“Monetized” by Jason Stoddard

IZ220 coverHmm. This strikes me as a rough start, in several senses:

My Saturday started with Antonio Moreno, screaming at me through my eyeset.

“Mike! Where’d the money go!” he yelled.

I groaned. I sat up. Full sun streamed through the grimy windows of my Silver Lake crackerbox, slashing the bedsheets white and hitting one absinthe-soaked retina like a billion photonic bullets.

(We already know he’s screaming. Do we really need that “he yelled”? Either way, shouldn’t that exclamation be a question? And isn’t that “Full sun…” sentence just trying a bit too hard? I quite like “slashing the bedsheets white”, and I don’t mind the basic image behind “like a billion photonic bullets”, but the construction feels off; I start wondering what a photon-like bullet would be like, rather than wincing at the bullet-pain caused by a billion photons.)

We lay our scene in a near-future “de facto post-scarcity” California from the hyperactive Doctorow/Stross mould, with narration by a petulantly plugged-in young man (teenager?), so the story couldn’t really be said to calm down at any point, but it does become engaging enough that I stopped stumbling over the rough patches. Manufacturing is so cheap that most people can achieve a decent standard of living by “monetizing” their everyday interactions; a cross between Google Ad Sense and the Microsoft Paperclip whispers “revenue opportunities” in the narrator’s ear. We are intended to take this seriously, both economically and in its potential to deform human relations. I haven’t thought about it too hard. Some of it is decently chilling: casual mention of “the anonymity of people who suck at social networking”, for instance. Some of it feels glib, as the story barrels towards its paradigm-shifting conclusion. Little of it feels distinctive.