Friday, January 28, 2011

It's the End of the Net as We Know It (And I Feel Hope)

Explosions and protests in the market didn't scare Ebony. But, the conniption of Haji's eyes -- pupils rolling like spilled marbles -- left her mouth dry. She murmured words he ignored as his limbs spasmed until his body scooched to the floor.

Moments passed. Haji's eyes focused on Ebony. "No net."

She wasn't wired like him. Haji had the full immersive subscription. She searched for Al Jazeera's digi-avatar, but the janky ghost had disappeared from the corners of her vision. "Isn't possible."

Haji leaned against Ebony as he stumbled to the door. "The president fears us."

"Impossible." Ebony adjusted her hijab's drape. "The academics proved like-protests are mere feel-good symbolism and subject to flash crowds."

"Theory can't rule our passions, our fears."

"Maybe it's a glitch."

Haji pointed at LED billboards blinking with random noise. "No net."

Out of hundreds of net providers, she knew at least one of the billboards should have worked. "What do we do?" Ebony felt lost even if she didn't need the digi-avatars. She couldn't imagine Haji's pain.

"We add our skin to the game. We join them." Together they stumbled towards the market.


  1. intriguing flash with a great dusky and revolutionary atmosphere. I had hardly heard about the news story, pretty much only came across it on twitter. can't stop thinking about it now, does fire the imagination somewhat.

  2. Quite timely with word circulating of Egypt trying to take down its net.

  3. @Adam, glad this played some role as a catalyst.

    @John, I think one of the neat things about flash fiction is its ability to play topically.

    That said, I want to caveat this flash fiction as playing topically with the subject, but set in a slightly futuristic future so this doesn't directly relate, but tries to play with some of the ideas spinning through my head lately.

  4. I'm impressed you managed to get the near future setting across in such a short number of words. "We add our skin to the game." is my favorite line of this story. And yes - timely.

  5. @Tessa, I'm glad you liked that line. I almost removed it because I worried it felt cliché; but it felt like it worked with some of the other themes running through the 200 wds.

  6. This was truly inspired. The scifi and revolutionary elements make a current news story into an awesome speculative one.

  7. Excellent story! Good mix of near-future sci-fi and current events.

  8. A brief skim might miss the fact that you've embedded the story with the near future sci-fi. What then was a topical, momentary flash becomes a timeless reference to the themes of communication/information/freedom.

    Only the names + our current awareness of Egypt place it IN Egypt. Otherwise it could be anywhere, any time in the future.

  9. I agree with EZE, this is a great piece that can become a timeless one. It tells the story of the end of the old. I mean, insert paper books and ebooks here and there and you are talking about the publishing industry. Replace those words with M16 and M4 and you'll talking about small rifles and war.

    Deep too. I felt the tension.

  10. I like this, Aidan. Too much extrapolative SF still focuses on classic tropes like technology without paying attention to social evolution happening through that technology.

    I recommend reading the Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (quasi-hard SF), his Martian society is an extreme extrapolation of facebook privacy settings (my favourite book of 2011, too).

    I see this as a fable for modern times. Sometimes a facebook campaign just doesn't cut it...

  11. ... pupils rolling like spilled marbles ...

    Love this similie. Nicely done.

  12. Liked this story Aidan and particularly the 'janky ghost'.