it’s successful. (Oct.)