"Tomorrow Town" is a short story written in 2000 by Kim Newman, and one of the many to feature his 1970s glam rock psychic detective Richard Jeperson, agent of the Diogenes Club.Tomorrow Town is a futurist's paradise. A sparkling 1970s idea of what the the 21st century will be. There are Food Pills, robots, a building-scale Master Computer, and definitely no crime.And then the founder gets murdered. Crap.Since the British government has a lot of futuristic ambition — not to mention money — invested in the town, they send their top investigator, Richard Jeperson, and his assistant Vanessa along to investigate exactly what went wrong. And as they dig deeper, it begins to become apparent that the future isn't quite as great as everyone anticipated...Can be read here.
This short story contains examples of the following tropes:
Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: One of the tropes invoked in Tomorrow Town, with the Big Thinks computer matching compatible people. There is suspicion that the process isn't as objective as it's supposed to be, particularly after Varno Zhoule was matched with a woman who wasn't interested in him and was in fact already married to another man — who is now the chief suspect in Zhoule's murder.
Cut the Juice: The anti-climax version; the villain's mad attempt to destroy the community by having Big Thinks overclock the climate control is thwarted when Big Thinks helpfully informs the heroes that they might want to pull Circuit Breaker 15 about now.
This also works to underscore the theme about how inaccurate the community's whole idea about the future is; upon confronting the villain after this, Jeperson notes that even in the far-flung world of the twenty-first century, it's unlikely that local communities or public offices will have self-destruct mechanisms just in case the incumbent doesn't feel like giving up office after their term is completed.
Deadpan Snarker: The longer they spend in Tomorrow Town, the more sarcastic about everything Richard and Vanessa get.
Deconstruction: The short story deconstructs pretty much the whole concept of futurism/futurology as a whole by concentrating on the most prominent predictions about the twenty-first century that tended to crop up in 1930s-1950s era science fiction. Almost all of them are applied by the futurists in creating their society... and almost all of them are either cripplingly impractical or completely unworkable.
Domed Hometown: Tomorrow Town is, naturally, one of these. Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, it turns out to be impractical.
Evolutionary Levels: The inhabitants of Tomorrow Town like to think they've evolved beyond their 1970s contemporaries. They haven't.
Fanservice / Fan Disservice: In-universe; the inhabitants of Tomorrow Town all wear the same unisex clothing. It looks very flattering on the women. Less so on the men. It further underscores the idea that the founder of Tomorrow Town is basically an old lech with some fairly outdated ideas about gender.
Fantastic Caste System: Zenvols and Zenpasses. (Citizen Volunteers and Citizen Passengers; Zenpasses don't have a vote, Zenvols have a number of votes based on "applied intelligence", as arbitrated by Big Thinks.
Fantastic Racism: Outsiders are referred to — rather dismissively — as 'yesterday men'. As Richard notes, for a supposedly perfect and evolved egalitarian society that's quite an antiquated and elitist attitude.
Food Pills: Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, they don't work as well as they're supposed to. So much so that, by the end of the story, everyone in town is eagerly awaiting the arrival of an old-fashioned fish-and-chip van so they can have some proper food for once.
History Repeats: Something of a theme; the futurists are quite contemptuous of the past and everything it represents (they secretly refer to outsiders as 'yesterday men' and the suspect in the murder is already subject to prejudice because before moving the colony, he was a history teacher), but are shown to be completely clueless when actually trying to predict the future. Just as history repeats if you don't take notice of it and learn from your mistakes, the future isn't something you can force — it happens how it happens whether you want it to or not.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet: The protagonists are alerted to an attempted assassination when the constantly humming gadgets in their room are turned off. The attacker then has to crank the door open manually, giving them plenty of time to prepare for his attack.
I Want My Jetpack: No you don't, because if this story's correct, then like everything else that classic science fiction loved to speculate about it'd be completely impractical and wouldn't work.
Free-Love Future: Subverted; past relationships are ruled irrelevant unless they serve a purpose, but this is just so the community leader can jump anyone he wants.
Malevolent Masked Men: This backfires in a major way when Mal-K wears a helmet for an attempted murder and ends up drowning in it.
Master Computer: Big Thinks is supposed to be one of these. Turns out, it's actually just a contemporary computer with lots of bits added on — essentially, good at doing sums, but pretty crappy at almost everything else. This doesn't stop the credulous futurists from treating it as if it's some kind of hyper-advanced A.I, however; they end up getting it to do things it has no place doing, such as arbitrating love affairs. Ironically, however, these very limitations mean that when the villain tries to use it to destroy the community, Big Thinks runs an error program and alerts the heroes to exactly what they need to do to shut it down.
