Imagine a world where you bear children only to watch them “die” when your gaming system is hacked and requires a reboot, or where contact lenses act as social media implants that live-stream every moment of your life. These are just two of the brave new worlds that creative writing professor Alexander Weinstein has envisioned in Children of the New World, a bold debut collection of speculative short stories.
Many of the stories deal with our culture’s growing dependence on new technologies and the profound isolation and boredom that this dependence creates. In “Migration,” families are quarantined inside their houses, their needs met through total online connectivity. One day, in an act of familiar teenage rebellion, the son steps into the outside world. The frightened father follows, only to find him playing with a tennis ball. When questioned about his actions, the son responds, “You know whenever I play Tennis, the ball always bounces smoothly and makes the same sound. But that’s not what happens in real life.” This theme reappears throughout the book—characters live in tailored, ideal virtual realities, and yet they’re bored to death. Weinstein deftly captures technology’s limitations and leaves the reader to ponder the beauty found in the real world’s imperfections.
Ultimately, what is most remarkable, and chilling, about many of these stories is their resemblance to our current times. Think Her rather than “Star Trek” or Minority Report. Discomfiting as they may be, these characters’ desires and frustrations are familiar as they navigate worlds increasingly devoid of human connection. The stories in this collection, while wildly imaginative, also read as a sort of cautionary tale. As we push our dependence on new technologies further than ever before, one can’t help feeling that we may be closer to these imagined worlds than we think.