Reflections on the world of Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows by N.K. Jemisin
The World of Isolations
Isolations between individuals brought by internet has long been discussed in topics of digital social medias. In most cases, this form of isolation tends to be passive as a result of information flows that break the limitation of locality. It naturally happens when people find themselves more interested in information beyond their surroundings than interacting with their immediate contexts.
In this short story, N.K. Jemisin brought an alternative scenario in which isolation is imposed to everyone as a necessity for a person’s existence in a world after quantum proliferation. As people are no longer able to interact with others in reality, nor to establish intimate connections to other individuals, internet ironically becomes the only portal to perceive the existence of a society. Although online social life avoids physical interactions which may prevent people from evoking intimate connections to others, there are still chances in which people express their sense of intimate emotions through verbs and vanish in their realities like in the case of the main character Helen and her friends.
By depicting details of Helen’s banal life in her apartment, her memories of the world before proliferation, and her inconsistent online social life, the fictional world of isolations is revealed from a personal scale. Through details of Helen’s diet, the furnishing of her apartment, and the rollover mechanism which hardly leave any trace of a person’s life in reality, I can perceive the machine-like domestic setting of the world under isolations, which somehow reminds me of Major Kusanagi’s cell in the anime Ghost in the Shell.
I would imagine the vitality of Helen’s laptop in her life which brings her access to ‘society’. On the other hand, Jemisin does not offer much information on the operation of the world or quantum proliferation at broader scales, which makes the world building quite abstract and triggers me more imaginations of possible scenarios outside of Helen’s place.
One noticeable reminder this world gives me is of the richness of our physical world where interacting and having intimate connections with others is considered norm. In recent years, some coffee shops in old cities of Europe shut off their Wi-Fi services in order to bring back their tradition of using coffee shop as a third place for social interactions rather than laptop-enabled workplace. However, it is hard to tell if their effort can draw back the tendency of cyberspace to take over as the dominant platform for our social life.