“Nah,” said Malcolm. “She’s long
had problems in that area, and,” he
leaned forward, speaking quietly,
“some say she’s a good 10 years older
than she claims.”
“Ooh!” I said.
Before long we were squealing and
our drinks were sunk. We blinked out
“My round,” said Malcolm.
“No, mine,” I said.
We had a brief verbal tussle that
ended in us sharing the round. I went
to the bar with him. Malcolm ordered,
then nudged me and glanced at Moira.
I’d blinked away the celebrity gossip
layer. The app went to the next default
“Another bad week for Morton,”
Moira batted her eyelashes.
“Aye,” she said, “but that sliding
tackle the Kilmarnock left half did was
a foul, no doubt about that.”
“Ah come on,” I said. “The ref saw it
and let it go, so McClafferty was ... ”
This well-informed-fan chit-chat
continued as Moira set up three pints
and a gin and tonic. Then she laughed.
“You don’t follow football, do you?”
I shook my head.
“Well, I do,” said Moira, shoving the
drinks across the counter. “But I’ve fall-
en behind a bit since I got interested in
“So what you said about Belgium
wasn’t from Chatter?”
“Of course not.”
I gave her a shamefaced look. “Sorry.”
“That’s what Neil said,” she told me.
She laughed again. “But I’m still seeing
Quick as a flash, I came back with:
“In the library?”
She laughed. “You’ve got the hang of
Chatter all right.”
“No, no,” I said, picking up two
pints. “That was just me.”
“That’s what they all say,” she said.
I deleted the app and went back to
the table with my friends.
Ken MacLeod ( email@example.com) is the
author of 15 novels, from The Star Fraction (Orbit Books,
London, 1995) to The Corporation Wars: Dissidence (Orbit
Books, London, 2016). He blogs at The Early Days of a
Better Nation ( http://kenmacleod.blogspot.com) and
tweets as @amendlocke.
© 2016 ACM 0001-0782/16/02 $15.00
to clusters of widely held views and
agreed-on facts. It then sends visual
and verbal prompts to users, enabling
them to converse confidently on any
topic at any level. Other uses include
fluent ripostes in social interactions
of all kinds.” He blinked then smiled
wryly. “It says here.”
“I don’t see the point,” I said. “Why
would anyone want to just spout re-
“Like they don’t already?” said Don-
ald. “But … don’t turn around, just use
your glasses … there’s Neil gone up to
the bar now, take a look.”
Neil works in the supermarket.
Bright lad, but shy and inarticulate.
Normally he’d barely meet Moira’s eye.
Now he was downright flirting. Moira
was flirting back.
“It’s called the Cyrano de Bergerac
effect,” said Sheena. “The funny thing
is, it works even if all concerned know
what’s going on.”
“People can’t be that shallow,” I said.
Malcolm snorted. “You try it.”
He flicked, and there it was: Chat-
ter, on my glasses and whispering away
in my ear. The first suggested use was
celebrity gossip. Sheena, Donald, and
Malcolm were looking at me expectant-
ly. I let the app stay where it was.
“So, that Alma Stevenson?” I said.
“Do you think she’s really breaking
up with Maxc-D, even after her new
album? And her pregnant and every-
A moment’s pause. “Sure the baby’s
his?” said Donald.
Sheena looked indignant. “Ah,
come on, that’s going too … ”
Photos and captions flashed before
my eyes. “She was seen leaving an IVF
clinic two weeks ago,” I pointed out.
are auditioning to be characters.
The circles overlap. Old Malcolm
the poet was sitting down with Donald and Sheena, a couple who work
the langoustine fishery on the other
side of the headland. Donald waved
me over. Their conversation was, you
might say, heated.
“It’s the long-term temperature
anomaly you have to look at,” said
Sheena. She shot a glance at my drip-
ping parka and damp-patch knees.
“We all know it’s cold outside.”
“Ah, but,” said Malcolm, after a mo-
ment’s hesitation, “the problem with
that is the data corrections, which may
distort the record.”
“That’s all well and good,” said
Donald. He paused, as if to think. “But
there is a lot of evidence that has noth-
ing to do with weather stations or even
satellite data. And we can see that with
our own eyes. Take the population dis-
tribution of sessile mollusca—that’s
shellfish, to you and me—and jelly-
fish. They’re migrating north. Two ki-
lometres a year, on average.”
Sheena nodded. “Aye, and I’ve seen
that myself on what comes up in trawls.
The mussel beds are gone. And the jel-
lyfish are all through the water. It’s
good for us, mind—keeps the seabed
clear for the langoustines and other ed-
ible arthropoda. But you can’t tell me
“Oh, I’m not saying nothing’s hap-
pening,” said Malcolm, hands around
a warming glass of Springbank. “I’m
saying the case for anthropogenic
forcing is by no means as firmly estab-
lished as … ” His thick white eyebrows
lifted. “What are you staring at?”
“All of you,” I said. “What’s got into
you? You’ve always been a bit of a scoff-
er, Mal, and Sheena and Donald the op-
posite, but usually you just yell at each
other. Now you’re all talking like you’ve
“Och, no,” said Donald, as they all
laughed. “We’re on Chatter.”
“Something like Twitter?”
“Not a bit,” said Sheena. “This is in-
formed opinion. It’s … ” She turned to
Malcolm. “You tell him.”
The old poet leaned back and gazed
at the ceiling. “Chatter,” he said, “is
an entirely automated social media
app which aggregates comment from
a wide range of sources and converges
[CONTINUED FROM P. 128]
“Aye,” she said,
“but that sliding
Kilmarnock left half
did was a foul, no
doubt about that.”