In Idoru, William Gibson gave us a story of a Japanese rock star falling in love with a synthetic, virtual pop icon. Now, virtual popstars exist in Japan, and a new pop scandal might be just as weird as anything Gibson dreamed up, writes Miles Raymer in the Chicago Reader. There's a pop group called AKB48, which has nearly 100 members in four squads, plus seven franchised outside groups — meaning your favorite pop star is part of a small army. One of the members of AKB48 was recently photographed leaving the apartment of a member of a boy band, and found herself demoted, posting apology videos on Youtube with her head shaved.

Writes Raymer:

In retrospect the notion of Japan embracing a virtual pop star seems kind of like a gimme, especially when you consider the relatively minor importance Japanese culture places on the distinction between fictional characters and real people. But I don't know if even William Gibson could have accurately predicted the rise of groups like AKB48.

But, he adds, another apt comparison for the dehumanizing treatment of Minami Minegishi is David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, with the story of Sonmi-451. [Chicago Reader]