The short story “Surprise Party” by James Patrick Kelly was published for the first time in 2008.
Mercedes Nunez is an actress who is preparing to celebrate her 51st birthday. She’s no longer a young girl and her fans tend to be elderly men but she’s still in great shape. Through her implants, someone is watching what she does and she wonders who’d be interested to her birthday party.
“Surprise Party” takes place at a time towards the end of the 21st century identified a bit vaguely stating that Ray Kurzweil, born in 1948, is over one hundred and thirty. In the coming decades technological advances will affect show business as well with the possibility to provide the complete sensations of the actors through neurality.
The audience will be able to interface with the actors to share not only their acting because their lives will become reality shows in which fans will receive directly their sensations. This will totally change the audience’s experience but also the actors’ as they’ll be able to interact with their fans in some new ways.
James Patrick Kelly focuses on the more introspective side of that new type of show by examining the consequences of neurality on the relationships among people. The actress Mercedes Nunez’s birthday becomes a way to examine her way of relating to her fans but also with other people with new implications and complications.
Because of the direct access to her sensations, the relationship between Mercedes Nunez and her fans can become too intimate and ambiguous. In this sense, technology stresses today’s situation, where celebrities’ lives are already in the spotlight almost constantly.
In this situation, even Mercedes Nunez’s love life is affected. The story shows the influence on the management of emotions and feelings of this new technology. People remained the same but the situation in which they live is different, especially for celebrities.
As with any technology, changes are for better or for worse. Neurality could add some problems to interpersonal relationships but the possibility of a birthday surprise will still exist. The positive side can prevail if the human side will maintain its importance, at the end of the century like today. James Patrick Kelly is focused on that element and in my opinion that’s what makes “Surprise Party” interesting. It’s also available in an ebook edition on Amazon USA, Amazon UK and Amazon Canada.