Diabolical Plots #24, February 2017
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
In a near future where technology has been perfected to the point where an individual’s persona can be downloaded into a fully functional, life-like body and then can learn as it goes (it’s also able to track the host person from whom its template was derived via GPS, for real-time interfacing when the host wishes to speak directly with anyone), an old man (age 88) is beseeched by his daughter (age 60)—a scientist working halfway around the world in China, and via her avatar who lives with him—to come visit. Not wishing to intrude on her time due to the nature of the valuable project she is working on, he declines. There is more behind his refusal, but is the reason he gives her.
The story is more a vignette, a short slice of life piece, a quiet meditation on distance and time and missed loved ones, and how a combination of technological advances culminating in the form of a humanoid avatar might alter our traditionally human ways of thinking about, or dealing with those we love, due to an unintended seduction leading to complacency—and that maybe, just maybe, we end up discovering—or better yet, reaffirming our belief that there’s no substitute for the real thing. This easily read short story evokes the general feel of some of Bradbury’s early work when it comes to the man/machine question; that interface with our creations with which he dealt in various ways and from different points of view throughout his life.
At just under 2,000 words “The Avatar In Us All” is worth a read.
Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award six times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV. He lives in Kansas City, MO.