Re: First Tuesday

Prompted by some of the electoral SF we mentioned, I reread “First Tuesday,” by Robert Reed. I remembered it wrong. It’s not about an election, it’s about the first national press conference.

Late in his second term, President Perez is embarking on an experiment to “talk” to all of his constituents at once. The real President Perez is in a vat of goo, and his personality is being replicated to every home with a computer capable of emulating him. After visiting everybody, their questions and conversations will be reintegrated.

The strength of the story is the description. It depicts a future where eating meat is frowned on, computers paint over the surfaces of smaller houses, and there are six heads on Rushmore. There is still white racism, and issues with immigration. Perez himself is a son of immigrants, not to mention African-Latin-American.

The characters fell flat for me. The kid is well-drawn, but familiar. Ditto for his angry, but not violent father. His concerned mother. His slutty big sister in her room with the music turned up. All of them get to talk to Perez, and it’s interesting to watch how it all works, but–it drags. Nothing really happens.  There are some uneasy moments, you don’t get to see any consequences. I didn’t even get a sense that anything or anyone will change.

The funny thing is, while the story jokes about the failure of prediction, it’s a lot closer to the mark than you might have expected, if you read it when it was first published just over a decade ago. Here we have an African-American president-elect, using the Internet to talk to his constituents, with an organization that reintegrates their feedback. Only now everyone has a strong sense that things will change.