Re: Guest Post - William Gibson

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I enjoyed this comment about the characterization in Neuromancer:

"I didn't have the emotional range. I could only create characters who have ­really, really super highs and super lows--no middle. It's taken me eight books to get to a point where the characters can have recognizably complex or ambiguous relationships with other characters. In Neuromancer, the whole range of social possibility when they meet is, Shall we have sex, or shall I kill you? Or you know, Let's go rob a Chinese corporation--cool!"


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:11 AM
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I thought this bit was fascinating (pardon the long excerpt):

INTERVIEWER: Do you revise?

GIBSON: Every day, when I sit down with the manuscript, I start at page one and go through the whole thing, revising freely.

INTERVIEWER: You revise the whole manuscript every day?

GIBSON: I do, though that might consist of only a few small changes. I've done that since my earliest attempts at short stories. It would be really frustrating for me not to be able to do that. I would feel as though I were flying blind.

The beginnings of my books are rewritten many times. The endings are only a draft or three, and then they're done. But I can scan the manuscript very quickly, much more quickly than I could ever read anyone else's prose.

INTERVIEWER: Does your assessment of the work change, day by day?

GIBSON: If it were absolutely steady I don't think it could be really good judgment. I think revision is hugely underrated. It is very seldom recognized as a place where the higher creativity can live, or where it can manifest. I think it was Yeats who said that literary revision was the only place in life where a man could truly improve himself.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:14 AM
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I love that he got into sci-fi because he had his early life of futuristic cookie-cutter subdivisions torn from him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:17 AM
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1.2.first of course describe the place where most Sci Fi ever gets to. But at some level who cares?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:30 AM
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describes


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:32 AM
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...the whole range of social possibility when they meet is, Shall we have sex, or shall I kill you? Or you know, Let's go rob a Chinese corporation--cool!

I've never been to an Unfogged meetup. Isn't this how they work?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:35 AM
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Neuromancer was a very rare book for me that I could not finsh. There were passages I admired, but I just could not sustain any interest.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:36 AM
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Like bacon fat in the bottom of the pan.

Speaking of which via a William Gibson retweet this morning (I do find he has a fascinating twitter feed, @GreatDismal):
Britain's largest 'fatberg' removed from a London sewer. More than 15 tonnes of fat.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:38 AM
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The whole interview is very good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:41 AM
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7 -- same here. Or maybe I did push through to the end? Anyhow, it was tough to sustain interest. Maybe I'll restart project "try to read sci fi" at some point in the future but not for a while.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:43 AM
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I found Neuromancer great and awful at the same time. Like Snow Crash. It's all about the quite interesting ideas, otherwise only marginally readable. Also see early* Orson Scott Card and comment 4.

*And in his case it's not that his writing got better.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:46 AM
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Anyhow, like I said, the interview is extremely good even if you don't like his fiction at all; he's extremely up front about what he was trying to accomplish in his writing and what he wasn't (or couldn't), and it's also a good way to get some of his basically unaparalleled social and technological perceptiveness without having to feel like you're, you know, reading sci-fi.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:47 AM
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I find his prose (even in his earliest writing) lovely but his characters have never been the best (explained and discussed in the interview!).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:49 AM
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11 is insane. Gibson is a lovely prose stylist, particularly by the standards of science fiction writers.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:52 AM
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As long as we're on about authors in that genre, this Bruce Sterling piece on recent events revolving around the surveillance state and our knowledge thereof, The Ecuadorian Library, is highly recommended.

But Snowden sure is a dissident defector, and boy is he ever. Americans don't even know how to think about characters like Snowden -- the American Great and the Good are blundering around on the public stage like blacked-out drunks, blithering self-contradictory rubbish. It's all "gosh he's such a liar" and "give us back our sinister felon," all while trying to swat down the jets of South American presidents.
...
Even the electronic civil lib contingent is lying to themselves. They're sore and indignant now, mostly because they weren't consulted -- but if the NSA released PRISM as a 99-cent Google Android app, they'd be all over it. Because they are electronic first, and civil as a very distant second.
They'd be utterly thrilled to have the NSA's vast technical power at their own command. They'd never piously set that technical capacity aside, just because of some elderly declaration of universal human rights from 1947. If the NSA released their heaps of prying spycode as open-source code, Silicon Valley would be all over that, instantly. They'd put a kid-friendly graphic front-end on it. They'd port it right into the cloud.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:57 AM
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14: No, you're insane. It was shite.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:57 AM
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And also, yeah, Gibson's characters may be a bit thin but holy crap at least they aren't the ham-handedly speechifying automatons (yes. The automaton has hams for hands. That is the picture I want you to have.) of Stephenson's books.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:58 AM
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Although as re: 7, Neuromancer is not remotely what I would suggest for people who are embarking on the project of trying to read science fiction, as it's got too much of a high lit'rary sensibility and the plot doesn't really make any sense.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:58 AM
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Although, maybe tastes differ.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:58 AM
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16: I'm rubber and you're glue!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:58 AM
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20 to 19.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 9:59 AM
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it's got too much of a high lit'rary sensibility and the plot doesn't really make any sense

