Imagine, if you will, a technology that allows you to run a kind of simulation of potential choices. You hook yourself up, close your eyes, and have a dream to find out if you and someone you’re crushing out on could actually work things out together—or even just so you can consider them without spoiling the current, unpolished potentiality of it all? Now imagine you’re one of the first people to test it out, you’ve gotten someone’s phone number but can’t bring yourself to call, and so you go under expecting to have a kind of virtual dream of a date, and instead it goes in a completely unexpected way. Now you’re ready for “Perfectly You,” from Love Beyond Body, Space and Time, by David A. Robertson.
I think the huge win of this story is exactly in its set-up: the girl in question, who has such a crush on someone she can’t help but idealize (and even has her number, but can’t bring herself to call) decides to try something safe. It can’t ruin reality because it’s not reality. Except anything we experience is, on some level, “real,” and what the device does with her “Vacation” delivers such a powerful message about hesitation and waiting and the end result leaves her in no different a situation, just with a different notion of what the risks truly are. It’s a lovely use of the science fiction “romance of technology” theme to evolve a character, and I left this tale with a smile.
One of my favourite things about short stories is how often the really good stories leave the reader with a kind of catch-22 of a narrative: you have been given enough to have a complete moment; you also want to know what happens next. I think it’s the stories that deliver a third piece: but you know what would likely happen next that really claim a spot in my heart (especially when that knowledge is so very queer positive).
A note: I found this story in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci-Fi Anthology, but I need to point out this is one of those anthologies I’ve had in my collection for, well, years. It’s been sitting on my iPad, and it was only when someone asked me if I’d read it that I went to look and found out the publisher is defunct due to the publisher, Bedside Press, being shuttered when the editor confessed to sexual misconduct and sexual assault. After I went looking online and hit that roadblock, I was looking through my digital library to see what other anthologies I had and found my copy. Accordingly, I’m going to suggest you check out anything by David A. Roberston via his web-page, as I can find no information about where support for this anthology goes.