An aspiring author gets a chance to study at the feet of a writer who he has long admired, only to find the reality does not live up to his expectations. He is smitten by a fellow workshop-attendee, but throughout is unable to get the words out, or carry out the actions that he plays through in his head. Years later they meet up again, and he remains every the dreamer. The far future setting has humanity in reduced circumstances, uploaded AIs taking over what was Earth orbit, and the fiction being created is interactive, with the reader engaging with the narrative and choosing story-branches – but with speculative fiction looking to the future being a long-lost milieu.
The story reads somewhat like one I’d expect to see from a new writer, produced for a workshop. There are several ideas in there, but it’s never clear what is the author’s focus or intention. The idea of young people sharing dorms and getting naked in front of each other comes across as almost a juvenile conceit, or one from times long past (Heinleinian), and there’s a lot of conversation.
It’s not up to his last story in F&SF link, and wonder if Oberndorf is being very, very clever in terms of writing in the style of a novice writer!