Miles Jensen has a confession to make. To the "true believers", he is the faithful guardian of a website devoted to the late Pete Novotnik, founder of a future-obsessed internet cult. But Miles is not a "true believer" - he only got involved out of a desire to rekindle an affair with Pete's wife, Kay.
Hoping to shock the true believers into a crisis of faith, he decides to reveal his true colours and his dubious role in Pete's death. But when a journalist starts to investigate, Miles is forced to confront the truth about his motives for wanting to undermine the cult and his feelings for Kay.
Thought-provoking with flashes of dry humour, "In the future..." is a dark tale of jealousy, belief and the utopian dreams we project onto technology.
"Thoughtful, intriguing and worthwhile" Tom Lichtenberg
I first met Pete just after I had got my first collection of short stories published. I was on a high, flushed with my first success. At the time, I genuinely believed that this would be the start of a long and illustrious writing career. I was even considering giving up the day job. But that just proved to be wishful thinking.
Pete had contacted me at the suggestion of his wife, Kay, whom I knew from university. I had not seen her for some time and was curious to meet her again. When I say that I “knew her”, I should add that we had been more than just good friends. She was the first girl I had been serious about and there had been something about our brief but intense fling which I had never been able to find in subsequent relationships. So you could say that I was curious to see what had become of her. Curious, I suppose, to see whether my memory of it was merely the product of a particular time and place - or whether there really had been something special between us.
Pete had sent me a polite, rather formal letter, asking if we could meet. He wanted to discuss how to go about getting a publisher for some articles that he had written. I was flattered that he thought I might be able to help. I was also intrigued at the possibility of finding out what had happened to Kay. Rather than meet for a drink, I invited him round to my flat. I had this notion that it would somehow be to my advantage to meet him on my own territory.
The person I saw standing at the door seemed an unlikely candidate for future martyrdom. We are used to our martyrs being depicted as frail, defenceless creatures - which seems in turn to enhance their appearance of piety. But Pete was not stained glass window material; in fact, he was a bit on the chubby side. He was medium height, with very short brown hair, almost a crew cut. This did him no favours, as he had a rather paunchy face and a large nose, which were only accentuated by his short hair. His choice of clothers - a grey T-shirt, faded green combat trousers and trainers - also did little to disguise the fact that he was not in fantastic shape. I was surprised - and secretly rather pleased - that Kay hadn’t married someone better-looking. I invited him in.
“Thanks for agreeing to meet me.” he said. “I’ve, um, read your book,” he added.
“What did you think of it?” I asked.
“Oh, um, I liked it,” he said, although he didn’t sound entirely convinced. I wondered if he had actually read it. As if to prove me wrong, he added: “My favourite story was that one about Oscar Wilde.”
I told him that was my favourite too, even though it wasn’t.
In fact the story wasn’t really about Oscar Wilde as such; it was about a robot called OSCAR, which made people think it was fiendishly intelligent simply by making witty comments from time to time. It was designed to emulate the style of Oscar Wilde, but only in sound-bite fashion. It had a vast library of the great man’s known witticisms at its disposal and was programmed to adapt each one to suit the particular circumstances.