I'm trying to locate a short story I read (or dreamt?) a few years ago. I remember the protagonist living in a future where everyone wears AR goggles / implants to overlay a filter on the world and make it nicer or more interesting. e.g. transform the world into a fantasy environment, make your partner better looking, make your food tastier.

At some point he discovers (possibly via meeting a woman) that even when the AR is 'off' it is still active and obscuring the reality that he lives in a horrible dreary dystopia. Also the AR system is using walking redirection to obscure the layout of the city and hide buildings for nefarious purposes. Also at some point someone gets eaten by a 'shoggoth'?!

As I remember it the AR world was created with generative adversarial networks, which would mean the story would have to be quite recent (2017 or later maybe?).

Every time I search for any keywords I can think of related to this I just get an endless stream of breathless articles and blogspam about how AR / VR / GAN is going to change the wooooorrrld. Any help appreciated!

  • 2
    If it were drugs, not goggles, I'd think of Lem's The Futurological Congress.
    – DavidW
    May 26, 2022 at 15:36
  • Does he at some point early in the story lose access to the VR overlay because he fails to pay his internet bill?
    – tbrookside
    May 26, 2022 at 16:58
  • To avoid any potential confusion, "AR" means "Augmented Reality" (rather than "Assault Rifle"/AR-15), "VR" means "Virtual Reality". I'm not sure for "GAN" though; "Generative Adversarial Network"?
    – Clockwork
    May 26, 2022 at 18:21
  • 1
    There is a short film called The Nostalgist that is similar: youtube.com/watch?v=ZzCQtoQ8ypk
    – releseabe
    May 26, 2022 at 18:35
  • @releseabe Ah that was a great short film with similar ideas, thanks!
    – RyanM
    May 27, 2022 at 6:17

1 Answer 1


"God-Shaped Hole" by Zero HP Lovecraft

From this review:

God-Shaped Hole is a fictional blog post about a dystopian future in which Augmented reality and AI replace almost all real world interaction. Most of the technology the author mentions is already in development, which creates a future real enough to make you paranoid about the present. The real genius of the story is the understanding of technology/the internet as both an addiction machine and a generator of reality.

From the story:

How, in our modern world, have we achieved these wonders? By what sorcery does the mask transmute a city to a forest? All of these smart hallucinations are the work of a special kind of simulated mind, a generative adversarial network, also called a GAN.


SupGen uses saccadic redirection to keep you from bumping into anyone but it can be jarring when it suddenly kicks in. Still, it’s better to feel a little dizzy than to accidentally tackle someone you were pretending to shoot.


I picked up a newly visible rock from the field and threw it overhand in the direction of a big empty space. The rock bounced off the empty air, but silently.

“So you see, they forgot to hide it when something collides with the building. Now one more thing, I also found this really interesting.”

(γ)Carl eyed into his settings again and found System Settings -> Navigation -> Movement -> Advanced… and disabled Saccadic Redirection.

“So I just wanted to show you that Saccadic Redirection is turned OFF. Again, I know most of you are woke on this and have turned it off already, because being able to walk in different directions by your own volition is such a basic fucking human skill and the idea that anyone would let a machine take over their own bodily autonomy in that way is demonic, insane, but that’s a topic for another time.


“So as far as I know, no one has ever actually observed the Cult of Kadath itself. What we know about it is basically something we triangulate from a few different sources. The first thing we have is the shogs, which is short for shoggoths. We call them that because they look like bloated masses of human flesh, they have limbs and organs and eyes all in places where the shouldn’t. These are real things and if you engage in the practice of ‘waking up’, of routinely taking off your mask in public and looking around, you will eventually see one. In augmented reality, in Allegory, they just look like regular people, or some of them are wearing adversarial costumes and they just blend into the scenery.

Found with a search for "adversarial network" dystopia shoggoth

  • Ah amazing, thankyou so much. Nice combination of search terms! It's just as I remember it, I was worried I had combined together multiple stories in my memory.
    – RyanM
    May 27, 2022 at 6:11

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