Jason K. Chapman. The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown. (Asimovs February 2014)

asimovs201402A story that has a retro feel to in a variety of ways, not always good.

Oxford Brown elects to engage the services of AfterLyf as he approaches his final days. This means that his mind will be scanned and he will be upload to a virtual afterlife – where he will join his beloved wife, who predeceased him, and who he sorely misses.

Duly uploaded (spoilers ahead) he seeks his wife, who has chosen to hide in the strange virtual afterlife, rather than to be there to greet his arrival. Oxford struggles with the virtual world, which just feels a little like one that might have been imagined a decade or two ago as it feels rather old-fashioned.

Traditionalist Oxford eschews a lot of what is on offer, to seek out his wife who he duly finds. There is a revelation about his wife, who is spending her afterlife with another woman, the woman she loved from college days but for whom any relationship was not an option due to the social mores at the time. Oxford was clearly not her first (or main love).

All fine and dandy up to this point, but then the wife chooses loyalty to her husband and is willing to leave her partner to take up with Oxford, to in effect do the honourable thing. And it is left to the magnanimous male, Oxford, to decide that his wife should really spend eternity with her true love, not with himself. Which really made me wince a little…

More from this issue of Asimov’s here, recent issues of Asimov’s here, and an issue by issue index of Asimov’s from 2000 here.

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