A pop idol in near future Japan. Her every move controlled in the present and haunted by the past.
The stage is the surveillance society of near-future Tokyo. In order to become an idol, Rei has sacrificed her private life as she focuses on her solo activities. Haunted by guilt, the insidious manipulations of a controlling talent manager, and the corporate bioapps colonizing her body, Rei must find a way to reclaim her discarded anonymity and autonomy within a cyberpunk society where Vocaloids and V-singers flourish.
Part of the 2023 Neon Hemlock Novella Series
Iori Kusano is a queer Asian American writer and Extremely Ordinary Office Gremlin living in Tokyo. They are a graduate of Clarion West 2017 and their fiction has previously appeared in Apex Magazine, Baffling Magazine, and Uncanny Magazine. Find them on Twitter @IoriKusano and Instagram as iori_stagram.
"Kusano pulls no punches in this portrayal of a rotten entertainment industry, where an idol's privacy is violated with technology until one has to wonder just how much of themselves they are willing to lose in order to achieve their artistic goals. Touching on themes of self-acceptance, friendship, and reclaiming your own artistic agency, Hybrid Heart will move you like only your favorite song can, by leaving you a sobbing mess." - Francesca Tacchi, author of Let the Mountains Be My Grave
"Never has the Faustian bargain been so corporeally rendered as in the glossy, ruthless Hybrid Heart. Kusano paints a high wire portrait of a talented singer making herself into a candy-colored ghost. By turns wryly incisive and emotionally devastating, Kusano creates an unflinching world where the demands of the idol machine are as simple as they are severe: give us everything, or you will be nothing." - Bendi Barrett, author of Empire of the Feast
"Lavish and claustrophobic, Hybrid Heart ruthlessly scrutinizes its pop idol protagonist's world as she turns that same scrutiny on herself, her dwindling choices, her compressed life, and slowly reclaims her dreams from the nightmare they've become." - Kat Weaver, co-author of Uncommon Charm
"Iori Kusano's Hybrid Heart is a story of fame and deep, abiding loneliness. It defies expectations and offers us exactly what we need. Kusano's prose is gorgeous, precise, and controlled. Their great gift is to show us what lies beneath the lure of fame and the policing of female-assigned bodies, to reveal, with perfect tenderness and unflinching honesty, the scars, the blood, the imperfect, essential core. Hybrid Heart may break yours—or resuscitate it." - Izzy Wasserstein, author of All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From
"Hybrid Heart is a gorgeously rendered story about power, control, and breaking yourself out of a cage made out of false dreams. Kusano slams the reader right into the messy heart of the idol industry and then surgically proceeds to rip the reader's own heart open." - Isabel J. Kim, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author
"Shimmering, crystallised paranoia. Idolmaster meets Perfect Blue in this stunning tale of panic-infused pop. Kusano is one to watch out for." - Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Nebula, Hugo, Sturgeon & Locus-nominated author
"A near-future but all too contemporary story of how young women are exploited and manipulated, this searing and ultimately hopeful story is an absorbing read." - Martha Wells, NYT Bestselling author of the Murderbot Diaries