How We Got In Town and Out Again by Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is the best-selling author of Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, and several other novels, his most recent being You Don’t Love Me Yet. His first novel, Gun With Occasional Music, won the William L. Crawford Award, the Locus Award, and was a finalist for the Nebula Award. Lethem has published more than 60 short stories, in a diverse range of markets, from The New Yorker and McSweeney’s to F&SF and Asimov’s; his first collection, The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye, won the World Fantasy Award. In 2005, he was presented with the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for his contributions to literature.

“How We Got in Town and Out Again” is one of a sequence of stories by Lethem railing against virtual reality technologies. In an interview in Science Fiction Studies, Lethem said “I didn’t set out … to write a series of stories … examining my own resistance to that technology. But living in San Francisco during the years of an intense kind of utopian ideological boom in virtual reality and computer technologies, I felt an instinctive need to represent my own skepticism about claims that were being made that seemed to me naïve. … And so I found these resistance stories coming out of me.”

Combine that with Lethem’s research into 1930s dance marathons, and you’ve got this story.