philosophy   SF

Review of Mirrormaze - A Dreampunk Anthology

Organized like a maze, the book is a wonderful collection of 29 short stories by 22 authors. The writings are housed in rooms, in which readers can dwell for a while. On the way out, hints are found on how to navigate further through the structure. The motives of Dreampunk pioneers are a bit too oblique to fit today’s even templates of genres like SF, horror and the fantastic, as members of this guild do not primarily dream for the sake of gold, which is king.

According to the legend, the dragon king had a lucid dream and the sleeping mass embraced the alien simulation as its own. Benumbed by vivid spectacle and in its REM phase, man failed to kill the phoney beast irl. Now that it is woke and unbound from the clear guidelines of traditional myth-making, it doubled in strength and even appears immortal. Single knights and their attempts to chop excesses off
are doomed to fail, as the mutant will regrow multiple heads out of lack instantly. Furiously clinging to life and with help of his lawmaking henchmen, it clasps the throne, hiding with stolen cringe information in its dark lair.

Hardly none of the stories feels like overly engineered. Language flows like in dreamscape, where an innate force is taking over to reveal the essence
of everyday’s complexity. Asleep, one is closer to the real than in a certain state of consciousness, where the body is fully occupied with scanning and reacting to its surroundings. The book evokes the positive spirit of fine TV series, like Twilight Zone from the 60s or Black Mirror, which show the struggles between natural and artificial technology through a magnifying glass. The close-ups allow, without prejudiced commentary, for an actual exploration of uncomfortable truths.

Thatcher Maugden and the Dream Witch addresses feminism in most entertaining trad ways, whereas women are true characters in Transmigration, which further deals with LGBT issues and transhumanism. Headaches, one of the unintended side-effects occuring from the latter, are also described in The Dragon’s Nest, where we get to re-cognize the human in the introduction of extra-terrestrial lifeforms. Flight of the Universe is about mental health problems and schizophrenia in the cyberage, suggesting remedy through materiality. In Buffering and Drifters, we get clues on the puppet masters of this hell, who exercise their powers by a combination of advanced simulation technology and PSYOPs. The idea that something else takes total control over one’s life becomes even more terrifying, when valid reasons are denied. With this in mind, Hidden Features focuses on the seductive powers of technology.

A surprising twist awaits in The End of Michael Clement, culminating in the hopeless battle between good and evil, which features an amusing mix of old and new religious figures from the marvel universe. In Nightmare’s End we identify with another protagonist who is coming to terms with time and who has to accept that the boundaries of different states of being are actually fluid. Contemporary literature would be incomplete without folklore and cultural heritage, which is found in Origin, Angel in the Cave and Teacup Koi, envisioning the world with a pinch of animism. So Long is a pitiless philosphical conclusion of the book, where stoplights are an allegory of life and the perennial new beginning.

Life is meant to be a multiplayer RPG, where we pass through countless superficial levels of consciousness, to finally face the final boss in joint action. This book would make great reading group material, as it illustrates philosophical issues without openly revealing them and leaves
plenty room for critical reflexion and discussion. And among the many things I like about Mirrormaze, it just adds pure enjoyment to my daily lunch break.

Written on March 3, 2021