“Fragments of a Hologram Rose” is a short story by Nebula Award-winning author William Gibson that was originally published in 1977 in the science fiction magazine Unearth 3.
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The Story: Cycling Though Old Memories To Get Rid Of The Bad Ones
A man named Parker has just gone through the bitter end of a relationship. To cope, he finds himself going through her collection of sense-recordings in order to sleep through the night, and through these recordings, we see his past in tiny bits and how the very nature of sense-recordings have shaped his adult life.
It may not sound terribly exciting with that kind of description, but it has a certain poignancy that I’ll get to in a second.
The Cast: A Lonely Man With Holograms For Company
Parker is a case study of a man in a bleak future. He started out as a young man training to work for a Japanese megacorporation–where he would have had guaranteed housing and income for the rest of his life–but abandoned that career route when he discovered the world of sensorium-recordings that allow someone to see through another’s perceptions. He relies on these recordings as a way of coping with the dystopia that the US has become and the troubles he’s gone through with his ex-girlfriend. He has no real aims and no sense of loyalty to anything except the immediate gratification that his collection of Sense/Net tapes brings.
The Imagery: Alluring As A Rose, Artificial As A Hologram
One of the more interesting things about this story is just the images it evokes in the reader’s mind. In one scene, you might feel as if you’re wading through the wilderness outside some refugee camp in war-torn Southern California at night, and the next scene, you’re back in a cluttered apartment, trying to see if the tapes will work. Parker isn’t much of a character and more of a lens–a way to see the future that he lives in, just as the tapes he uses are a way for him to see new vistas without leaving home.
Final Verdict: Short And Bittersweet
This story is interesting in that it’s more of a recollection of experiences than a linear narrative, and while that might sound like a rather dull piece, it does pull together around a cohesive spirit of memory and the contrast between so-called reality and a tape of sense-recordings.
Bibliography: Gibson, William. “Fragments of a Hologram Rose.” Burning Chrome. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1986.