REVIEW: “The Nanny Bubble” by Norman Spinrad

Review of Norman Spinrad, “The Nanny Bubble”, Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December (2017): 160-166 — Purchase Here. Reviewed by Kiera Lesley.

Aunty Nanny knows when you are creeping

She knows when you’re a snake

She’ll keep you in her Bubble

Never gonna let you escape

Ted – who does not like being called Teddy – loves playing baseball and he’s pretty good at it. Or so he thinks. See, he’s only ever played structured Little League games in real time – everything else is simulations. He lives in a Nanny Bubble – a complete smartphone, 3D audio and Heads-Up Glasses system that monitors where he is and keeps him confined to a four-block radius. This doesn’t seem like such a constraint to Ted – he can go wherever he wants in virtual reality, unlike the poor kids. Except one day, when he accidentally ends up on the wrong side of the park he sees the poor kids playing a type of baseball he’s never seen before, played in real time. Ted sees an opportunity to test out whether he’s really good at baseball, if he could ever really think about playing the Major Leagues, and hatches a plan to find out.

This is a pretty simple story speculating on one idea – what if kids were so monitored that they couldn’t wander off, meet other kids, stay out close to dusk and make their own fun? Does that experience still have value in a technology-driven world? And if we don’t watch our kids every second of the day, what’s the worst that could happen?

I enjoyed this one. It’s got a nice nostalgia to it, despite the 20 minutes into the future setting. Spinrad really manages to capture that ‘late-summer hanging out at the park with your friends’ atmosphere. There’s also some nice food for thought about independence and the importance of being given room to figure things out for yourself. The parental villains fell a bit flat for me, but that element didn’t overly get in the way of a light, fun read.