Discussed in the interview!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:01 AM
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Funny, I usually think of myself as kind of disliking 'literary' prose, but I think of Gibson's prose as intentionally literary, and I like it for that. I like his short stories better than his novels, though, but I feel that way about a lot of science fiction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:01 AM
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Neuromancer is my second (or maybe even third) favorite of the Sprawl trilogy. Count Zero is by far his best protagonist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:03 AM
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As he notes in the interview, SF - especially in the 70s - was dominated by real rah-rah militaristic stuff. That's not all there was, obviously, but it definitely took up the lion's share of space in the SF section of a typical B. Dalton bookstore.

I appreciate Neuromancer as pushing a different sensibility into the spotlight. If only more kids in my cohort had read Gibson instead of reading Heinlein and becoming libertarians...


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:05 AM
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And as the prof in the last English Lit course took said (and with whose assessment I most certainly agree), I lack the "critical facility" (or maybe it was "faculty") when it comes to reading fiction. I am most likely conflating prose style and character development because it's all "Mary, merry, marry" too me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:05 AM
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Course I took


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:05 AM
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I like his short stories better than his novels

I unabashedly love his short story collection Burning Chrome, the percentage of stories in there which are really, really good is impressive.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:07 AM
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Neuromancer's best feature is that it's terrifically inventive. He just keeps throwing weird technological ideas at you. There's a consensual hallucination called cyberspace! and you can access it through electrodes on your skull! you can get weapons and image intensifiers built in to your body! you can record people's personalities on a digital storage device! there's been a third world war! There are weird decadent Michael Moorcock families living in earth orbit! and Rastas growing hydroponic ganja! and clones! and AIs that can rewrite your personality if you talk to them for long enough!

By the time he drops in the aliens, you barely notice them.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:08 AM
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Agree with 24. I always think of Bobby as a kid who read Neuromancer when he was younger and thought it was all SO COOL.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:09 AM
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Oddly, some of his short stories (Dogfight, for instance) have really thoughtful, effective characterization.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:09 AM
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29: I love that he describes that stuff in the interivew as pushing down on the J.G. Ballard effect pedal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:10 AM
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30: yes! It's a hilarious skewering of the tropes of coolness that he basically created, and he does it in his SECOND novel!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:12 AM
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24 & 29: The first 2 pages of Count Zero are one of my favorite examples of the "just keep piling weird shit on top of more weird shit" technique.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:12 AM
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Now I want to reread Count Zero. I remember the short stories I've read vividly (yes, Dogfight. Was that published in Omni? I think that's where I read it.), but Neuromancer is sort of a 'more of the same' blur, and while I know I must have read Count Zero because I would have when I was reading that stuff, I don't recall it at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:15 AM
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30: what it reminded me of was "A Game of Thrones" where you have Sansa Stark as, basically, the reader stand-in; but a reader who's read far too much heroic fantasy for her own good and is entirely convinced that the Handsome Prince Joffrey will fall in love with her, the Righteous Councillor Ned Stark will be rewarded, etc, only to have Fortune vomit in her teapot on a regular basis throughout all five books.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:16 AM
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36: it would be very silly of me to say "no spoilers" right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:18 AM
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I thought the literary fiction parts were the most interesting part of the book, but even those fell pretty flat and not well-controlled and more like a way to beef up a not very interesting pulp fiction novel of not sufficiently interesting ideas (though I read this book like 3 years ago, so obviously the concept of "cyberspace" was old hat by then; it might have seemed different in 1985 or whatever). But I don't actually mean to hate on Gibson, I have some sort of apparent inherent resistance to the entire genre, cyberpunk or no, and basically have the same relationship to it as blind people do to fine art painting. The interview is indeed pretty interesting and he seems like a smart enough guy. I will say I liked Neuromancer WAY better than Heinlein's "Stranger and a Strange Land," which I tried to read at about the same time, and found literally unreadable (and horrifying, in that it appears to have had a lot of influence on people).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:18 AM
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"in" I guess, but all of you people already knew that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:19 AM
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37 - sorry;... I was trying to keep it vague!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:20 AM
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(though I read this book like 3 years ago, so obviously the concept of "cyberspace" was old hat by then; it might have seemed different in 1985 or whatever)

