What would you do if everything you thought was real was ripped away, and you were young again? And what would you do if everything you thought you real was what you wanted back again?
These are the two core questions asked in my story “Fugue in a Minor Key,” which is in the November issue of Galaxy’s Edge.
The story puts us in the head of Katja Maczyk, a young university student who has to answer both when two lab technicians tell her that her husband, her daughter, and her career as an internationally-renowned pianist was all part of a simulation. Katja struggles to cope with what she’s told is reality, and with the help of a newly-budding romance with one of the lab techs starts to think she might just be able to do so. That’s when the hallucinations start up . . .
I call the story “Dicksian” because I was very consciously trying for an overall plot that wouldn’t have been amiss in the works of Phillip K. Dick. I’ve always enjoyed the way his stories played with reality, and found the results fascinating.
Here’s a short excerpt of my story which gets across the feel of the thing:
What they do is sit me in a folding chair in a white-walled room with a single fluorescent bulb on the ceiling. Two techs in white (one short and female, one skinny and male) sit there and tell me this is real, that I was never a world-famous concert pianist, never married and never mourned my husband, and never never never had a daughter.
As such, the skinny one says, it is impossible for her to be in any danger.
Is she in danger? I ask.
But I don’t let him finish. If she’s all right, I say, I’d like to see her.
Ma’am, the skinny one repeats. You can’t see her. She isn’t real.
Are you the police?
No, the short one says. We’ve been through this before.
We are experimental psychologists, the skinny one says, and you have spent the past eight minutes immersed in a holistic simulation designed to test the human mind’s response to stress.
I know dialogue without quotation marks is a big stumbling block for a lot of people, but in this case I would argue that it plays a big role in adding to the actual feel of the story and its what-is-real core. In the snippet above, for example, “We’ve been through this before.” could be either something the psychologist says, OR something from the viewpoint character.
Anyway, I’m really pleased overall with how the story turned out, and am glad it found a good home.
Go give the rest a read! It’s free until January, and after that available only in the print edition.