Miscarriage of Justice: When Richard and his assistant Vanessa arrive, they learn that the townspeople have already imprisoned a suspect, who they insist must be the killer, citing that he never really fitted in to the community and that the murder weapon was found in his house. Later that night, one of most enthusiastic promoters of this theory tries to kill the detectives, but accidentally manages to kill himself instead. Richard then notes rather dryly that if one of the most enthusiastic proponents of "the first guy did it!" theory later tries to kill the investigating detectives, it's a fairly safe bet that there's an injustice going on.
Never My Fault: The town's founder has tons of amazing ideas that are impractical or impossible to implement. He blames everyone else for these failures.
Nu Speling: Parodied; all writing must conform to a new "rational" spelling system that the founder predicts will be ubiquitous by the end of the century. Really (according to his co-founder), he's just always had dreadful spelling and rather than learn to spell properly he chose to foist his spelling on everybody else.
Only Sane Man: Buster is the only citizen of Tomorrow Town to speak out against the absurdities of what is going on and as a result is made a second-class citizen and his wife is reassigned to another man. It is later revealed that most of the inhabitants thought the same thing but were too afraid to speak up.
Orwellian Retcon: On its first appearance, the story contained a line in which Vanessa described one of Tomorrow Town's gadgets as less functional than her nephew's toy robot. In later reprintings, after another story established that Vanessa was an orphan with no known relatives, it's Fred Regent's nephew instead.
Out-of-Genre Experience: Most of the Richard Jeperson stories are urban fantasy/horror. This one is science fiction — and at that, it's arguably more a story about science fiction than a story that is science fiction.
Rigged Contest: The computer decisions are weighed in Zhoule's favour because he's more valuable to the community than the others. In truth he's actually the most useless member of the community, as his ideas are Awesome, but Impractical and he doesn't put any thought into how they are going to be applied in practice.
Silent Snarker: One of the Tomorrow Town inhabitants is mute, and so communicates through hand-gestures and mimes. Some of these mimes clearly indicate that she's eagerly seizing an opportunity to just take the piss out of everything and everyone around her and get away with it.
Space Clothes: Unisex, stripperiffic one-size-fits-all plastic jumpsuits that are difficult to adjust (or remove for toilet purposes) and prone to overheating in a climate-controled environment.
Stepford Smiler: The inhabitants of Tomorrow Town are initially quite smiley, calm and cheery. Over the course of the novel, as Richard and Vanessa poke deeper, the smiles get more insincere, the calm facade begins to crack and the cheeriness begins to slip, until eventually by the end the entire town is in the town square angrily releasing months of bottled-up tension and complaints in one big 'whine-in'.
Take Over The Country: Mal-K wanted to use Big Thinks to take over the computers of major corporations and thus control Britain. Like everything else outside its parameters, this simply couldn't happen.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Jeperson notes there are a lot of short, stout men and tall attractive women, implying that physical attractiveness is an entry requirement for one sex, but not the other.
You Are Number Six: The citizens of Tomorrow Town use futuristic names that are mostly derived from the first syllable and last initial of their old name: thus, Varno Zhoule is Var-Z, George Gewell is Jor-G, and so on. One woman, for no clearly explained reason, is instead Sue-2.
Zeerust: Deconstructed; the community is an almost exact depiction of how contemporary science (fiction) used to love to depict the twenty-first century — and, of course, the actual twenty-first century reader will note that they got everything wrong. And absolutely nothing works:
The futuristic 'bubble cars' and monorail can be outrun by someone on a bike.
The 'unisex' clothes are ill-fitting, very uncomfortable, and look stupid. In keeping with the above point about the founder's attitudes to women, it also looks a lot more flattering to a woman's figure than a man's.
Oh, and there's been a murder. In a community where people are supposed to be 'beyond' petty crimes like murder.
The murder further underscores the uselessness of the community and how the inhabitants are merely deluding themselves about how evolved they are; Jeperson notes at one point that far from being any kind of futuristic type of death (a ray-gun blast, for example), the murder was committed by bludgeoning — possibly the oldest method of murder known to man. And the motives ultimately stem from simple jealousy and spite towards the victim, not any kind of grandiose futuristic Take Over the World plot.