might have?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:24 AM
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some sort of apparent inherent resistance to the entire genre

I think there's a willingness to be wowed by surprising stuff that you need to enjoy SF much -- if your reaction to a dolphin working in a carnival for drug money because the Navy got it addicted to heroin to keep it working isn't some variant of "Golly", it's not really a genre that's going to work for you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:33 AM
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...a dolphin working in a carnival for drug money because the Navy got it addicted to heroin to keep it working...

Flipper: The Lost Years


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:34 AM
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If sci-fi focused entirely on dolphins and heroin, I might be more into it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:37 AM
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41: Right. For instance the Morris worm* was 3 or 4 years in the future when it came out. In this NYTimes piece he wrote re:Stuxnet he mentions a 1986 "virus" that I had never heard of, code to shut down a PC after year to protect heart-monitoring software from piracy getting loose in the wild.

Although apparently some guys at Xerox coined the term in 1979 inspired by Brunner's Shockwave Rider per the Computer History Museum.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:45 AM
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44: Life imitates art


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:47 AM
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If sci-fi focused entirely on dolphins and heroin, I might be more into it.

Maybe you should try Gun, with Occasional Music.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:54 AM
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38: I actually enjoyed Stranger in a Strange Land a lot. I've enjoyed a fair amount of science fiction -- my problems with Neuromancer may have had more to do with my distaste for the conventions of noir.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 10:55 AM
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Thanks for linking. I had meant to read this but tl;dr-ed and then it got lost. So now I have, and indeed found it excellent. And if you do Twitter, subscribe to his feed.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:07 AM
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In Neuromancer, the whole range of social possibility when they meet is, Shall we have sex, or shall I kill you? Or you know, Let's go rob a Chinese corporation--cool!"

The tendency was beautifully captured by this classic exchange in an earlier sci fi thread.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:09 AM
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Dogfight, for instance

Christ, what a depressing story. I last read it more than 20 years ago and thinking about it now still gets me down.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:27 AM
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45: Mention of the Morris worm caused me to have a sudden flashback to the panic over the Michelangelo virus when I was in college.

Weird to be suddenly reminded of something you literally haven't thought about once in more than 20 years.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:28 AM
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That's a really good interview.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:41 AM
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Bill Gibson hippie, CBS doc footage, Toronto 1967. His stuff is at the beginning, about 5 minutes worth. Pretty funny.

I loved Neuromancer and read it in the year of its release, but not since, so I am going off distant memories. It was dark and trippy. The language was what struck me, you could tell he had read a lot of Burroughs and Rimbaud, the rhythms of the adjectives, the cadences, hallucinatory yet optimistic, the sounds of the words were right between the hard consonants of Burroughs despair and the softer sibilant vowels decadence of Rimbaud's liberation.

And transcendence, but not yours. Bit of Childhood's End there.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:46 AM
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Christ, what a depressing story. I last read it more than 20 years ago and thinking about it now still gets me down.

Same here. I think I was in HS when I read it and I immediately knew that I was not going to forget it for a long time.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:47 AM
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A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he'd taken and the corners he'd cut in Night City, and still he'd see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void...The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he'd cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, his hands clawed into the bedslab, temperfoam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn't there.

Just alliteration tricks covering noir bullshit. But it was a lot faster, had more momentum than the dense muck of Gene Wolfe. Tweaking neon.

Not that good. But different, new at least for that period. Besterian.

He had reached a dead end. He had been content to drift from moment to moment of existence for thirty years like some heavily armored creature... but now he was adrift in space for one hundred and seventy days, and the key to his awakening was in the lock. Presently it would turn and open the door to holocaust.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 12:06 PM
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Flipper: The Lost Years

[Stares wistfully out to sea.]


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 12:34 PM
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The excerpt (google "Neuromancer excerpt", I think WG's blog) ends

"...poisoned silver sky."

