the Little Red Reviewer

The Emoticon Generation, by Guy Hasson

Posted on: February 22, 2013

emoticonThe Emoticon Generation by Guy Hasson

published in 2012

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks!!)

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Guy Hasson is an all around imaginative man. He lives and works in Israel, publishes short fiction in Hebrew, English (and ocassionally Spanish and German), writes plays and short films.  This is the second collection of stories I’ve read by him. Many of his stories have a journalistic feel to them, where the characters attempt (sometimes successfully, but mostly not) to investigate something in a non-biased way.  His collection Secret Thoughts was about how people deal with naturally ocurring telepathy, and his newest collection, The Emoticon Generation, is about the intersection of people and technology. I should have expected it would be weirder and more dangerous than the intersection of people and telepathy!

What makes this new collection so compelling is that with today’s technology we’re only a few years away from many of these stories becoming non-fiction.  A new texting language for teens, hacking into CCTV systems, brain scans that offer secrets of how minds words, we’re on the cusp of much of this.  These are character driven stories, and it’s  nice to see characters who demand to know what’s happening and take steps to find out, instead of passively allowing things to happen to them.  The truth might set us free, but sometimes it shatters us first.

Hasson has a nice handful of stories for free on his website, and I’ve linked below the ones in this collection that are available.  His writing in subtly complex, where at first the story appears simple, but by the time you get to the end of it, you realize this is a tale that will stick with you for a long time.  Two of the stories in The Emoticon Generation that hit me in that way were The Assassination and Hatchling. Here are my thoughts on those two stories and a few others:

The Assassination – Aryeh Shamgar is a national hero. Schoolchildren learn about him, documentaries have been made about him. Nearing the end of his life, Shamgar is sick of answering the same questions over and over and over again about his role in the war. He assassinated the right person and the right time and turned the tide of events, he was the perfect soldier. Why should the specific reasons behind his orders matter?  A new technology allows scientists to record and listen to audio of events that occurred many decades ago. Shamgar is about to hear the real reason he’s a national hero.  To tell you anymore would ruin the twist.  You think this is a war story, but it’s not, not at all.

Hatchling – Glynis Hatch wants only one thing for her birthday – to know who her father is. Her mother refuses to answer her questions, her homeschooling tutor refuses to answer her questions.  Was her father a criminal? Was he abusive? What could possibly be so bad that no one will tell her anything? Glynis will just have to find the answers herself, by eavesdropping, hacking into publicCams, and doing everything possible.  As the secrets  becoming larger and more complex, I began to really feel for Glynis, to fear for her. Something very dark is happening here, and it can’t end well. This was a very powerful story for me; I didn’t want Glynis to get hurt, she’s never done anything wrong, why can’t her happy life just continue?  I had my guesses as to who and what she was, but Hasson takes the story in a refreshingly different direction, and gives it a terrifying shocker of an ending.

Generation E: The Emoticon Generation - a father spies on his teen daughter to find that at least she’s not getting texts from strangers. But what are these thousands of icons and emoticons she’s sending and receiving?  The father, a journalist, decides that instead of confronting his daughter, he’ll research and investigate what all these teens are up to, in hopes he’ll learn her language.   His research first leads him to a young poet in the desert,  then to an experts in language development who discuss how metaphors evolved when humanity had a smaller vocabulary. I’m a nut for etymology and lexicon, so I got a kick out of the discussions on language. And that’s the thing with communication – if it works (and for the teens in the story, these weird icons and emoticons sure are working!) it doesn’t matter that it sounds silly or that us old farts just don’t get it.

Freedom In Only A Step Away – A  family watches as news stories unfold about a scientist who has discovered how imagination works. How come children are so overly imaginative and us grown ups seem to have forgotten how to imagine? Why is using our imagination important for our well being?  The scientist on the news doesn’t give any concrete answers (he hasn’t finished his research yet),, and  the news anchors insist on dumbing down everything he says and getting a sexy news story out of the whole thing. Have you see that graphic floating around that shows how the media assumes causation when a scientist says two things might possibly be connected?  the commentary on how the media dumbs everything down would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, and  I found the commentary about the newsmedia more effective than the plot line about our imagination.  As with so many incomplete news stories (are byproducts in pet food killing your cat? will eating nothing but grapefruit make you look like a supermodel?) first people completely overreact, swinging from one extreme to the other.  this story kinda dragged after a while, and as I became increasingly entertained by the useless of the newsmedia, I because less interested in what I think the story was supposed to be about – that as adults, it’s very easy to sabotage our own imaginations and our own well being, and that the solution is to seek a balance, and to turn off the damn news!

Her Destiny - when Tony’s wife Tony (yes, they have the same first name, spelled the same way) dies in a freak accident, he’ll do anything to get her back.  Tony’s company, Eternity Plus, is developing a method of downloading a person’s brain into a computer. They’re able to get only the last 10 seconds of Tony’s life, which her mourning husband analyzes over and over again. Having both spouses have the same name with the same spelling was a turn off, and felt like a gimmick. BUT, this story is really neat, so I was able to get past it. As Tony digs deeper into the last seconds of his wife’s life, he’s able to glean more and more images our of her mind, things that she was thinking about as she was dying. It’s understandable that Tony was thinking of her dead mother, but how is it that there are people she’s never met in those images? People she couldn’t have ever met?  Tony (the husband) believes in destiny, he knows that certain things are supposed to happen at certain times in his life.  what if he’s been wrong all this time, or just looking in the wrong direction? 

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9 Responses to "The Emoticon Generation, by Guy Hasson"

Sounds like a very interesting collection of stories, as does the first one you referenced. I hadn’t heard of this author, but that is hardly surprising given that my own personal opinion and experience is that we are in a real boom time of short fiction all across the spectrum of genres. And I love that. Short stories are a special pleasure and when they are done well they are real gems.

These near-future stories can be so creepy just because of how close they are to reality, especially if they are examining a reality that we don’t feel comfortable with. For all the truly wonderful things about our current technological state I think there are many negatives as well, and ones that could become more so depending on the direction events take.

I’ll make a note to check out a few of the free ones. Love it when authors have samples of their work somewhere to check out.

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I wish Hasson was published in more American/British magazines and anthologies, so more people would know who he is. Good thing there is us bloggers to spread the word!

I’ve read more short fiction in the last 6 months than I have in my entire life. I’m running across more and more authors that *only* do short fiction, so if I want to experience them, I gotta step out of my comfort zone of long novels.

Not only does Hasson have some free fiction on his site, he’s got them in English, Spanish, and Hebrew! how cool is that??

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I don’t tend to do collections, but this sounds very interesting, and as that I know your taste in Banks, I think I’ll have to give this a whirl…

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[...] A while ago I reviewed Guy Hasson’s latest short story collection, THE EMOTICON GENERATION. Everything from an even quicker than twitter language to seeing the last moments of a loved one’s life, to how to deal with immature artificial intelligences that become too smart for their own good, the technologies Hasson plays with in these stories are right around the corner, making some of them too close for comfort. Curious? go read my review. [...]

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[...] go towards the end of April. I’ve finished the book already and am excited to write about it. Here is Little Red’s review, just to get things [...]

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[...] The Emoticon Generation, by Guy Hasson (littleredreviewer.wordpress.com) [...]

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[...] his characters use and react to them.  “These are character driven stories,” says Andrea in in her own review, “and it’s nice to see characters who demand to know what’s happening and take steps to find [...]

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[...] have something to do with computers and the web, and that Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer loved it. I’d expected to enjoy it, based on Andrea’s recommendation, but what I hadn’t [...]

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