Trying to remember dystopian book title?
August 29, 2011 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Trying to remember a dystopian sci-fi book, society had the technology to record mental experiences which allowed people to experience good things such as beaches/vacations but also "bad" things such as prostitution/drugs/murder. Anyone know the name of this book?

I have an inkling this is a Philip K Dick book, but I can't find anything about this in the googles. Thanks all!
posted by tubling to Writing & Language (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you 100% sure it wasn't a movie? You've described Strange Days perfectly.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 10:21 PM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's also the plot of a few films, Strange Days for example.
posted by Iteki at 10:22 PM on August 29, 2011

Also Brainstorm.
posted by empath at 10:31 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: I've never seen either of those, I'm pretty sure it was literature, but its getting so warm I can taste it... :] I think a lot of these kind of themes are rinsed and repeated, haha.
posted by tubling at 10:42 PM on August 29, 2011

Since you mention Dick, is it possible you are thinking of We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (spoilers at link), the story on which the movie Total Recall was loosely based?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:51 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This was a plot device in Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City, IIRC.
posted by XMLicious at 11:07 PM on August 29, 2011

I've never seen either of these either and I've definitely read the book you are describing. My recollection has to do with people who were really good at experiencing these things and having high paid jobs where their memories were recorded so that they could be replayed for people with the money to purchase them, adn then they got stuck in these jobs somehow?

I think they were called "stims" (thought this may be wrong) and this points to Gibson but it was definitely way past Neuromancer or Count Zero. I feel like I read it in the past five years. Maybe it was a short story? And it wasn't that Dick one, at least not the way I'm remembering it. It's not Slant is it?
posted by jessamyn at 11:10 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going off of jessamyn raising the possibility of Gibson, could it be Fragments of a Hologram Rose?
posted by zer0render at 11:13 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, lots of great reading/watching material posted! Jessamyn what you are describing seems to fit the bill. But although Gibson's stuff is on my 'to read' list I've never read any of his stuff. I'm thinking it may have been a short story, I "read" a lot of the librivox short science fiction collections but can't find it in those either. Conrad the 'We Can Remember' book you posted reminds me of another short SF story about a traveling merchant in a space ship common room with an entire city shrunk down and put in his briefcase. I need to keep better track of what I've read...
posted by tubling at 11:18 PM on August 29, 2011

I came across this thread while watching Strange Days. Are you in my head?
posted by maximum sensing at 11:27 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: zer0render that short story seemed like it could've been in the same series as the story I'm thinking of. The story I'm thinking of, from what I remember actually went in to detail about trying to enforce laws against recording experiences in areas such as strip clubs and brothels, because once that experience was recorded, anyone could experience it, for a price, if the experience got leaked on the black market. Once again, back to what jessamyn described, but I don't believe it was Gibson.
posted by tubling at 11:29 PM on August 29, 2011

Older than cyberpunk -- the idea dates back at least as far as Asimov's short story "Dreaming is a Private Thing" from the '50s.
posted by snarkout at 11:39 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: "You dream for a thousand million people every time you dream." That's neat. I'm sure the story I'm thinking of wouldn't exist without Asimov. I believe the story I'm thinking of had more of a cassette/disc/chip/chord inserted into some kind of brain or head modification and used a download/upload type system, similar to the knowledge and skill set downloads on the Matrix.
posted by tubling at 11:50 PM on August 29, 2011

I think they were called "stims" (thought this may be wrong) and this points to Gibson but it was definitely way past Neuromancer or Count Zero. I feel like I read it in the past five years. Maybe it was a short story? And it wasn't that Dick one, at least not the way I'm remembering it. It's not Slant is it?

Stims existed in Neuromancer, but they weren't major plot points. The plot in Mona Lisa Overdrive revolves around a Stim star, but the world and some of the characters come from the other books.
posted by delmoi at 1:57 AM on August 30, 2011

I want to say this is a Spider Robinson story, I can't remember if it was a novel or a short-story, and I may be wrong. It would be at least 20 years old.
posted by maxwelton at 3:45 AM on August 30, 2011

Pat Cadigan's Mindplayers, maybe? Did it have anything to do with replacing the eyes to do the uploads?
posted by pie ninja at 3:52 AM on August 30, 2011

