Zero HP Lovecraft’s technological horror God-Shaped Hole is not as good as his previous work, “The Gig Economy”. It is inventive. Two novel technological ideas are Pygmalion, an AI-powered virtual space for sex that “translates” between genders, bodies, and fetishes, and Spectacle, a social network visualized as avatars of your friends controlled by the computer. The avatars hang out in a 3D space replaying your friends’ public posts and conversations. You can approach one to talk with that friend in real time. Pygmalion can exist, and Spectacle must be the sort of vision that Facebook bought Oculus for. An augmented reality overlay is superimposed on the world, and while this idea is not novel (another Neal Stephenson influence?), it is vividly described.
The novella is appropriately disturbing at times, like technological horror should be. But the tone is, frankly, obnoxious. “The Gig Economy” did not have this problem, at least not nearly to the same extent. “Did you get that reference? Now, a criticism of our degenerate society! Notice the mythological symbolism!” A little more subtlety would help the writing a lot. I also felt The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was misused—possibly on purpose, given the context, but it still felt wrong and jarred with the message of Kadath. It should have been one of the Mythos stories involving travel. If “The Gig Economy” mixed Lovecraft, Borges, and Nick Land with Gibson and Stephenson (though there is already Gibson in Land), God-Shaped Hole mixes them further with Twitter memes and traditionalism as rediscovered by readers of pickup artists. Azathoth becomes the author’s mouthpiece lamenting the collapse of Christian sexual morality. The biggest problem with God-Shaped Hole, though, is simply that it overstays its welcome. It feels twice too long.
The ending is good, possibly the strongest part of the story. At the end we switch perspective and get a glimpse of the broadcasts of CarlTheClassifier, the augmented reality equivalent of a niche anti-establishment YouTuber. It is an instantly recognizable archetype. In his broadcasts Carl uncovers creepy behavior of the augmented reality, a hidden epidemic (the work was published in late 2019—good timing), and how Pygmalion is involved with it all. I liked Carl’s voice. I wanted more of him and less of the actual protagonist.