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This way to the Yeer 2000.
And then the founder gets murdered. Crap.
Since the British government has a lot of futuristic ambition -- not to mention money -- invested in the town, they send their top investigator, Richard Jeperson, and his assistant Vanessa along to investigate exactly what went wrong. And as they dig deeper, it begins to become apparent that the future isn't quite as great as everyone anticipated...
Can be read here.
This short story contains examples of the following tropes:
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: One of the tropes invoked in Tomorrow Town, with the Big Thinks computer matching compatible people. There is suspicion that the process isn't as objective as it's supposed to be, particularly after Varno Zhoule was matched with a woman who wasn't interested in him and was in fact already married to another man -- who is now the chief suspect in Zhoule's murder.
- Cool but Inefficient: Pretty much everything in Tomorrow Town.
- Cut the Juice: The anti-climax version; the villain's mad attempt to destroy the community by having Big Thinks overclock the climate control is thwarted when Big Thinks helpfully informs the heroes that they might want to pull Circuit Breaker 15 about now.
- Domed Hometown: Tomorrow Town is, naturally, one of these. Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, it turns out to be impractical.
- Evolutionary Levels: The inhabitants of Tomorrow Town like to think they've evolved beyond their 1970s contemporaries. They haven't.
- Fantastic Racism: Outsiders are referred to -- rather dismissively -- as 'yesterday men'. As Richard notes, for a supposedly perfect and evolved egalitarian society that's quite an antiquated and elitist attitude.
- Food Pills: Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, they don't work as well as they're supposed to. So much so that, by the end of the story, everyone in town is eagerly awaiting the arrival of an old-fashioned fish-and-chip van so they can have some proper food for once.
- Genre Deconstruction: of futuristic Crystal Spires and Togas ideas.
- I Want My Jetpack: No you don't, because if this story's correct, then like everything else that classic science fiction loved to speculate about it'd be completely impractical and wouldn't work.
- Instant AI, Just Add Water: Subverted.
- The Killer Was Left-Handed: Inverted; one of the suspects is explicitly ruled out because she's left handed.
- Master Computer: Big Thinks is supposed to be one of these. Turns out, it's actually just a contemporary computer with lots of bits added on -- essentially, good at doing sums, but pretty crappy at almost everything else. This doesn't stop the credulous futurists from treating it as if it's some kind of hyper-advanced A.I, however; they end up getting it to do things it has no place doing, such as arbitrating love affairs. Ironically, however, these very limitations mean that when the villain tries to use it to destroy the community, Big Thinks runs an error program and alerts the heroes to exactly what they need to do to shut it down.
- Miscarriage of Justice: When Richard and his assistant Vanessa arrive, they learn that the townspeople have already imprisoned a suspect, who they insist must be the killer, citing that he never really fitted in to the community and that the murder weapon was found in his house. Later that night, one of most enthusiastic promoters of this theory tries to kill the detectives, but accidentally manages to kill himself instead. Richard then notes rather dryly that if one of the most enthusiastic proponents of "the first guy did it!" theory later tries to kill the investigating detectives, it's a fairly safe bet that there's an injustice going on.
- Nu Speling: Parodied; all writing must conform to a new "rational" spelling system that the founder predicts will be ubiquitous by the end of the century. Really (according to his co-founder), he's just always had dreadful spelling and rather than learn to spell properly he chose to foist his spelling on everybody else.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Most of the Richard Jeperson stories are urban fantasy/horror. This one is science fiction -- and at that, it's arguably more a story about science fiction than a story that is science fiction.
- Stepford Smiler: The inhabitants of Tomorrow Town are initially quite smiley, calm and cheery. Over the course of the novel, as Richard and Vanessa poke deeper, the smiles get more insincere, the calm facade begins to crack and the cheeriness begins to slip, until eventually by the end the entire town is in the town square angrily releasing months of bottled-up tension and complaints in one big 'whine-in'.
- Zeerust: Deconstructed; the community is an almost exact depiction of how contemporary science (fiction) used to love to depict the twenty-first century -- and, of course, the actual twenty-first century reader will note that they got everything wrong. And absolutely nothing works:
- The futuristic 'bubble cars' and monorail can be outrun by someone on a bike.
- The Robot Helpers are useless and fall apart.
- The Master Computer is essentially just a contemporary 1970s machine with all sorts of useless bits on.
- The Nu Speling doesn't make sense, and only exists because the founder can't be bothered to fix his dreadful spelling.
- The 'perfect' social system has put the founder in a position of unquestioned power, basically treats women like second class citizens and means that he can basically steal other people's girlfriends / wives if he fancies them.
- The 'unisex' clothes are ill-fitting, very uncomfortable, and look stupid.
- Oh, and there's been a murder. In a community where people are supposed to be 'beyond' petty crimes like murder.