From SELECTIONS FROM BRAVE NEW WORLDS, Edited by John Joseph Adams
Here is another happy find from the Baen Free Library, a section of the Baen site where a good number of books is offered for free download, as a way to sample authors and their works. Selections from Brave New Worlds is a sampler from a larger collection of short stories, this time with a dystopian theme. Not all of them were concerned with ruin and destruction changing society, as is often the case, but they were all quite intriguing in their very different outlook.
JUST DO IT by Heather Lindsley
The ubiquitousness of ads is a sad fact of life: just think about all the times we have been pestered by some silly commercial repeated throughout a program we were watching, maybe accompanied by an annoying tune that lodges in our mind and refuses to go away. In my case – but I suspect that’s what happens to most of us – such… insistence, to be kind about it, doesn’t achieve the expected result: on the contrary, the more irritating the ad has been, the less chances there are of my buying the showcased product.
In this story, the author postulates that advertisers have gone beyond the stage of merely harassing an increasingly recalcitrant audience: ads are literally shot, in the form of darts, at the hapless victims, the chemicals contained in the payload creating an irrepressible craving for the product at hand. Imagine going down a street, being hit by one of these darts and, like the character in this story, being possessed by a sudden, inescapable craving for French fries (“French fries from the den of the evil clown, where they don’t even pretend to use potatoes anymore”) – even if your conscious mind keeps telling you that you don’t want them, even if you try to resist the compulsion, there is nothing to be done, and you have to give in to the induced craving.
Alex, the protagonist, belongs to a group trying to fight the chemical-advertising companies, and she plans to do it from the inside, letting herself be hired by the enemy, but even the best plans can meet unexpected obstacles… Should you choose to read this story, be prepared to feel both amusement and dread: there is nothing more unsettling than an extrapolation based on our present reality…