Title: Circuit Theory
Author: Kirby Crow & Reya Starck
Length: 13k words
Genre: m/m Futuristic, Alternate World Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, HFN, Virtual World
Rating: Pretty Good
Attraction is binary.
Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.
In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.
Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.
Though remarkable in it’s objective and how it accomplishes that, this short story still left me unsatisfied, perhaps because I approached this story from a Romance perspective. I’ll explain in a bit why I feel that way, but right off I’d like to say that I’d like for everyone to read this, simply because I suspect that just about reader will have a different reaction to the story. That is such a wonderful thing, but that also means that my opinion in this review might be even more subjective than in a typical review, so I urge you to decide for yourself.
Taking place in Synth, a virtual world governed only by the carefully construed facade of each player, the real objective of Circuit Theory seems to be the metaphor of the growing disconnect between people and our world. In many ways satirical, it is a reflection of the virtual online communities we have today at the same time as a fundamental discussion of human nature and self-reflection. Dante and Byron spend time in this world together. Their long-term relationship is real and at the same time unreal because of the inherent distance between them by nature of the game. In real life they live thousands of miles away from one another, in space as well as emotional and social development. A “real” relationship would never work, their lives would simply not mesh, but in Synth they can and do because they make their own rules.
What works well with this story (aside from the admirable world created in such a short format) is the psychology of forming a relationship that is at once closer and more distant than a flesh and blood connection. This is done by the internal struggles they have that many couples have (issues with damaging exes, jealousy, and power struggles) and also by exploring Synth and the characters they encounter there, a large part shown through “Sexxy,” who requires a psychological dissection that I don’t want to get into here! The augmented virtual community is a metaphor of our separation from the world around us and the safety of a controllable, veiled reality.
My difficulties with the story arose from the execution of that metaphor through Dante and Byron’s relationship. It is a real connection between people, though inherently flawed, and I don’t think that they were given the chance to explore exactly why that is or what they’d do about it. It had the feeling of stagnancy, a relationship going nowhere. And even though I felt like this was beside the point of the story, I couldn’t seem to completely disregard it. In the end, I think that the exploration of that even just a little further, whether the outcome for their relationship is good or bad, would have underscored and solidified the story. For that reason, it might be difficult for some readers to connect to the romance in the story.
I really liked these guys, and though I could do without more “Sexxy”, this story would be perfect for expansion. As it stands, it made me consider again our attachment to technology and is great for discussion. Recommended.