WTF does that even mean? Nothing, just words. But estranging words. Also:Not poetry, not a metaphor, but some kind of description of something that does not exist.

Delany:"...take recognizable syntagms and substitute in them, here and there, signifiers from a wholly unexpected paradigm."

Delany:"The language with which SF accomplishes its particular mode of inmixing must frequently use unusual verbal juxtapositions by which certain words are estranged from their more usual, extrageneric contexts. But the process we are trying to fix is that by which we recognize [emp mine] (in the sense of ordinary, imaginative perception) these new and different images, rather than how we cognize them as structures [emp SRD) (and in so doing, find them more or less coherent in terms of the current scientific episteme...)

From: "Science Fiction as Cognitive Estrangement:Darko Suvin and the Marxist Critique of Mass Culture" by Gregory Renault, Discourse, Vol 2, Summer 1980, accessed on MyJstor (so happy). Much more great stuff in this.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 12:58 PM
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I took _Neuromancer_ into the school infirmary with me in 1987 when coming down with a fever that eventually broke to 104F. I had waking tactile hallucinations, and no-one knew where I was (but I won the game of Assassins by default!) so I had a week alone to reread and dizzily reread between being woken up for my aspirins.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:05 PM
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I loved Neuromancer when I read it way back when, and enjoyed it when I reread it a few years ago. I don't see how someone would have problems finishing it. The plot may not make sense, but it moves along quickly enough that you don't really notice it that much.

However, the idea that the SF of the seventies was mostly military rah rah type stuff is insane. There was a hell of a lot of excellent SF being published back then, and would be for a while. These days it's a different story with the rise of fantasy and urban fantasy and relatively smaller decline in mil-SF and space opera compared to other SF.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:07 PM
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Also per Delany second, the narrator or voice in Neuromancer understands and accepts, somewhat sadly or whatever, the "poisoned silver sky." The reader, us, in our mind's eye somehow sees the "poisoned silver sky" but cannot understand it. Neuromancer took some kinda leap in the creation of incomprehensible images (inside cyberspace, whoa) and did it via an newly uninhibited use of language. A deliberately superficial cluttered noisy surface. Post-modern.

Anyway, if you want to understand Gibson in historical context you have to closely-read the text and compare it to other contemporaneous texts. Disch, for instance, in On Wings of Song spends the entire novel gradually accreting elements to fuse into his final brutal image.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:19 PM
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However, the idea that the SF of the seventies was mostly military rah rah type stuff is insane.

Oh there was definitely lots of other stuff being published, I just have a vague impression that Jerry Pournelle style hippie punchers in space stuff was dominating the scene in the years leading up to the arrival of Neuromancer.

Then again, maybe being in Orange County had something to do with it.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:25 PM
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Excerpt from Disch On Wings of Song, possibly not a good one, but compare to the Gibson in 56. The estrangement is in the paradigm, not the syntagm.

But it was the music that had the largest (if least understandable) effect on him. Night after night there was music. Not music such as he'd ever conceived of before; not music that could be named, the way, when it was your turn to ask for your favorite song in Mrs. Boismortier's class you could ask for "Santa Lucia" or "Old Black Joe" and the class would sing it and it would be there, recognizably the same, fixed always in that certain shape. Here there were tunes usually, yes, but they were always shifting round, disintegrating into mere raw rows of notes that still somehow managed to be music. The way they did it was beyond him, and at times the why of it as well. Especially, it seemed, when the three prisoners who were generally accounted the best musicians got together to play. Then, though he might be swept off his feet at the start, inevitably their music would move off somewhere he couldn't follow. It was like being a three-year-old and trying to pay attention to grown-up talk. But there seemed to be this difference between the language of words. It didn't seem possible, in the language of music, to lie.

Nastiest fucking book ever written, incidentally. Just a fucking feral snarl.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:27 PM
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I absolutely loved Neuromancer as a teenager and just reread it a few months ago. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but it's also kind of terrible -- the dialogue is preposterous, the characters are totally undeveloped, and the plot is incomprehensible. And yet, it was pretty great!

Also, vat-grown beef is now a reality.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:32 PM
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#1985unimaginablefuture: Washington Post bought by internet startup.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:43 PM
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Not even Amazon, just Jeff Bezos, as far as I can tell. I didn't get very far.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 1:50 PM
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66: Ah yes, looks to be.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:00 PM
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In other words 'WaPo' bought by super-zillionaire. That's not unimaginable.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:09 PM
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Yes, I don't know that the sale itself to a rich person would be unimaginable, but of course the specific means of acquiring wealth (but not the general - computers!) would have been.

