Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times, by Baoshu (author), Xueting C. Ni (translator)

Galaxy’s Edge Vol. 13: Secret Room in the Black Domain, published by New Star Press, February 2023 (Chinese cover displayed)

A tycoon, who famously delights in gourmet meals from every cuisine, is invited to a unique experience. It's unique, all right, and he experiences tastes that range from the very good to the truly excellent, to the most stunning ever. Something he has never tasted before.

But there are complications. 

The complications are worked out, though, and a new technology is launched in the world. The AppetAide enables the diner to enjoy a meal with a companion, via video, who has highly developed sensations of taste, scent, and texture, while experiencing, through the AppetAide, the same taste, scent, and texture sensations as that companion. It's not cheap, but not so expensive the average person can't indulge. A young man goes out for a favorite dinner, and chooses the virtual company of his favorite AppetAide companion.

He's an intelligent and observant young man, and he starts noticing something very odd. Complications ensue.

But you can't keep a good technology down, and there are further iterations of the tech. Years later, both the tycoon, and the young man, now middle-aged and a successful businessman himself, are invited to a demonstration of the newest version.

This time the complications are potentially catastrophic.

It's an interesting story, with a conflict that's, to me, grounded in "how do we make this work," more than in conflict between individuals, political powers, or humanity versus nature. The tycoon, and the young man who becomes a middle-aged businessman, feel quite real to me, and worth spending the time with.

This is a 2024 Hugo Awards Best Short Story Finalist.

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