Paintwork: cyberpunk++ stories of killer augmented reality mechas and QR code graffiti writers

Tim Maughan's self-published short story collection Paintwork collects three of his stories, including the British Science Fiction Award-nominated story "Havana Augmented."

In an era of "post-cyberpunk" science fiction, Maughan is firmly cyberpunk — or maybe "cyberpunk++," a genre that captures all the grit and glory of technology with a higher degree of plausibility and respect for real computers and networks than the genre had in its glory days.

"Paintwork," the first story, is a noirish, Gibsonian story of a graffiti writer in an econopocalypse-scoured Bristol, whose specialty is elaborate augmented reality animations that he inserts into the public consciousness by overwriting the QR codes on advertisements. "Paparazzi" is a story of gaming celebrity and global economics, with a wry and funny take on gold-farming that went to a place no other writer has ventured. The final novella, "Havana Augmented," is justly famed as Maughan's best work today: a political games/AR thriller set in Havana, where a bootleg augmented reality mecha combat game becomes part of the Communist Party's plan to liberalize the country's economy, and the young rebel gamers who are caught up in the plot.

Maughan has a keen eye for the fictional possibilities of technology, a good hand with the what if/ten seconds in the future mode of storytelling, and he's quite adept at filling his work with hyper-cool eyeball kicks. These stories are fun and thought-provoking, a great combination.