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Immersion (The Universe of Xuya)

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  193 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
In the morning, you're no longer quite sure who you are.

You stand in front of the mirror—it shifts and trembles, reflecting only what you want to see—eyes that feel too wide, skin that feels too pale, an odd, distant smell wafting from the compartment's ambient system that is neither incense nor garlic, but something else, something elusive that you once knew.

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ebook, 11 pages
Published June 2012 by Clarkesworld Magazine
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Redshirts by John ScalziBlackout by Mira GrantIn Sea-Salt Tears by Seanan McGuire2312 by Kim Stanley RobinsonCaptain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Hugo Award Nominees 2013
11th out of 26 books — 21 voters
The Day Before the Revolution by Ursula K. Le GuinLove is the Plan, the Plan is Death by James Tiptree Jr.The Paper Menagerie by Ken LiuWhen it Changed by Joanna RussJeffty Is Five by Harlan Ellison
Nebula Award: Best Short Story
8th out of 36 books — 5 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 396)
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This story won the Nebula in 2012 and was nominated for a Hugo in 2013 and a whole list of other honors. She wrote another novella in this universe in 2012 that I'd like to read as well (On a Red Station, Drifting), but I can't rationalize almost $15 for a novella, I'll try to get my library to buy it. The Waiting Stars, a third story in this universe, was published in 2013 and was nominated for a Hugo Award as of the time of this review, among its other honors, which is what made me remember to ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Ubiqua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un breve racconto dove la realtà aumentata viene usata come strumento di controllo e uniformazione culturale da parte di un colonialismo galattico bianco. Bello e doloroso.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nominated for the short story category for both the Nebula and Hugo in 2013, I first discussed what I thought about it in the context of the Nebula nominees for SFF Audio.

It is a complex story, full of questions and problems, what is identity, what is living, etc. I'd like to read more of Bodard.
Feb 03, 2013 Rob rated it it was amazing
A few obeservations on Immersion and the theme of cultural dominance can be found here. Spoilers ahead.
Holy crap what a story! This is the kind of thing that I have always admired science fiction for - transporting you to a different world in a way that lets you view important issues and ideas from a fresh perspective. It's one of my two favorite kinds of sci-fi stories (the other kind are those that completely f*ck with your head).

At just over 5,000 words, this is a brief story, and because of the economy of words and the author's slow reveal of the situation, it was hard to understand just what
John Wiswell
Aug 01, 2013 John Wiswell rated it really liked it
Read for the 2013 Hugo Short Story voting, and my first exposure to Bodard. She made a darned strong impression.

"Immersion" is an interesting experiment in identity disassociation. It follows a young woman in the future who is surrounded in immerser culture, devices that shroud how we look, sound, etc., in artifices. It has damning undercurrents of peer pressure, inadequacy fears folding in on themselves, and forgetting how you'd feel without everything weighing on you.

Its opening is the most e
Edward Giordano
Apr 18, 2015 Edward Giordano rated it it was amazing
I really would probably put this at a 4.5, but I definitely thought it was better than a 4, so I ended putting it at a 5.

Aliette introduced us to a tourist colony controlled by a centralized government, that tend to believe differences in different people's cultures boils down to a few algorithms here and there. And then voila. On paper, I totally see what the galactic is thinking. The only main differences you can see are the obvious ones. Language, food choice, behavior patterns, but as this s
Juan Luis
Jan 20, 2015 Juan Luis rated it it was amazing
Si ya me gustaba lo que escribía Aliette de Bodard, este relato ya me ha terminado de fascinar. Es como beber un zumo de una fruta tropical con variados matices de sabor, color, textura que varían en tus ojos mientras olores inesperados embriagan tus pupilas y te traslada a un mundo que te parece cotidiano, pero es nuevo. Un estupendísimo relato.
Jun 04, 2013 Megan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, hugos-2013
So as not to spoil, I won't say a lot about the plot of Immersion, but it is a very well-told futuristic story that also deals with race/culture appropriation and societal beauty norms in a fascinatingly original way.
Althea Ann
Jan 08, 2014 Althea Ann rated it did not like it
Written well, but I strongly disagree with de Bodard's metaphorical characterization of sophisticated 'galactic' (global) culture as an addictive habit that will take over and destroy 'purer,' 'simpler' cultures. Sure, sure, the 'tourism' device she imagines certainly could have the problems and potentials she mentions, but that's not what she's really talking about. She's talking about 'cultural immersion,' and objecting to (or treating with condescending sympathy) people who choose not to rema ...more
Jeremy Preacher
May 21, 2015 Jeremy Preacher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi, short-stories
The best short stories leave me gasping, and this was one of those. "Immersion" is an all-too-familiar look at a culture overrun by Western tourists, Western culture, and Western values, with just a touch of externalization to emphasize particular bits. It's short and sharp - it could have gone on quite a bit longer, building a world instead of making a point, but ending it where it does is brilliantly effective.

I never quite know what to say about short stories that are so clearly smarter than
Jul 11, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
I was as disappointed in this as the author's same-universe novelette On a Red Station, Drifting until about halfway through when something "clicked" with me. Immersion is set on a (different) space station, and roughly-speaking, is the story of a woman who has taken to wearing an "immersion device" in order to fit in with her husband's culture -- the dominant Galactic culture. In telling the story, de Bodard manages to say volumes about the compromises one must make to "fit in" with a different ...more
Dione Basseri
The problem of language and cultural disconnect is a hard barrier to overcome in business. Even if you are an expert in another culture, you still may not be their ideal of a business partner, and may lose out to local competition. So, in the future, technology exists that allows you to not only speak and act appropriately, but to also project a physical appearance that will be acceptable to your clients. Unfortunately, as with all sci-fi "perfect" tech, there are major side effects if you depen ...more
Juliana Rew
Mar 17, 2015 Juliana Rew rated it it was amazing
Finely crafted story set at a Rong (Vietnamese) restaurant aboard a galactic space station. The employees wear "immersers" to create illusions that make them appear more acceptable to the visiting tourists. de Bodard masterfully mixes tenses and points of view, ultimately showing the effect of the immersers on those who wear them.
Jul 03, 2013 Outis rated it liked it
Good story, competently written, interesting concept that's actually SF (imagine that!).
It's initially confusing, especially since it's the first thing I read about this setting. But the odd sylistic choice definitely pays off. And I don't mind a little confusion.

