GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

E Galactic Mu – the Novel

Posted by halcyon on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:10 am

Greetings, space travelers. It has been many earth-years since we fell through the worm-hole and were captured by the grok-groks of Capiscasicum V. Oh, the times we had!

Though we were barred from discussing science, fiction, science fiction, and video games, we found other ways to entertain ourselves. But lo, while our captors napped (a strong napping culture exists in the grok-grok’s system), our courageous Captain laboured on a secret project, one we pinned our hopes on–we knew she must be constructing a secret device or devious plan to return us to the Sol system and home, and brownies and felted hats and all that.

Unfortunately, it turned out that she was merely writing a science-fiction novel. It did not bring us home. After a time, the grok-groks simply lost interest in us and showed us the inverted wormhole and how to reverse it. So it goes.

Anyway, the important thing is you can get several years worth of our Captain’s lovely wit and storytelling, packaged in a convenient electronic package. Read more about it (and other subjects diverse and sundry) at her other blog: angerburger.com . Or skip the formalities and buy it directly ($3) from the evil empire (Amazon: e galactic mu). I guarantee that it will sooth your weary soul.

Still here to help,

Halcyon

Psych Officer

Galactic Mu

Kindle the Hooker, Pimp the Midget

Posted by halcyon on Mar 29, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I come from a long line of non-braggarts. It’s a Viking thing. We tend to keep to ourselves. We like to keep it all bottled up and then let it out in a frenzy of raping and pillaging and maybe some burning, if it’s not too damp out. It’s a cultural thing.

However-

I have to break precedent to tell you this: Dedicat Ed is now available on Kindle.

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It is, as it says on the back cover*:

A heartwarming story about a foulmouthed midget who wants to play in the NBA, and his sister, a pragmatic prostitute. You know, the American dream.

If you own a Kindle or an i-phone, or an i-pod touch, and you like midgets and/or hookers and/or laughter, and/or feelings you should definitely buy Dedicat Ed. It’s only $4.80, the same price as a ham sammich. And it won’t make you fat, infest you parasites, or give you hammy breath. Guaranteed.

I co-wrote it a few years back with a good friend of mine, Eric Fleming. It’s very funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. I have no problem saying that because many of the funnier parts were not even written by me. It’s also pretty insightful about humans and the things they do, and I can definitely say that because none of the insightful parts were written by me.

I did, however, write a chapter which involves rough midget sex and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. If you ever want to make friends quickly, pull up that chapter, and put your gizmo on text-to-speech mode. Instant robot midget porn. And, like the man says, if your friends don’t like instant robot midget porn, then they’re no friends of mine.

Dedicat Ed is written in the style of an oral history. In other words, people take turns telling the story. It’s kind of like a mockumentary, if that helps. Here’s an excerpt from auto mechanic Willy Jopstone, one of Mary’s many satisfied customers:

…she told me she was eighteen but if I wanted would pretend she was fifteen or whatever. The thing about that girl was, and I remember this part too; was that she was a pro. Not that she fucked like a pro, which she did, but she was all business. No pimp either; I like that on account of the pimp always dickin’ me over money. Hey! I like to tell the boys, listen to this now, I like to tell the boys that when I get a hooker with a pimp I get fucked by the broad and then get fucked by the pimp, too! Two for the price of one! Get it? Not that I get a dick up my ass really, but that he screws me outta money. I ain’t queer.

What else about Cherry? Well, she charged more than most girls did. She asked alotta questions about stuff; things about cars and things about being a guy getting a hooker and shit like that. I told her, listen to this one, I told her: ‘What, you writin’ a book or somethin’?’ Hey Frank! You writin’ a book or somethin’?

What, more stuff? It was fifteen years ago man! All I know is this hot little chick is standin’ on the corner looking all fresh and fine and I says to myself: ‘Willy, this here is your lucky day!’ You can cut that out, the part with my name right? Anyways, so I stop and she gets in the car and names her price and tells me her brother will kill me if I don’t treat her right and puts her hand in my lap and off we went.

