“CES 2067” by Sam Biddle
Reviewed by Joshua Berlow
In this satire the protagonist is in conflict with himself. He’s at a Consumer Electronics Show in 2067. He’s hungry and the air is so bad he can barely breathe. His consumer electronics appliance, his “rectangle,” is obsolete and this makes him feel sorely inadequate. However he successfully manages to convince himself that he’s loving the future – with the help of cocaine vapor.
Initially I was put off by this tale, because it doesn’t have much overt conflict and I found the future world sketchily drawn and too depressingly dystopian. However, if you look at “CES 2067” as a satire on a contemporary consumer electronics show, it has its merits. Sam Biddle is making a valid point with his “rectangles.” These are the absolutely necessary personal tech devices of the future, and yet it’s not clear exactly what they do. Nowadays with everyone constantly fiddling with cell phones, it’s hard to imagine that not long ago no one had them. Are they really as necessary as we think? Are they like the “rectangles” in this story, and really don’t do much at all? Sam Biddle also mentions a future consumer device known as “Shouting Hats” which don’t seem pleasant, much less desirable.
The science fiction of this story isn’t as much a prediction of how bad things will be in 2067 as it is a sharp satire on our distressing present. At this consumer electronics show, political prisoners fight to the death, and the winner gets a “Limited Special Edition HHHHHHHHHC-81, eight inches across and tinted dark grey.” Facebook personnel are heavily armed. Jeff Bezos has a university named after him. More tantalizing tidbits comprise the details of this dystopian future. My favorite future tantalizing tidbit: “buyer’s remorse had been chemically cured and criminalized.”
I would have liked the story better if these future details had been tied together with a clearer story line. However as a satire on trade shows this “dispatch” works, particularly if you think trade shows are a waste of time. I don’t think trade shows are all that terrible, but I’m sure Sam Biddle has been to more of them than I have and the novelty wore off.