It's probably well worth $250 million (so cheap!) for Bezos to have a permanent source of control over prestige journalism in DC, and smart to buy it in his own name so he never has to disclose anything. I doubt it makes any business sense in its own terms but as the privately controlled loss leading propaganda arm of Bezos/Amazon/technology inc it probably makes a good deal of sense, and he'll keep it from losing too much money.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:15 PM
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'WaPo' bought by super-zillionaire. That's not unimaginable.

It actually happened, in fact (Buffett).


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:16 PM
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The opportunity to reassign the editorial page writers to work in Amazon.com warehouses would easily be worth $250 million.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:19 PM
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Things that are worth more than the Washington Post.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:31 PM
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While 69 is true, I still can't get the vision out of my head of Bezos getting up this morning with a piercing headache and realizing that he bought-- what? The Washington Post? The newspaper, the Washington Post? I bought it? I own it? Like ... ... ... they'll deliver all the fucking papers to my house every morning in a giant fucking truck? I OWN ALL of the NEWSPAPER! He can't stop laughing. Falls down. Truly does not remember a thing that happened yesterday, -- but I guess I'll read about whatever the fuck it was in the Washington Post, which I now own! Jesus.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:38 PM
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Especially considering Amazon is working on displacing a lot more retail than before with its new same-day warehouses.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:39 PM
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74 to 69.2.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:40 PM
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It's particularly -- ironic? something? -- since many of the retail stores Amazon has set out to displace were the newspapers' best customers and main source of ad revenue. I wonder if part of the plan is to make official Washington forget that brick and mortar stores exist by ceasing to run their ads.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:44 PM
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76 is a good theory. Fewer ads, more personalization, more data aggregation.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:48 PM
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Parsimon can now consolidate her hatred a bit.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:51 PM
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Cézanne's "The Card Players" went for more than $250M.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:53 PM
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Washington Post free for Kindle would be a great strategy if there was some other large technology company with a popular device for the reading of things that you were trying to do battle with it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:56 PM
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(Not very invested in my tag in 65--mostly just a way to pretend it was on-topic.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 2:59 PM
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Any thoughts on John Henry's purchase if the Boston Globe? That was a bad investment for the NY Times. Is this mostly about ensuring coverage for the Red Sox or does he have altruistic motives too?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:07 PM
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79: They were probably confused and thought they were getting "Dogs Playing Cards".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:08 PM
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72: Instagram is four times as valuable as the Washington Post? Sounds about right, counting the Post's editorial page as negative value.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:12 PM
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I would encourage people who are still bummed about "Dogfight" not to read John Kessel's "Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:13 PM
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Inside of a winner, it's too dark to read.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:15 PM
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71 - I'm disappointed in that this move by Bezos means that Devon Spurgeon -- Richard Cohen harrassee, hedge fund functionary, and Buffett's former personal assistant -- won't ever be able to offer the Graham family her pocket change for the privilege of firing Cohen then kicking him in the balls.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:19 PM
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69 makes sense, but 73 is still fantastic.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:38 PM
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||

Just got a good decision on a big mess of a case I inherited from another lawyer who screwed it up before quitting to go be a veterinary technician. Yay -- now I can pack up a truly giant file that's been eating space in my office and send it to archives.

|>


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:39 PM
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87: you are right, she'll have to live with just paying to kick him in the balls


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:40 PM
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89: Poor animals.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:44 PM
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She might have been good at it -- I was very surprised once to come into the office on a weekend to find her working on a brief with a surprisingly large rabbit in her office. Not that bringing animals to the office makes you a good vet, but she clearly seemed to like them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:49 PM
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Au contraire.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 3:50 PM
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||

Has this been linked yet? "Making it easier for transgender people to get new birth certificates."

