One of the things about William Gibson‘s work that I have always loved is that the cyberpunk dystopia came with a strong aesthetic move. The world might be shit and you might have to live in the trauma, but at least you can patchwork your skin or polish yourself or cut your body into whatever shape you please. The personal aesthetic is the political.
Theodoridou’s story hinges on the aesthetic, and where Gibson always has a kind of political individualism* involved in the “exist how you like” personal aesthetics, “AWDC” instead leans into growth. In this world, androids grow nacre, or mother of pearl, all along their bodies. They become rigid, they become fashion statements, and their aesthetics infiltrate the rest of society. “AWDC” is this slice of Gibson done better, and it’s an excellent experience to read a story that surpasses a great in a very specific way.
The nacre is an assertion of non-death. The world that Theodoridou has crafted is vague. We’re in a country where images of death have been outlawed. A Massacre Market exists for the sale of religious objects, photographs, films. The General leads them all, and they slaughter the students, and the only way you would know is from the black market.
It’s a weird intersection of concepts, and I’m not sure it all congeals into something coherent in the end, but I’m a sucker for a distributed narrative told in fragments from different sources.
This has been a weird conceptual summary. I like the story. Go read it.
*I’ve edited this to say “individualism” instead of “libertarianism” because it’s more specific and closer to what I actually mean there.