"Standard Loneliness Package" is a 2010 science fiction short story by Charles Yu. It is about a man who will literally feel other people’s pain – for a price.
Worse Than A Root Canal
Do you ever have those times in life that just plain suck? You know – the really, really painful moments. Wouldn’t it be nice to let somebody else experience that pain? But how much would that be worth to you? In this story we find out just how far some people will go to get rid of negative feelings, and what kind of toll that exacts on those who take on this unfortunate burden.
Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell
Transfer Corp has cornered the market on guilt… not by making other people feel it – but by feeling it for them. Oh, and they charge a hefty price to do so. But why stop there? Their research and development department has learned how to transfer all kinds of negative emotions, and is reaping a financial windfall. But what about the poor employees who are the ones that actually feel that pain for the clients? Well, it’s not pretty, or fun, but most of them find ways to deal with it. But one employee finds out that everyone has their limits, and sometimes there is an unexpected reward – and that makes everything better. Aw… how sweet! Or is it?
My Two Cents…
- So, my favorite part of this story was the very cool idea of transferring negative emotions – and how businesses capitalized on that. Very intriguing.
- But a close second was the amazing writing skills of Charles Yu. Wow – this story was told well and that made it very easy (and fun) to read. Bravo!
- Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this story was that it ended too soon. I wanted to learn more about this sadistic industry, and felt that the author kind of cut it off too soon. Oh well, I guess that is part of what makes this such a savory sweet story.
- Page Count: 14
- Word Count: 7,034
- Did you know that Charles Yu was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of its “5 Under 35” authors for 2007? Yep. You can learn more about this talented author at Wikipedia.
- Special thanks to Free SF Reader for pointing me towards this great story.
- If you enjoyed this story be sure to check out Charles Yu’s story collection Third Class Superhero.
Where You Can Find Standard Loneliness Package:
- This short story first appeared in the November 2010 edition of Lightspeed – where you can still read (or listen to) it for free.
Craving More Science Fiction Short Stories?
So you like stories about people who charge hefty prices to carry other people’s burdens do you? Well then be sure to check out Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson – about a guy with sensitive information implanted in his head, who is running from a Yakuza hit man.