Seems like this is the kind of thing that should be handled on your ID card/DL. A birth certificate is a medical record. You can't just go around editing that kind of thing because you don't like what it says.

|>


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 4:32 PM
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I read Count Zero before Neuromancer, although I'd already read a couple of the short stories in "Omni" or "Twilight Zone" or somewhere. I do think splitting the POV between Turner, Bobby and Marly tends to give him more space for looking at characters more deeply, and, frankly, Neuromancer is so derivative of Junkie that it can't help but read a little flat at points. I believe Gibson said in a long ago interview that his research for Neuromancer consisted of going to the all-night diner where the pimps and dealers hung out and trying to remember their turns of phrase. I don't know if that was literally true, but it is redolent of that long shot in Taxi Driver where we see the row of pimps, each with his untouched single hamburger in front of him, so it's always seemed meaningful to me.

I think it's interesting that the despicable rich guy in the Bigend trilogy (Bigend, that is), is so much more sympathetic than 3Jane/Virek in the Sprawl trilogy or Cody Harwood in the Bridge trilogy. I don't think it necessarily indicates that Gibson has gone soft on the whole malefactors-of-great-wealth question, but it does seem in some way to be a move towards complexifying social relationships in his work.

If I ever get to interview him again, I'm definitely going to try to ask more questions about his late teens/early twenties and about The Difference Engine. And I hope it is nearer the start of his tour this time -- last time he was clearly just regurgitating his pat answers that he'd cobbled together over the course of the tour.


Posted by: Natilio Paenim | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 4:39 PM
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92: If you had gone to her home, you might have seen 50 under fed, not neutered clients all having to poop in a single toilet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 4:50 PM
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I was very surprised once to come into the office on a weekend to find her working on a brief with a surprisingly large rabbit in her office.

You were expecting them to be in a conference room?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:14 PM
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What gswift mentions in 94 is why I don't like that adoptions create a new birth certificate, so Mara's says that Lee gave birth to her under her current name. I know it's supposed to make children who were adopted not stand out, but I think it would be so much less strange just to get an adoption certificate that keeps the real birth data (removing parents' names) and also includes the adoption information. But since we change birth certificates so they're no longer accurate historical records anyway, we might as well use them to mark gender changes too.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:19 PM
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I suppose I should take an active interest in this birth certificate stuff, but I feel like we haven't really plumbed the depths of feeling around vat-grown Hosaka assassins and syncretic gods loosed in the matrix of cyberspace.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:34 PM
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98.last seems right to me. In terms of what the birth certificate actually does and is used for (or rather, the situations when one is required to produce it), it's not nearly as much of a medical record as it is something like a certificate of legitimacy. In my own life, at least, it's always been demanded by bureaucracies as basically signifying that I'm a proper US citizen. So long as that's the main use of it, I think it should be as easy as possible for trans folks to have it made congruent with their present identity.

I mean, yes, in one sense it's strange and an odd sort of legal fiction. But I'd much rather it be strange and a bit nonsensical than have a mismatched birth certificate stand in the way of a trans person getting some concrete thing that they need.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:37 PM
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Of course this is why we should have national ID cards.

There's so many strange side affects of changing birth certificates. I think my brother who was born in another country has a birth certificate saying he was born in the US city where his adoption was finalized. Who knows what would happen if he ran for president. I had a babysitter whose birth certificate says her step-dad fathered her when he was 13.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:52 PM
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Who knows what would happen if he ran for president.

Cataclysmic nuclear war. A United States ruled as a loose confederation of corporatist city-states. The Golden Gate Bridge turned into a massive shantytown. Pop stars with no corporeal existence. Hallucinations of thirties sci-fi architecture. Bear heads on flying platters. Half-made space AIs. Floating penguin robots. Klein blue menswear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:56 PM
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If you change names but not genders and are not adopted, can you get a new birth certificate? I certainly don't have a birth certificate with my married name.

Now that i think about it, it's a bit weird that IDs don't include the info of previous names. In lots of situations where you need to show ID it seems like that would be very relevant info.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 5:58 PM
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I was born in England, but moved to Scotland when I was a couple of weeks old. I don't feel English. They should totally issue me with a new birth certificate. Also, this could totally matter if at some point Scotland goes independent.

Retrospective making the past be the way we'd like it to have been all round.*

* actually, snark aside, x.trapnel makes a good point in 100. Still, there's surely other ways of making sure people can access the things they need/want.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 6:05 PM
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Still, there's surely other ways of making sure people can access the things they need/want.

