“Immersion,” by Aliette de Bodard
From Clarkesworld, issue 69, June 2012 (read and listen here); won the 2012 Nebula Award and the 2013 Locus Award; also nominated for the 2012 BSFA Award and the 2013 Hugo Award and a finalist for the 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Award; released as Escape Pod episode 408 on August 10th, 2013 (read and listen here)
A very provocative and sensitive piece about cultural assimilation. The problem of immersers isn’t that different from the problems of our own world—white-centric beauty standards, America-centric cultural norms—and this story is careful to make it clear that “Agnes”‘s addiction cannot be blamed on her own weakness or on any individual oppressor. Her well-meaning husband has no idea how cruel he’s been to her until it’s (almost?) too late.
Though I found the story somewhat emotionally engaging, the characterizations don’t stand out for me. I would have liked to get a deeper look at all three women. If I’d voted in the Hugos, I’m not sure if this one would have made my list. It’s a solid story, but the material would probably work better at greater length. The switches between second and third person, for example; we don’t spend enough time in second person to feel “immersed” in the character’s disoriented point of view.