‘Froggy Goes Piggy’ by Jo L. Walton

This is a wonderfully written story and a harrowing cry for change. In the near-future, as precarity becomes ever more pervasive, our protagonist Narnia encounters a cruel irony. Diagnosed with cancer, working freelance selling motion-captures of herself to pay her bills – oh, not healthcare bills, just food, travel, childcare etc. – Narnia finds that the avatar animating her rejection for cancer treatment was modelled by herself at the beginning of the story in her motion-capture rig. Narnia’s cryptocurrencies take the shape of a frog and then a pig, allowing for an extensive meditation on money’s physiognomy beyond mere number. The plaintive call for an end to free-market ideology at the text’s close rams a brand-new anterior insular cortex up your nose before delivering a near-fatal bear-hug:

It just gets worse. We really have stop. It just gets worse. It’s not even the dying that’s the problem. […] Something else happens soon, and I can’t even get into it. […] It’s all to do with the Childcare Commons. Competition between providers in any market incentivises them to raise their game, offering consumers a greater choice of more innovative and better quality products and services at lower cost. Childcare is no exception. Please. We have to stop. This has to stop. We can do better. We will. We have to stop this. This has to stop. This story starts with us.

In The Long and Short, 14th July 2016)