Sub-titled ‘a short collection of experimental cyberpunk’, Maddison Stoff’s tales are strange and intriguing. Cyberpunk may not be quite the right term to use for this collection of fascinating short stories, because the motivations and situations feel all too humanly-real. The settings in near-future Australia are recognisably possible, even when they seem completely impossible.
I love the title ‘For We Are Young and Free‘, which is a line from the Australian National Anthem – it’s like invoking the Stars and Stripes, and used ironically to highlight the dissatisfaction and despair of the children of the future – or today’s children grown into a world too miserable to nurture them, a world completely at the mercy of neo-liberal, capitalist priorities. The scenarios which Stoff conjures – such as elixirs of youth for the baby-boomer elite, the tyranny of choice which enables cyber-control of humanity, the backbreaking reality of terra-forming another planet after un-terra-forming our own – are, like the best of dystopian sci-fi, firmly connected to current day reality. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948 … Stoff may just have written 2081 in 2018.
I’d actually like to see the vast majority of these stories worked up into novellas or novels, because the world-biulding, plot lines and characterisation could sustain it. Nice.
For readers of Steven Amsterdam, Emily St John Mandel, and Karen Heuler. And if you like Tim Winton’s more pessimistically whimsical tales, give this a try. You won’t be disappointed.