Thursday, November 5, 2015

Edited, by Rich Larson

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(Near-Future SF) Two teenage boys spend a weekend with a friend who's just been "edited." The narrator struggles to accept the changes in his friend and wonders if things can still be the same. (3,000 words; Time: 10m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Raw, Provocative, Heartbreaking
Recommended By: SFEP

"Edited," by (edited by Andy Cox), appeared in issue 259, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The story does a good job of showing how the editing does seem to have benefited Wyatt on the whole, even though it has distanced him from both of his friends. The narrator, of course, is shattered, but the implication is that that part of their relationship was never that serious for Wyatt in the first place. "I always liked girls more anyway."

We can see the rejection coming, but there are enough conflicting signals to add tension right up to the point where Wyatt declares that it just isn't going to work. It hits like a punch in the gut, even though, logically, any sort of rejection hits that way. Something about deliberately snuffing affection out makes it hurt a lot worse. The fact that Wyatt is just idly curious whether he can still respond sexually to the narrator adds an extra dose of pain. The new Wyatt trivializes their relationship.

Lois Tilton objected that the character of Dray was overdone, but people like him are real and not uncommon. Tellingly, Dray says that if he got edited, he'd want to be funny, which tells us he knows that people aren't amused by his act. Also, Dray isn't all bad. He knows the narrator is gay and has no problem with him.  The old Wyatt liked Dray, but he clearly doesn't suit the new one.

The unedited boy seems to have been insecure and found something supportive in the other two, as we glean from the stories. The new Wyatt is finished with both of them--even if he doesn't realize it yet. He doesn't "feel things as hard," so it isn't going to bother him a lot. Again, odds are that even without editing, the simple process of growing up would have eventually had the same effect, but there's something particularly chilling about doing it deliberately.

Con: The dialect is distracting, especially right at the start.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. (As I said elsewhere) I also liked this story. I initially thought the characters were going to be annoying, but they quickly became very real individuals. The treatment of the central idea was good, focusing on the personal but with some interesting hints about wider social effects.

    1. I thought that by limiting the effects of being "edited" the author made the whole concept much more plausible. It doesn't turn your kid into another person--it makes him more grown up and gives him an edge later in life.

      Even the tidbit that tells you he and his parents talked about his bisexuality makes you visualize them spending hours going over lists of options, each with its own plusses and minuses. All the sort of little details that make it seem very real without ever giving us an infodump.

      Feel free to recommend stories any time!

  2. As per the blogpost (thanks for coming over to chat), I would have given this one a '3' star. I liked the dialect - I love voice writing - but I felt the author could have done more with the world building. Unless "editing" was provided free by the government, the practice would create a self-perpetuating aristocracy with little connection with or responsibility to the underclass. The social norms would be very different from today.

    This isn't really explored in the story and, as such, the "editing' idea feels like a standard growing up story. The "editing" could have been replaced by CBT, hypnosis, detox, finding religion or just getting older without much change to the events or the story climax.

    It worked as a story, but I felt it was unambitious about tackling the wider social issues the "editing" technology would create.

    1. The story leaves the impression that editing is a fairly new technology and only available to the wealthy. I agree that that would have consequences over time, but this story isn't about that. Do you really think a good, hard SF story has to explore all the ramifications of the technologies it focuses on? That would pretty much make it impossible to ever write short works.