MORE GUNS


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 6:06 PM
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Yeah, you can go shoot up the town meeting if they're not responsive. (Actually, I have no idea if the shooter had a beef with the town.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 6:18 PM
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Probably not, since I seem to be wrong about all the things today.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 6:20 PM
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69 distantly reminded me of a story from an HR guy I knew whose job got expanded to include "facilities" during a protracted and haphazardly run oil industry acquisition. A guard called him one Sunday to report that "his trucks" were there. "And what trucks might those be?" he replied. Turns out there had been a seismic crew that they forgot to mention to him, and they had come back when the money quit coming.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 6:33 PM
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SF of the seventies was mostly military rah rah type stuff

contra this conceit I offer
Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
LeGuin's Hainish cycle
Niven's Ringworld
Gateway by Fred Pohl
Farmer's Riverworld


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 08- 5-13 11:54 PM
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Further to 109: look at the Hugo and Nebula winners and nominees from the seventies. There's only two military SF titles in there that I recognise, out of about 70, and one of them is The Forever War. The winners are people like Arthur C Clarke and Ursula Le Guin and Vonda McIntyre and Philip K Dick.

If anything, it's the 80s when SF started to really get into military themes. That's when you have "Memory" and "Downbelow Station" and "The Peace War" and "Ender's Game" and "The Uplift War" and "Hyperion" getting nominations.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 1:35 AM
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109, 110: I guess just replace "SF in the 70s" with "SF in the years immediately preceding Neuromancer" (early 80s), and my impression about the prevalence of rah-rah militaristic stuff is more accurate.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 3:48 AM
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That still feels wrong. Those were the years when I was really paying attention, and AFAIR, I'd never even heard of 'military SF' as a separate subgenre the way it is now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 3:51 AM
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Yeah, if anything I'd say that the 70s and early 80s are when you get the least military SF. It's pretty much Jerry Pournelle and that's it. And Haldeman, but if anything he's writing anti-military SF.

Back in the 50s and 60s you still had a lot of pulp-influenced rayguns and rocketpacks stuff - Heinlein and Dickson and so on.

And from the mid-80s onward into the 90s, starting really from the establishment of Baen Books in 1983, you start to see a whole new sort of mil-SF, drawing on things like the Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin books and on the technothriller boom, giving you people like Lois McMaster Bujold and David Drake and Elizabeth Moon.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 4:07 AM
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25: As he notes in the interview, SF - especially in the 70s - was dominated by real rah-rah militaristic stuff.

Aside from whether this is an accurate characterization or not, I think this overstates what Gibson said in the interview. Early on he notes (emphasis added), "It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism." And then later he describes his disappointment when he came back to SciFi, but nothing specifically about the militarism. And I'm going to go about 2 inches out on a limb and suggest that was far more about him than SciFi itself. In particular, he literally gives it the "everything was better when I was 12" treatment.

I went out and bought a bunch of newer science fiction--I hadn't been reading the stuff for a long while. It was incredibly disappointing. That window to strangeness just didn't seem to be there anymore. It was like, when I was twelve there was country blues, and when I'm twenty-six there's plastic Nashville country--it was that kind of change.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 4:30 AM
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As I mentioned somewhere upthread, being in Orange County might have something to do with it. My impressions are drawn less from what was winning Hugo awards than from what was available in bookstores. And I definitely remember my early teenage self seeing shelf after shelf of "square jawed space marines" type books. Could have been a local thing.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 4:41 AM
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106: (Actually, I have no idea if the shooter had a beef with the town.)

Yes he did it turns out.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 5:38 AM
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I think my favorite part of the interview was his discussion of influences, But I don't think that writers are very reliable witnesses when it comes to influences, because if one of your sources seems woefully unhip you are not going to cite it and the reverse James Bond market.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 5:42 AM
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117: Somehow, that reminds me of the great bit from The Committments where the band is screening drummers by asking them what their influences are, and the winning answer is "Yer man Animal, from the Muppets."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 5:51 AM
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116: There's apparently two Ross Townships. Somebody should do something about that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:09 AM
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119: wiping one of them out might not be the best approach.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:12 AM
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I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Townships on fire off the coast of Orion.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:13 AM
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Off the coast? It can't have been coast.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:13 AM
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Shoulder.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:15 AM
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I knew it wasn't coast. Shoulder is still pretty damned weird, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:20 AM
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Attack ships on fire off the lanai of Orion.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:21 AM
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Betelgeuse is kind of the shoulder of Orion. Or maybe Bellatrix.

