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A Retrofuture Worth Visiting

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Dec 6, 2018: It’s not often that I find a story that is both intellectual and thoroughly amusing at the same time. Smart humor is often rare, because it’s so difficult to juggle good jokes with intelligent banter.

Enter case and point: ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture. For now, we’ll refer to it in its current arc, The Social Media Killer.

Think of this story as a sort of sci-fi political pulp story. It fits well into the realm of stories like Transmetropolitian, though far, far less abrasive.

The story in question revolves around 22-year old slacker and layabout Morgan Harding, who works a job they despise and dreams of leaving the town of Atlanta and their old life behind. Morgan’s friends include the bubbly and always energetic Karina, and snarky robot ally R8PR. The setting is pretty interesting; it’s a strange futuristic take on Atlanta that both mocks and embraces the internet-dependent culture that we human beings have grown so accustomed to.

It’s silly, yet smart. Ridiculous yet composed. A real cocktail of ideas that works so well just as it draws you into its zaniness.

The current arc, The Social Media Killer, revolves around a murder mystery that doesn’t actually involve murder. Famous people and other celebrities find themselves being "murdered", i.e their social lives and and careers being maimed as their crimes and past misdeeds are shown for all the world to see on the internet. After Morgan’s apartment gets ransacked by men assuming he has ties to the killer, he goes on his own search for answers and invariably draws Karina and R8PR with him. All the while, we’re reminded of how much he wants to leave Atlanta, and its amusing to think that the only reason he hasn’t left is because of this.

What follows is a sort of grounded piece of detective fiction that neverthless knows how to throw in a good bit of political sci-fi fun. Some pretty amazing reveals follow, and I think one of the author’s greatest strengths is in how easily they’re able to get us invested in the characters. Morgan and Karina are a great duo, and many other characters like Morgan’s sister Marge and especially R8PR become memorable only after their first appearance.

One little thing I noticied, is the ambiguity of Morgan’s gender. I assumed he was a he, but even as a I go back and read the story, it’s not so apparent. I would normally put this as a deteriment, since it’s a part of a character that I can’t quantify, and thus is makes me slightly less invested, but I’ll honestly go back and say it’s a strength to the story. Morgan’s character isn’t necessairly held down by something simple like gender, and I think it makes them stronger because of it.

That could just be a reader’s opinion, of course. Judge for yourself in the end.

To conclude, this is a great story. Phenomenal, possibly. Unique, fun, well-written and bereft with intrigue and well-realized characters. It’s well worth a read and I can only imagine where the writer will take it from here.

Final score: 4.5/5

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