Title: Chemical Illusions
Author: Christian As. Kirtchev
Year of publishing: 2009
Chemical Illusions is a compilation of thirteen post-cyberpunk short stories and even shorter tales, written by the author in the years of early post-communistic times in Eastern Europe, and namely Bulgaria. While some of the stories are really short and lack any evident plot or major idea, other stories evolve around a single or several characters and an adventure. The feeling about the stories and tales tells of misery, solitude, betrayal, love, drugs and hi-tech - the typical reality factors of a post-communistic country, where a former regime has fallen and the disorientation in all strata of the nation takes place. The stories themselves are written between the years of 2002 and 2008, when the times in post-communistic and newly capitalistic Bulgaria have already settled and the "western" technologies have come into place. Influenced by these factors the author tells of philosophical stories concerning the value or realities, be it virtual or real as well as touching concepts such as the blurred boundaries between cyber and actual spaces, between mental and digital worlds.
It's an anthology of thirteen stories, seemingly deployed at random, each however leads to the next. The compilation carries the name of one of the stories in the book. Chemical Illusions are the latest black-market commodity on the street. Those are scripts of program code, which when introduced to the brain of a recipient, are capable to trigger specific chemical reactions which open/close a set of logical brain chains in order to produce a state of consciousness, different from the usual. Chemical, because the reaction takes place in the brain, Illusions because those cannot be distinguished from daily reality, yet are not part of the commonly accepted order of things. The stories themselves seem to be those "Chemical Illusion" scripts, and I read them in order to see the effect.
The book describes some sexual images, which if not as offensive as a porn film, might seem inappropriate to some, even though I'd wonder why these people have bought such a book on the first place. That on a side, the disclaimer in the beginning makes the above clear. Then the stories unfold as follows:
- Easy Trick is a really short tale about the unspoken agreement between comrades from the world over to perform the same organized action, which would connect them over an idea. A form of meeting, which could just as well take place in the Internet, in a virtual world, jumping over geographic borders, brining comrades together on a common cause, but that meeting never actually takes place in cyberspace, but instead is carried in the real world, on a nameless street, for each uses his own local street to perform the action, while all connect mentally merely by knowing the other is doing the same, but without seeing them if borders are the cause of a distance.
- Little Puppy Toy seemingly being the oldest story in the compilation has been written somewhere in 1997, when the author also publishes their "a Cyberpunk Manifesto". Little Puppy Toy is a love story of drugs, love, broken hearts and lost souls.
- Downloading Me... upload completed, your mentality is now in one of the worlds. Which one? You choose. The tale deciphers the ego and its abilities to change forms in cyberspace, transferring that ability to the real world of daily reality, allowing for one to actually choose their life the way they choose cyberspace avatars, but still sticking to their roles in either world, because of the necessity to fulfill the demands for work being done in either of the realities we and the hero inhabits.
- During Rain in 2032 we join someone in a social gathering under the shelter of a BUS stop, while waiting for that transport driven by the cold characterless machine, ridden by simple people on their daily routes to their casual lives.
- While affected by a common disease caused by the combination of psychedelic drugs and virtual reality, one can find themselves sliding in and out of different dimensions of virtuality and reality. Not knowing when you experience something drugs-induced, an hour in virtuality or a day in common reality is what we see happening to the figurative hero in Virtual Narcosis - the sixth of the stories and the most sexually explicit one in the whole compilation of chemical illusions.
- Up To Here by Techno! argues the positive aspects of all that technology which we take for granted on a daily basis. A group of comrades are just as dependent on technology as everyone else, yet strive to escape that dependency in a small ritual, hunting for the place of humane peace.
- Background takes a different angle on the same concept as Up To Here by Techno!, but dives even further into philosophy. Reading Background, one can find how little things in life have their exact mirroring image in the bigger picture. A hi-tech gadget can be no different than an archaic antique, only the perception of the generations shift. We could see how an action performed with technological gadgetry can have a reaction in the collective unconsciousness of masses of flesh.
- Hieroglyph: "Sexy City" seems like a script for manga comics and perhaps should have been done as such. The words are not very descriptive, providing images, but the tale leaves a lot for the world's best graphic card - man's imagination.
- Waking Up rings a bell of an advertisement. Fresh, naive, and obviously unfinished prelude to a story which could be anyone's and perhaps leaves the reader to finish it, like they would their day.
- RUN... Is that BASIC programming language command line, or the fleeing of a depressed hacker from his past. Probably the darkest and most depressing story of solitude, travel, homelessness, and hi-tech/low-life existence. What "Cyberpunk" could actually look like anywhere in Eastern Europe - from Poland to Russia.
- File: "The Death of Designer D." is a philosophical concept taking a long shot on politics, justice and friendship.
- Girl Loves a Robot, and perhaps a robot who can love a girl, given his programming version allows it. A really short tale which could be told on a camp-fire with the same success as it can be read from the LCD display of a home PC. Another love story, this time with no major plot or supporting concept, it gives us the impression that the machine can be as alive as any living organism, and sometimes even more -- the illusion one creates for themselves serves as the only necessary bridge to carry us through life to death. Even when time has long passed, what we trust to believe is the only thing that matters at the end. The story-teller could be anyone, could be even TIME - the entity herself. The time, as marriage between technology and man.
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