Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Bliss" by Leah Bobet

Purely by coincidence, it appears that I've picked a second story in as many days that deals with the addiction. The difference here, however, is that instead of the addictive power of sex, Bobet's story deals with the addictive effects of happiness. I think that the root of Bobet's story lies in what people would assume would be the ultimate drug: a drug that delivers the user into a state of pure joy (appropriately named "Bliss"), and asks what would be needed to kick an addiction to such a drug.

In the story, Bliss appears to basically be Ecstasy on steroids, stimulating the pleasure centres of the brain while also blocking all pain receptors. The user, of course, quickly becomes hopelessly addicted to bliss, descending into severe depression as they come down. After all, once you've experienced pure bliss, it stands to reason that normal reality would seem that much more painful, that much less that what it is while on Bliss. Bliss is destroying society as more people stop caring about anything but getting their next fix. Drug tests are mandatory for just about any sort of job, and it seems to be general practice that Bliss addicts that are checked into hospitals are carted off by "social services," never to be seen again. It's a dark future, to say the least.

So, when Sam, the protagonist of this story, finds out that his older sister, Elizabeth, is back on Bliss again, he's understandably anxious to try and find a way to help her kick her addiction. He enlists his friend, Mac, who is also the drug testing technician at Sam's job, to try and concoct something that will help. Mac's solution turns out to be the truly interesting part of this story. You see, Mac's solution appears to be, in many ways, just as addictive as Bliss, although in a very different way. It's a clever solution that I won't ruin here (if you haven't noticed yet, I'm prone to do so), other than to say that it Bobet ends up implying some interesting things about the power of our emotions and of what humans value (as well as what we will do to ourselves to get what we value). If you want to know more, read it for yourself. It's definitely worth it.

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