Half-assed advocacy for cultural relativism. As in, justifying dictatorship and inequalities (in a place named "Longevity" ironically!). No. Just no.
I don't know about the history of this setting but it sounds so hypocritical give
Jan 21, 2015 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
A very fun short story that challenges and respects the reader by not explaining too much. I was particularly impressed by how de Bodard managed to create characters I cared about in such a brief narrative and how well their emotions were shaped.
May 22, 2014 Emy added it
Shelves: format-pocket, 2014
De Bodard writes worlds which I want to know more about. I really want to meet the characters in this story again, to know more about them and understand deeper what drives them...
Jules Jones
Jan 05, 2014 Jules Jones rated it it was amazing
A lot of things are stuffed into this short story. Imperialism, whether economic, cultural, or in the recent past nakedly military. Class and money. Identity, and how it ties into the imperialism. The use and abuse of technology. Common themes, but handled deftly, and with a genuine sf slant to them. There's some superb world-building done in a short story word count, and characters whose fate I care about. This one's my pick for the Hugo, although it was a hard choice between this and Ken Liu's ...more
Dec 17, 2015 Margaret rated it liked it
A story of addiction set within the framework of cultural relativism. This story is told from two perspectives--Quy, a teenager who works at her family's restaurant on Longevity, and Agnes, a Galatic woman visiting Longevity to celebrate her 5th anniversary. Both stories center on the use of immersers, Galatic technology that gives the user an avatar and tells them what facial cues and wording to use.

Certainly a well written story, but most of the characters, except for Quy, fell flat for me. I
Apr 23, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Had a hard time getting into this at first but I liked the ending quite a bit. Heard quite a lot about this author, so I'd be interested in trying another of her stories later.
Aug 13, 2014 K rated it liked it
A little interesting but not fulfilling enough or perhaps fleshed out enough...
Dec 08, 2015 Nilchance rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking story about colonialism and the virtual self.
just a few short years after typical western TV was introduced to Fiji, a rather significant percentage of the women (especially the young ones) picked up typical western body image depression and eating disorders:

this story lays a future tech veneer over the ideas of western cultural dominance, but ultimately, didn't say a whole lot beyond what the current state of things is here and now. it's a solid, but not amazing story.

May 11, 2014 Zack rated it really liked it
Read it, then read it again immediately. To summarize this story is to spoil it. Just know that it will reach truly surprising depths for a work with so little content.
Norman Cook
Jul 28, 2013 Norman Cook rated it liked it
Shelves: e-book
This is a character study of a woman addicted to her virtual-reality immerser, an alien technology that allows people to create avatars to interact with others. The actual plot is fairly superficial but I’m not sure I fully understood how everything fit together, a common complaint I have with stories involving virtual characters. To me, the story is more style than substance—not necessarily a bad thing, just not my cup of tea.
Joe Frazier
Jun 17, 2013 Joe Frazier rated it it was amazing
Immersion is an exemplary short story by Aliette de Bodard, with beautiful brevity, introduces us to two cultures, a sense of social strata, deals with over reliance on technology, our inability to be at peace with who we are physically and otherwise and our desire to project someone we want to be. In the process, she reminds me why I love short stories. See here for more detail:
Jun 06, 2013 Ed rated it liked it
Interesting concept especially with Google Glass coming out. Its interesting to contemplate unintended effect we have on those around us which feeds back to their own image of their worth and how people force themselves to be something they are not and opposite of what they are loved for for what they perceive as what people want them to be.
Ben Nash
This story seems to be set in the same world as de Bodard's other 2013 Hugo nominee: On A Red Station, Drifting. While a good story about clashing cultures and self-identity, de Bodard doesn't utilize the short form as well as she could. As with Red Station, she's written about a well realized world and makes me want to read more from her.
Jun 27, 2013 A.J. rated it liked it
Shelves: hugos-2013
Read for the 2013 Hugos

This was an interesting story that might make more sense if I read it a second time. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Half of the story is told in 2nd person, and half is told in 3rd. I really enjoyed the way the two halves of the story came together.
Mar 22, 2013 Tammy rated it really liked it
I am a fan of Aliette de Bodard so it's no surprise I'd enjoy this story. This story is about identity and more to the point about identity as a member of a marginalized group. It's very much a political statement and the ending left me thinking. [2013 Hugo Nominee Reading]
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I am a speculative fiction author living in Paris, with a strong taste for history and mythology. Rice addict, tea addict and nước mắm addict.
My short fiction has appeared in various professional venues, and my Aztec fantasy series "Obsidian and Blood", Servant of the Underworld, is published by Angry Robot.
My next novel is The House of Shattered Wings, set in a devastated Paris where quasi-feud
More about Aliette de Bodard...

Other Books in the Series

The Universe of Xuya (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • The Jaguar House, in Shadow
  • Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, August 2011, Volume 35, No. 8
  • Space and Time, Summer 2010
  • The Lost Xuyan Bride
  • Butterfly, Falling at Dawn
  • The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection
  • Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2012
  • Anthology of European SF
  • Shipbirth
  • The Shipmaker

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