It was one of those nights, I quickly decided, when you slip into an alternate continuum, a city that looks exactly like the one where you live, except for the peculiar difference that it contains not one person you know or love or have even spoken to before.
The Winter Market is a short story written by William Gibson, included in the anthology Burning Chrome.
It's set in Vancouver and it's narrated in first person by Casey, a technician working for the Autonomic Pilot studio. He doesn't do audio recordings: Casey taps directly the minds of a few selected people, artists who can put on tape their dreams for everybody else to enjoy.
The story isn't about technology though - true to the cyberpunk style, complex machines are only a thickly woven background.
Winter Market is actually a story of superhuman hate and despair, personified by a frail, sick girl with a terrible goal; a girl whose frightening singlemindedness burns through the pages of the story.
Yes, Lise is an excellent artist, and her recording "The Kings of Sleep" goes triple-platinum and makes everybody rich. And no, she doesn't care about money or fame; from the first page (the story is told in flashback) it's clear that there is no happy ending.
Because she was dead, and I'd let her go. Because, now, she was immortal, and I'd helped her get that way. And because I knew that she'd phone me, in the morning.
As usual for Gibson, even the secondary characters are well developed; consider Rubin, the gomi no sensei (master of junk) who builds modern art constructs out of discarded equipment, and programs them to insult people. He keeps a fatherly eye on Casey as the story unfolds, dispensing wisdom while gobbling pakistani food.
He's devoted to the place. He loathes the
Greek counterman; it's mutual, a real relationship. If
the counterman leaves, Rubin might not come back.
Gibson also points out the tight link between genius and technology: had Lise been born a few decades earlier, she would have died mute, without the instruments to express her talent.
Consider somebody with the musical genius of Mozart, born in ancient Rome; consider Da Vinci born in a village in Africa. There could be millions of phenomenal artists in the world right now, unable to talk to us because their voices will be invented fifty years from now.
In the end, Lise gets what she wants. We are left with the aftertaste that she will be unable to find peace, that she will have to continue her struggle, fueled by the darkness that eats her.