Oh, there’s one more thing that made me laugh my ass off. Listen to this one. Hey, listen to this one guys, I ask this hooker who’s this brother who’s gonna kill me if I don’t treat her right and she says it’s her little brother. I ask her how old her little brother is and she says; you hearin’ this? She says: ‘He’s seven!’

Always here to help,

Halcyon
Psych Officer
GalacticMu

 * There is no back cover.

0 Posted in Literature

You’re Twelve-Stepping Me To Death Here, Bitch¹

Posted by Sunday on Feb 11, 2009 at 1:47 am

One of my favorite things to do is to recommend science fiction books to people who either don’t know anything about scifi, or even better, people who actively dislike it.  The thrill comes from a simple, smug chunk of knowledge: they haven’t read the right stuff yet.  It’s like matchmaking, but less weird and not nearly as potentially friendship-killing.   There is skill involved.  I don’t want to saddle just anyone with a copy of Winterlong.

This is why I automatically cringe whenever a list of THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS YOU’LL EVER READ is printed; maybe for you, who ever you are, but so far every one of these “master lists” has left of Voltaire’s Candide, which immediately negates their credibility.  For me.  But maybe not you.  It depends.  See?  It’s a sticky toffee of a problem, except not as desirable.

The Guardian recently published a list of “1000 novels everyone must read” broken into categories, one of which is scifi and fantasy.   Must you read them?  Well, no.  Should you read them?  Some of them, others not so much.  It’s British, so there is an interesting skew to what I imagine are British scifi favorites (many authors of whom I’d never even heard of), but sadly a strange preponderance of novels I’d barely categorize as even magical realism, let alone science fiction.  Lord of the Flies?  They listed Margaret Atwoods The Blind Assassin, but not The Handmaid’s TaleThe Magus?  I mean, to be honest the Guardian list reads like a particularly uninspired college syllabus for a class called Naptime: Obscure Fiction You’ll Immediately Resell Back to the School’s Bookstore.

And then somehow, in what I desperately hope was some kind of covert racist commentary, Tony Morrison’s Beloved winds up in this list.  They might as well have included Anne Frank’s Diary.

For the sake of balance, here are a few books I’d put on a damn list.

  1. Neuromancer, by William Gibson.  There are a lot of reasons to obsessively love this book, and as many reasons to discredit it as luckily popular among many similar books emerging at the time.  Both positions are valid.  For me it was the first time I’d read something that really, really went out of my comfort zone.  I’d happily been reading fantasy and light science fiction until that point (think: Piers Anthony), and then suddenly things weren’t so flip any more.  It was like everything else I’d read had been making out on a couch with my clothes on, and suddenly Neuromancer had my pants off, a condom on and wasn’t giving me time to protest my virtue.
  2. Winterlong, by Elizabeth Hand.  I was lucky to read Winterlong during a strange time in my life, something I highly recommend you save Winterlong for.  I was 19, on prednisone (a steroid that makes your moods all topsy-turvy), I was breaking up with a boyfriend and working long hours at my first real job.  Life was surreal already, and along came this book about cannibal children, corporeal Death, bioterrorism post-apocalypse, adolescent concubines and heavily gene-modified animals.  Highly recommended.
  3. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.  The pacing and flow of this novel still gives me chills.  The first chapter is perhaps one of the best chapters of science fiction ever written.  I live in a kind of terror/hope that someday, some impossibly brilliant director will be able to make a film of it (it’d have to be more like two or three films) and reveal it for the visual super-masterpiece that it truly is.  On the other hand, no.   Hollywood better stay the fuck away from it.
  4. The Child Garden, by Geoff Ryman.  This one went under everyone’s radar and still managed to snag two big awards.  I literally and truly called in to work sick the second day of reading this novel because I simply had to stay home and continue reading.  It’s the closest thing I can compare to a kind of science fiction mythology: dark and sad while hopeful and lyrical, saturated with curiosities while never failing to be somehow familiar… It’s not a perfectly easy read, but is often the book I recommend to intellectual friends who claim they don’t like scifi.
  5. Dune, by Frank Herbert.  What, it’s a classic among classics.  Read it again.
  6. The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker.  This is unabashed smut, so don’t leave it lying around at work or anything.  Anyway, what would you do if you could stop time?  Chances are, if you’re a man² you’re going to be looking up ladies’ skirts at any opportunity.  I love books that obsessively describe the detail of fantastic things (I mean the time-stopping, in this case, not the panty-grabbing) without feeling the need for excessive plotline – I mean, isn’t the ability to stop time enough?  Don’t get me wrong, there’s an underlying drama, but for the most part The Fermata is a kind of dirty, elaborate daydream and a real lesson in savoring a single idea.
  7. Blindsight, by Peter Watts.  I am too tired to try and describe Blindsight, so instead: reading Watts is like playing a literary game of Dig Dug, an exercise in a kind of infuriating, thrilling futility.  You know he’s going to sting you with some kind of suckerpunch regarding the nature of consciousness and will, but you keep reading anyway.  The writing is just too good.  I keep coming back to him with more quarters, inevitable kill screen or no.
  8. Candide, by Voltaire.  If you’ve been to college you’ve probably read this, maybe even if you went to a decent high school, but you should read it again: the dystopia and snark of this thin little read is the basis for the Great Triple Threat, aka, We, 1984 and A Brave New World.  Anytime anyone has ever said to you in a kind of glazed, moronic lowing “Everything happens for a reason!” and you’ve felt your skill crawl – that’s Candide.  Basically, it makes fun of Oprah.
  9. Momo, by Michael Ende.  If you ever find a copy of this book, buy it.  Better known for having written The Never Ending Story, in my opinion Michael Ende’s Momo is a better book.  Ostensibly a book for children, it’s about a mysterious little homeless girl who is instantly beloved by everyone she meets.  When the Men in Grey suddenly appear in town, everything starts to go downhill.  A cautionary parable about the dangers of overwork, materialism and adulthood.
  10. I know you want ten, but I only have nine.

¹A line from an GalacticMu favorite film, The Specials.

²Or a woman, jeez.

1 Posted in Literature

Not As Exquisite As Advertised

Posted by Sunday on Jan 22, 2009 at 7:23 pm

It’s been shame that has kept me away from the Dear Diary of web-logging.  But, like that maggot cheese that everyone is so delighted in reporting on lately, I find myself wanting to share it with you all anyway.  Raise your glass of larvae-infested, putrefied cheese and toast with me to… Stephanie Meyer.

Yes, that Stephanie Meyer.

The only statement in my own defense is that I was sitting in the airport when I finished my only book on hand (Man Plus by Frederik Pohl – fun, but awkwardly retro writing) and went to go purchase a magazine.  Paper magazines, which you may or may not be aware, are now the same price as a fucking novel.  Which are expensive.  With this knowledge, I, with great embarrassment and guilt, purchased Twilight.

The backstory here is that I have been superficially following this Twilight obsession almost exclusively because many of the blogs I read.  Yes, once again, I blame blogs.  Anyway, as an adult who reads YA fiction (for the record: I think the Harry Potter books are just okay, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series is pretty good and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy is canon) I paid some attention.  Matthew Baldwin’s review in particular caused me to chuckle with delighted dismissal.  In  summary: romance novel – minus sex + nearly pointless vampirism = Twilight.

And then I read another blog, one I won’t link to.   In it the writer seethed about the negative impact the books will have on fragile-minded teen girls.  It teaches girls that stalking is acceptable behavior from a man!  And that it is thrilling to have your boyfriend want to kill you!  In a good way! Blah blah blah, I didn’t really pay attention because I’m a misogynist.

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Anyway, there I am, standing in an airport where I am surely to escape the eyes of anyone I know, purchasing the book.  Because I had to know!  Which was it: was it a comically embarrassing attempt at ‘literature’ or a manual for abusing women?

The answer if of course both!  Delightful!

I can’t add much to the masses of criticism for the books, other than to make a few personal points.

  •  Based on Baldwin’s report, I expected no less than 642 uses of the word “exquisite”.  Sadly, I noted only in the realm of two uses.  However, the point he may have been trying to make is: but damn, this woman is repetative.  Once she latches on to an adjective or an adverb she gets lockjaw. So instead of 642 instances of “exquisite” we get probably literally 50 instances of remarking that Edward – the vampire heartthrob – having marble skin, or skin like marble, or marble-cold skin, or a cold, marble chest, or cold marble coldness marbleness.  Likewise how many times he is simply described as “perfect.”  Sigh!  Perfect!  I ran out of adjectives for cold and marble.  I need a rest.
  • As many have noted, I can see how the teens are wack-a-doodle over these books.  They’re broody, moody, vaguely sensual and chock full of forbidden things like lying to your parents and dating the undead.  For the rest of us that have actually experienced sex, they’re pretty boring.
  • The vampires are, for all intents and purposes, not vampires at all.  They’re Supermen.  Do they have to drink human blood?  No, they just prefer it.  Does sunlight/crosses/garlic/stakes repulse them?  Nope.  In fact: sunlight makes them “LITERALLY SPARKLE”. Meyer made sure to include the word “literally” in the actual novel in case we mistook her thin narrative as metaphorical.  So, they avoid sunlight to avoid dazzling humans with their glittery beauty.  Like unicorns.  They are impossibly fast, impossibly strong and to make it the most delightfully hyperbole-saturated book ever, many of them have special superpowers like mind-reading or precognition.  Oh, and also: they’re rich.  Alright, alright, I’ll fuck them already, jeesus.
  • The main character, Bella, is intolerable.  In what I think was Meyer’s clumsy attempt to make Bella someone the average teen girl could relate to, she instead made Bella improbably klutzy (really: every time Bella leaves the house she either falls on a heap of razorblades or rams her head into a crowbar – you think I’m joking, I know) and argumentative.  Everything she does is counterproductive.  In fact, the entire final showdown that results in Bella’s near-death is the direct result of Bella just not telling someone what was going on.  Listen, teen girls of the world, if a mean vampire threatens to kill your family unless you submit yourself to him, a tip is to TELL THE WHOLE POSSE OF SUPERHEROES YOU’RE HANGING OUT WITH.  Dude, delegate the problems, and in particular, delegate them to friends of yours that are immortal supermen.

In penance for giving the Stephanie Meyer machine $8 of my money, I will make sure my next few book purchases are for authors I actually care about.  In fact, I’ll buy extra for friends.  Because I don’t know how else to make things right.  When the second book gets made into a movie the madness will start all over again, and then repeat with the last two books.  My only hope is that the actors will look haggard and dumpy by the last two, like Ralph Macchio suddenly got in the Karate Kid movies even though supposedly no time had passed between them.

4 Posted in Literature

Oh, Forget It

Posted by Sunday on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

It’s classic.  Trust me.

So, I have this story, right.  I never sold it.  There is a character in it who gets the nickname Thirteen.  As of today, I discover that the television show House has a character named Thirteen, and guess who has to replace every instance of the name “Thirteen” in their document now?  And the jokes and references and stories related to it?  That’s right, me.

There is a classic old piece of writing advice to “kill your darlings,”¹ an aptly poetic way of saying that nothing you can write will ever be sacred.  In fact, if there is something sacred, you’re probably way too emotionally involved to determine its quality.  To be safe, you should kill it.  So they say.  Like most writing advice I find it to be quackery and metaphorically shit on it as often as I am able.  I’d also like to point out that I’ve never successfully sold a novel, so here’s some salt.

Point being: I’m pretty used to this.  It fits in with my atheistic worldview.  It happens, just like I am named Sunday and YES, LIKE NICOLE KIDMAN’S DAMN BABY, BUT MY MOM ALREADY THOUGHT OF IT 30 YEARS AGO.  Whatever, I’ll deal with it the same way I deal with everything: by starting a gang.

¹Also deliciously pertinent to this subject: the phrase originally used (maybe) was “Murder your darlings,” as attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but also sort of simultaneously attributed to Faulkner who said “Kill your darlings” in a variety of phrases.  It is possible that one stole from the other, but more likely they both had the same idea and then whichever one thought of it first got credit last and felt like a loser.

Situation Normal

Posted by Sunday on Nov 12, 2008 at 2:39 pm

I was writing a review of Samuel R. Delany’s Nova for Avi over at Scifi at Dark Roasted Blend when my brain got a little out from under me, if you know what I mean.  I’ve had some sad news this week (something that happened to a friend) that put me into a kind of anti-human funk – yes, more than usual – which has in turn started forming one of those emotional toruses I get, where everything I do is tainted by too much thinking.  Whatever, it doesn’t matter: I was thinking about how much of the novel is about class differences (or mega-gulfs, rather) and part of it is the segregation of those who have refused to be “cyborged.”  Called “Gypsies,” those that don’t want any mechanical upgrades are considered throw-backs, retards, and are systematically exterminated.

What occurred to me is that I am unsure if Delaney wanted the Gypsies to be sympathetic or not.

A few years ago I reread Brave New World for maybe the third or fourth time, and the first time since I had been a teenager.  It was a revelation totally unlike my first reading, because I found myself questioning what was so wrong with being genetically matched to a labor caste.  Everyone is chemically altered to be happy doing whatever it is they were meant to do, be it chef or coal miner or movie star.   As a teen I was focused on the the dissolution of free will, of eugenics and mass indoctrination.  As an adult I wished desperately there were some pill that made me happy to go to work every day, to make scads of money for someone else while I remained trapped in an economic morass, unable to labor on subjects that actually pleased me.

And then yesterday, rereading parts of Nova, a similar realization: the Gypsies are people I would despise.  This increasingly congested world is creating the opposite of a social environment: rather than being surrounded by potential friends, I find I am surrounded by people I have nothing in common with.  It’s a mathematical eventuality.  I turn to my computer, for example, so that I may easily identify and contact the kind of person I would like to be social with.  I’ve transferred a good deal of my creativity over to the ethereal “net,” where I share photographs with friends and strangers, where I can find artistic mentors I’d never be able to find in meatspace.  I imagine, then, a Gypsie who disapproves of what I do.    And I think, “What an ignorant douchebag.

It always comes back to me calling someone a douchebag, doesn’t it?

Put Up Or Shut Up

Posted by Sunday on Sep 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I’ve hinted at the following sentiment over the last few months, but I now feel inclined to fully vent: I am mad at literature. And mostly science fiction. Settled down with a sammich and a mug of laudanum? Then let’s begin.

Every once and a great while I go through periods of not wanting to read, and almost always this is set off by reading a particularly terrible book — the great Not Reading Anything of 2001 in the wake of China Mieville’s aneurysm-inducing Perdido Street Station, for example. However, just before I moved across the country (the second time) I had a sudden and unpleasant realization: It had been a while since I read a book I’d actually enjoyed.

I looked over my shelves. 2006 Hugo Award-winning Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge? In the dictionary? Next to ‘Trying Too Hard?’ That’s right, there’s Rainbows End. And don’t even get me started on Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon: I’ll take the high road and just say that nothing spells unintentionally funny like preposterous, confusing sex scenes.

In fact, after picking through my shelves with increasing frustration, I found that Peter Watt’s Blindsight was the extent of the good reads in the last year. Good old Watts. Meanwhile, Altered Carbon was purchased for a reported million fucking dollars to be made into a movie. O, the infinite horror of this dimension that I keep trying to insist is merely chaos but is more obviously the result of a cruel and mentally retarded god.

Unrelated: my doctor seems delighted that I am only 29 and need to be on blood pressure medication. Early and often, as they say.

What is going on here? Have I become hard to please, or is science fiction getting shittier?

I’m inclined to say a little from column A and a little from column B, and not just because I’m a noncommittal poser. I had a half-strength epiphany while camping last week with my family and reading John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick. This being my first Updike (yes, I went to college, shut up – and anyway, I never graduated), I was officially thrown for a loop. Firstly, I remember trying to read Updike years back and curling my lip. Back on the shelf it goes. Secondly Nicholson Baker once wrote a touching ode to Updike, which gave me pause. If Baker likes him, surely…? But no, I still couldn’t be bothered with it. And then, in a fit of pique (“I’ll show those smart people and prove that I don’t like Updike once and for all.”) I picked up a battered copy of Eastwick. And there I was, several pages into it and thinking, “This is fucking brilliant.” It was like reading Baker’s liquid, fizzy train-of-thought, the same bumbling honeybee of prose – but with a story! It’s humane and active, meaningful and profoundly mundane. It is somehow familiar and totally surprising. Stephen King famously complained that Baker’s writing was a “meaningless little fingernail paring,” which is a lot like saying that pie is a pointless trimming of beard hair; also, someday soon Naglfar will be coming for you and it won’t seem so meaningless after all, will it?

Blah blah blah, anyway, I had a mini-epiphany: people don’t know how to write anymore. Or rather, there is no reward for knowing how to write anymore. That has to be it. So that you have these masses of writers who might be technically good but cannot string an arc along to save their lives (any contemporary scifi writer who is obsessed with the singularity, I’m looking at you), and you have these terrible writers who have a whole laundry basket of good ideas but need to be told that no one “stares broodingly”. And they both get five-novel deals with movie options. Huh?

Before I started writing this I thought: I can’t complain if I can’t fix it. But I spent some time with myself, listening to myself’s side of the story, and I came to see a different point of view. I am the consumer. If my TV doesn’t work well, no one expects me to head down to the basement and hack a TV out of a block of butter and some twist ties. Other than MacGyver, who remains disappointed with humanity on a daily basis (like me!). But me, I argued, books aren’t a machine. They are art. Au contraire, me! I said. They are a recipe, like a cake. There are a near-infinite range of variations, but they are still cake, and they are still made according to a finite series of rules (don’t check my math, just trust me). And we’re talking about taste here, anyway. If publishers claim that Americans aren’t reading anymore, I can’t help but ask, is it maybe because the product is shitty? Have you gone off the recipe?

The answer is yes, if you aren’t capable of following my faux-rhetorical questioning.

That just leaves us with my being hard to please, which is straight-forward. In my old age, I find that I want an increasingly rare and perfect balance of real story with quality writing. Poor me. It wasn’t all that long ago that I liked passing time with a book as much as I liked scoring a really excellent read. Currently I’m alienating friends by calling them at work just to read them an especially atrocious sentence of Altered Carbon. DID HE EVEN HAVE AN EDITOR? I guess I’m still upset about it. The point being: popular scifi lit is morphing into a lethal combination of Idiocracy and Fahrenheit 451, and I’m certain it’s not just that I’m getting smarter (I call it “The Dumbening”). But clearly instead of censoring thoughts they are quietly replacing them with lamer ones. And by “they” I don’t know who I mean. I vote Russians. Or possibly Boing Boing.

12 Posted in Literature

Book Review: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, Pt. 2

Posted by Sunday on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Welcome to Part Two!

The continuation of a page-by-page summary of a British scifi novel from 1972.

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Read Part One.

Read Part Two

4 Posted in Literature

Book Review: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, Pt. 1

Posted by Sunday on Apr 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis (The Viking Press, 1972)

How many times have you wish for a novelized version of a British scifi television show from the early 70′s? A dozen? Hundreds?

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It would be fantastic, I concur, and with evidence in hand: Mutant 59 is the funnest read I have had in some time now: Such shameless destruction! Such brash sexuality!

It is with sincere pleasure that I present to you Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, a page-by-page summary in three parts.

Read Part One

7 Posted in Literature

If You Think of It, Someone Else Is Already There

Posted by Sunday on Apr 1, 2008 at 2:59 am

For a few years now I’ve been quietly hating on science fiction a little. There has been trend of scifi going “normal,” to the extent that writers of the genre are now often writing about today, with only a few stale, chewy treats of speculation, like cheap raisin-bran cereal. On this front, I’ve lost a few of my favorite writers.

I don’t believe that writers have “failed” or any nonsense just because they don’t write the same novel over and over again. Though repetition works for Stephen King, many other writers work their craft because they are interested in it, and in exploring new ideas. When William Gibson, the author I credit for giving my understanding of literature a version upgrade (“You mean, it’s not illegal to write a fragment?”), wrote a novel called Pattern Recognition, there was a fair amount of fallout. You see, “The Father of Cyberpunk” decided to have other children. The most common negative reviews can be condensed into: “Why no more Neuromancer? Boo!” And while I also wish he’d written something more speculative, I harbored no ill will. He already wrote Neuromancer. And I can read it whenever I want to. Expecting him to write another one is like having your significant other say at a party, “Why aren’t you funny right now? Be funny. C’mon and be funny. I expected you to be funny always. My disappointment over your lack of funniness is profound and I have turned against you.”

But, I have this criticism: is it science fiction? Should we be calling it that? My answer is no. I appreciate what the publishers and perhaps Gibson himself are trying to do by staying, ostensibly, in the genre (after all, why avoid your fanbase?), but I also feel a teensy manipulated. And I mean that in the least victimy way possible – I ran out and bought Pattern Recognition in hardback, without reading the jacket flap and without hardly glancing at it, and any fault of that is entirely my own (it was at a live reading and I would have purchased a treadmill from him if he had asked me to). And again my own fault after doing the same thing with Spook Country, the book that followed Pattern Recognition. These were good books; well written, engaging, fresh. But they are science fiction in only the most generous of definitions, a fact that does not keep them from sitting on Border’s scifi shelves and ranking high on Amazon’s scifi lists.

A similar event happened with Geoff Ryman. Some time ago, and despite writing one of the most brain-busting, far-future weird-outs I’d ever read (The Child Garden), he produced The Mundane SF Manifesto, also known as How To Make Subspace Rend Her Clothes. In short, the Manifesto says: there will never be interstellar travel – hence never any alien contact, terraformed worlds, etc. – so stop writing about them. Oh Geoff, why? Why it gotta be like this? To my eternal heartache, a movement thus followed, even such that some, while not directly following the Manifesto, could still be seen carrying the torch (I would unhesitatingly rank Cory Doctorow in this group). An entire movement of people who feel that science fiction is somehow best served by making sure that plausibility reigns.

Happily, there are those other than myself who disagree. Rudy Rucker, a long-time-player in scifi and a Ph.D in mathematics, gently spoke out against the so-called Mundane sub-genre, foremost by pointing out that basing a philosophy on the impossibility of interstellar travel is just bad science (his entire blog is a lesson on how to remain genuinely civil and opinionated at the same time). Pay attention to the comments at the end of his post: people seem to be agitated at the idea that “bad science” might ruin their scifi.

The upside has forced me to examine how I am limiting my own writing: do I discard ideas because they resist explanation? Or because I fear it would be to much work to suspend disbelief? But I still come around to the same lament: since when are there so many predicates in “What if?”

10 Posted in Literature