‘Thoughts and Prayers’ is smart science fiction about internet trolls


The new anthology Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 includes stories from renowned authors such as Victor LaValle, Rebecca Roanhorse and Charlie Jane Anders. Tobias S. Buckell, whose story “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex” appears in the book, was particularly impressed by the story “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu.

“Ken really is a complete master of the short form,” Buckell says in episode 452 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “It’s always a pleasure to read a story from Ken.”

“Thoughts and Prayers” is about a mother and father campaigning for gun control after their daughter’s murder only to find themselves targeted by internet trolls who harass them with violent deepfakes of their daughter . John joseph adams, series editor The best American science fiction and fantasy, says “Thoughts and Prayers” is exactly the kind of story he’s always looking to publish.

“Sure, you can call it a ‘problem story’ and complain about it if you’re someone complaining about these things, but he presents it in such a way that I feel like it undoes this. argument, ”he said. “This is art. It’s 100% art, because of how deeply it makes you think about what’s going on in the story and how you get into the head of the story. these characters.

Elizabeth bear, whose “Bullet Point” and “Erase, Erase, Erase” stories feature in the anthology, says “Thoughts and Prayers” has become even more relevant in light of recent events. “I think what struck me the most is that this is really a comment on the abdication of responsibility of social media platforms,” she says. “As we’ve learned as a nation over the past month, filtering things doesn’t make them go away, and that has real consequences, which can include people dying.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley admires how “Thoughts and Prayers” is able to communicate the nuance and complexity of topical issues such as technological censorship.

“I’m a big fan of free speech, and that’s why it’s so difficult for me, because I don’t feel like I know the answer,” he says. “I am really puzzled as to how to have a public discourse that is not toxic without infringing on freedom of expression. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do about it.

Listen to the full interview with Tobias S. Buckell, John Joseph Adams and Elizabeth Bear in Episode 452 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Tobias S. Buckell on writing for Doom: eternal:

“When [id Software] Approached me, I thought, “Even though I don’t get the concert, it’s a great excuse to download and play it. So my poor family had to put up with me playing – because nobody was leaving for school or anything at Covid lockdown – so I was just playing Condemn and listen to this heavy metal and kill demons left and right. One of my daughters walked by and said, “Why are you playing this? And I was like, ‘I’m on time. It was literally billable hours, because I was billing by the hour for the work I did, so I was able to bill for the time I spent playing the video game to understand what the newer looked like. I worked with the main screenwriter, Hugo Martin. It was one of the funniest creative gigs I’ve ever done. “

Elizabeth Bear on her “Bullet Point” story:

“I think the two biggest influences on this story are probably Harlan Ellison’s ‘A boy and his dog’ and Joanna Russ’ We who are about to …, which both imply that [last man on Earth] trope. … The story is mostly about the gender dynamic of this guy who just assumes he can walk into this woman’s life and kind of take over and talk about it, because he’s the last man on Earth. So, as a writer, that’s really where my commentary focused. And I think that applies to men, women, and people of other genders as well – sometimes it’s better to be alone than to be in a relationship which is probably bad for you. So if the story has thematic freight – a little subtle thematic freight – I’d say that’s what’s behind it.

Tobias S. Buckell on his story “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex”:

HG Wells wrote the aliens [in The War of the Worlds] to be like the British invading other countries, to show how difficult it was to stand up against them. There’s this long history of playing around with these metaphors in science fiction – both negative and positive – to try and get people to see what it feels like and show what it feels like, if their country was treated the way their country currently treats another country. I’m not the one who is just passionate about tourism – I also love to travel – but there are these dark sides of tourism that need to be addressed. And I thought, running with that, ‘What the [alien] the invasion looks like if they are tourists? And let’s take it seriously, not all for fun. … I wanted to show that it affects lives, it affects people.

Elizabeth Bear on the story:

“Storytelling is how we understand the world. This is the thing our brains are optimized for. That’s why when people write the story, they create a story, and inevitably those stories leave things out, because the story is not a story, the story is a sequence of events. But our brains really only treat information as a story. And I know that at least for me, the healthier, happier, and more sane I am, the more difficult the fiction is to deal with. Last year reading any fiction has been incredibly difficult, and reading stimulating fiction has been even harder because my brain is so busy trying to figure out how to shop for groceries without dying or killing anyone else. . So maybe I just wanna read a Agatha christie story when I get home.


More WIRED stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *