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Radioland by Matt McHugh

A group of hobbyists experiment with a device that allows brain activity to be electrically recorded and broadcast over satellite radio networks, instantly sharing emotional states between users. After a neighbor introduces him to the experience, a man becomes obsessed with exploring the minds of strangers.


     "So how's it work?"

     "The transceiver here interprets live or recorded patterns and converts them to electrical impulses fed to the headset."

     "Electrical impulses go into your head?"

     "Yep. Directed microcurrents. You don't feel them. Except, of course, that you feel them."

     "How's it go on?"

     "Like so. Tab to the front, wires to the back. Pull it down snug, like a baseball cap."

     Stephen slid the elastic mesh of the neural array onto his head. "Now what?"

     Will flipped a switch and a control panel with virtual knobs and gauges came up on the computer monitor. He moused around, tweaking dials and slides.

     "Watch the screen."

     Stephen watched images flash across the display: colors, shapes, slow- and fast-moving dots, even some words and simple math problems. This lasted for a minute or two.

     "That's a basic calibration routine," said Will. "Lobe orientation. Hemispheric inverted symmetry. Synaptic response time. Stuff like that. It's just confirmed you have a normal brain."

     "Ooh. Can I get that in writing?" Stephen joked.

     Will was too engaged to notice. He nudged settings on virtual dials and chose menu items. "Right. Now the fun begins."

     Stephen saw a series of brainwave trace patterns dance across the screen. Their jagged peaks and valleys formed an impossible mountainscape, a craggy range glimpsed through a misty sunset. The sun sank into a calm, gray, chilly sea that reflected no light or color. It was a lonely asphalt highway, snaking through parched wheat fields as a bride, alone in a rusty convertible, joylessly tossed a bouquet behind, leaving brittle petals rustling like autumn leaves over a frozen lake.

     Stephen was startled to find himself sitting exactly as he'd been a few seconds before.

     "What the hell was that?"



"McHugh's debut novella is an inventive exploration of the crossroads between near-future gadgetry and the male midlife crisis. McHugh writes with clarity, and the story itself is emotionally charged...."

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