The Book: “Spectator Sport” by John D. MacDonald. Originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950. Read in Science Fiction Omnibus, edited by Groff Conklin, published by Berkeley Books in 1956.
The Setting: Earth, the future.
The Story: A time traveler is upset that no one notices him, but finds himself in a position envied by most of the future residents.
The Science: The story revolves around virtual reality, but a very immersive sort that involves getting lobotomized and wired up. It’s sort of like being addicted to your Blackberry, but way more fun (except for the part where they flay your hands…). It’s a perceptive look at the future, one that might be easier to imagine today when so many people spend their time in non-physical based pursuits.
The Reaction: Short, quick, fun. It’s the right length for the story. No one gets fully developed, but that’s not the point. The point is: The future sucks more than the present, Cold War and all.
The Cover: It’s an anthology and clearly this cover has nothing to do with this story, but it’s gorgeous. I mean, look at all those spaceships! And they’re such space age spaceships of the future. Love it. But I’m a sucker for retro-future spaceships and rayguns.
Next Up: “To People a New World” by Nelson Bond.