Some of the descriptions reminded me of Standard Loneliness Package by Charles Yu but upon re-reading not enough of the details match (and in some ways it's pretty much the opposite, as the employees are paid middling salaries and have to endure banal or uncomfortable situations).
posted by bcwinters at 4:27 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dreamweaver's Dilemma by Lois McMaster Bujold? Weird shit, female main character?
posted by geek anachronism at 4:32 AM on August 30, 2011

It sounds like you're talking about "Good Night, Sophie," by Lino Aldani. It's in this collection. Text here.
posted by valkyryn at 4:50 AM on August 30, 2011

Stims? Are you remembering Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan?
posted by hms71 at 5:32 AM on August 30, 2011

Seconding Pat Cadigan as a possibility: her early cyberpunk books Mindplayers and Synners feature folks who work in the recordable memory industry as entertainers, hackers, criminals, psychologists, etc.
posted by mediareport at 5:35 AM on August 30, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, all these are extremely simliar, but not quite what I'm thinking of. Strange that Cadigan wrote Hallmark cards for 10 years. Also, a link between a lot of these suggestions is many have won the Philip K Dick Award. Neat.
posted by tubling at 7:22 AM on August 30, 2011

I actually remember reading the book too. I think it may be a Robert Sheckley story. Maybe this one??
posted by JJ86 at 9:46 AM on August 30, 2011

It could also be Immortality, Inc, an earlier Sheckley novel.
posted by JJ86 at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2011

This instantly made me think of The Extremes, by one of my favourite "ideas" authors: Christopher Priest.

From the link:

The Extremes is a book about such violence--it's horror, the sheer bad luck of being its victim, and the anguish it causes to those left behind. It is also a book about virtual reality, and is set in a not-so-distant future in which events of violence can be experienced by anyone prepared (or able) to pay for the privilege.

After her husband has been violently killed in the U.S., Teresa Simons returns to the land of her birth and visits Bulverton, a (fictional) town on the south coast of England which has recently been torn apart by a massacre. She discovers that the ExEx or Extreme Experience virtual reality equipment she used as an FBI trainee has become public "entertainment" put together from people's memories of specific events by vast international companies (and also by shareware programmers). As she becomes embroiled in researching past events in Bulverton, virtual and true realities intertwine with disturbing outcomes.

posted by Decani at 10:31 AM on August 30, 2011

I can't help with the primary question, but I can at least tell you that the story with the city in the briefcase is very likely The Crystal Crypt, which is Philip K Dick.
posted by tau_ceti at 11:22 AM on August 30, 2011

Could it be something from Effinger's Budayeen series?
posted by The otter lady at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2011

Response by poster: I don't think its Mindswap, thats funny that the main character is Marvin the Martian, I don't believe the characters were aliens though. I don't remember killings as a necessity for these experiences as in Immortality Inc. The Extremes and Budayeen both seem awesome but I haven't read either of those either... And yes tau_ceti The Crystal Crypt was the shrunken space city story I was thinking of! Theres that one at least.
posted by tubling at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2011

Kiln People and A Million Open Doors have some vague similarities :)
posted by Jacen at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2011

I'm pretty sure it was Tim Scott's Outrageous Fortune.

review here
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:48 AM on August 31, 2011

Maybe the short story "Home Movies", by Mary Rosenblum: Kayla is a professional who rents herself to get experiences that are then removed permanently from her consciousness and transferred to the buyer. (Summary of premise from its appearance in Year's Best SF 12, Hartwell and Cramer eds.) A more detailed description here, probably detailed enough for you to recognize if this is the one you're after. It does sound like the story jessamyn describes.

There's another short story I can't find right now, about a similar technology but using imagined experiences; the ability to imagine in sufficient detail belongs only to a few. It's a very short story, following one of those few working through something like writer's block. It ends with the person imagining a mermaid grabbing his fishing line, I think. Not dystopian, though.
posted by stebulus at 2:08 PM on August 31, 2011

I think that this is a pretty common plot device. John Barnes wrote a book called Mother of Storms that, as you might guess from the title, is primarily about climate change (and probably shouldn't be read by anyone who's been affected by Irene or any other violent storm), but also has as an important subplot based in what you're talking about: one of the characters is tracking down someone who arranged to have his daughter raped and murdered so that he could experience the event from her perspective, something that he's done to more than one girl.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:57 PM on August 31, 2011

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