Diabolical Plots #72, February 2021
“A Study of Sage” by Kel Coleman
“Energy Power Gets What She Wants” by Matt Dovey
Reviewed by Geoff Houghton
The February issue of Diabolical Plots contains two stories. Both take place entirely in cyberspace virtual realities.
The opening piece is “A Study of Sage” by Kel Coleman. This story is set a few decades into the future. Cyberspace virtual realities have become sufficiently sophisticated to allow them to be used to rehearse important meetings. The unnamed female protagonist appears to be using such a programme to practice for the break-up of her six year long relationship with her domineering female partner. Repeated failed iterations of the same scene may remind the reader of less technological but similar situations where they have rehearsed conversations in their heads only to find that the reality goes nothing like the internal dialogue. However, the final twist to this otherwise simple story comes when the reader realises the relationship between the time lines of the real and the virtual.
The second offering is “Energy Power Gets What She Wants” by Matt Dovey. Energy Power is the player name of a teenage gamer in an advanced VR simulation game. We never learn her “real” name or country but the game technology is based on a level of artificial intelligence that is several decades more advanced than our current best efforts. Within the game, Energy Power is a deadly, highly competent killer with lightning reflexes and well developed situational awareness, but in the real world she is an angst-ridden friendless teenager. She wants her online companion to be more than just a playing partner, but he has a very male problem. He cannot easily cope with her gaming competence and romance seems to be off before it even starts when she overtakes him on the game leaderboard. The author sympathetically explores the dilemma of a highly competent female having to manage the fragile ego of a marginally less able male without surrendering her own self-respect. It is not essential that the reader is also a participant of role-playing games, but that would certainly help a fuller understanding of this slightly quirky piece.
Geoff Houghton lives in a leafy village in rural England. He is a retired Healthcare Professional with a love of SF and a jackdaw-like appetite for gibbets of medical, scientific and historical knowledge.