It was just some stuff Rutger Hauer improvised on the spot, it wasn't even in the script IIRC.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:25 AM
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Yeah, I know I was. It would have been very impressive and yet less good if he'd come up with magnetosphere or something. But it is a strange term to use in relation to a planet nonetheless.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:29 AM
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114:I have no idea what exact period he is talking about, but let's presume circa 1975.

Terry Carr and the Ace Specials were on a hiatus (Gibson would benefit from the revival) but Donald Wollheim was going gangbusters with his new DAW imprint. Wollheim, as always, published his share of space operas...but do you include C J Cherryh in that?
She was also part of what were called the "New Romantics" which also included Card and GRRM.

But Wolheim, as always again, also published more than his share of eccentrics, Doris Pischeria and Tanith Lee for examples.

What was lacking in the mid-70s was the language and structural experimentation of the late-60s, and the rebellious attitude of the Spinrads and Moorcocks.

There is also some stuff about the changing demographics of the readership, more female, but the kind of woman who thought Marion Zimmer Bradley was a great writer and voted Dreamsnake the Hugo. Needed some seasoning there, the young students of Russ and Leguin to come forward.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:30 AM
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Marion Zimmer Bradley

Was she the one who wrote books about dragons and sex?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:32 AM
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There's always plenty on the shelves that doesn't stand the test of time.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:37 AM
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129 You may be thinking of Anne McCaffrey.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:37 AM
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131: Probably. I think they were both very low key on the sex but I was very young when I read them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:41 AM
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129: That is, I think, Anne McCaffrey. MZB is Darkover, which I haven't read. (Quick google) it sounds a bit mediocre, but my god she wrote a lot of it.

Blade Runner was good in that you gradually realised that the replicants weren't having that bad a time of it - they were out there seeing all the cool stuff and being beautiful and strong and intelligent, while we humans were still here (despite being continually cajoled to seek a New Life in the Offworld Colonies! A Chance to Begin Again in a Golden Land of Opportunity and Adventure!) in the rain eating cold noodles and watching the neon lights flicker.

It has similarities to The Night Sessions (which read) in that respect.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:42 AM
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132: No, McCaffrey was all about the sex. The whole point of dragons was that when they mated, they sent out telepathic sex waves that compelled you to have passionate sex with whoever was standing around nearby, which was both super hot and something you were not at all responsible for.

It didn't occur to me at the time, given that I was the teenage-girl target audience, but boy, that's really not the basis for a healthy fantasy life, is it.

And Darkover was kind of forgettably mediocre. I have some vague belief that MZB wrote interesting stuff that people took seriously, but I don't think whatever I've read of hers could have been it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:47 AM
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My fave is Mona Lisa Overdrive, because all the girls are there. They're types, I suppose, but I think they pass the bechdel test: when they're talking about a guy it's mostly about why they're gonna kill him.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:49 AM
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130: aha, Pel Torro aka Lionel Fanthorpe!
My go-to source on this neglected genius of high-speed writing and excessive padding is David Langford... http://www.ansible.co.uk/cc/cc55.html and other articles on the same site.

"How many Fanthorpe pseudonyms does it take to change a lightbulb, to replace it, to reinstate it, to substitute for it, to swap, exchange, renew, supersede or supplant it, to provide a proxy, to put another in its stead ...?"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:50 AM
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135: yeah; I dunno that he writes realistic female characters, but he certainly tries to write fully-fleshed out, important-for-their-own-sake female characters.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 6:59 AM
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And given that he's not really writing realistic male characters either, that seems like something that's less necessarily sexism and more like just how he writes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:01 AM
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133.2: I forget, was it explicit in the movie that only healthy people could go offworld? I am thinking it wasn't, but I think I may not have realized it wasn't until just now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:06 AM
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138: yeah. On the other hand Molly maybe created a trope that is not not sexist, in practice.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:07 AM
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139: Yes. Sebastion says that he's still on Earth because he "couldn't pass the medical exam".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:11 AM
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139: no, not at all. Was that in the original story?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:12 AM
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Pwned by 141.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:12 AM
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141: And because he couldn't leave his brothers Darryl behind.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:15 AM
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142: it was a major component, yeah. I always figured that was a big part of why you were supposed to think Deckard was a replicant; either that or he was the last young, healthy, attractive human on earth. Also I imagine the original book is where the doves came from at the end; they're meant to be synthetic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:16 AM
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Blade Runner is actually not very much like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at all.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:37 AM
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Indeed. The whole emotional regulation device thing dropped out, along with the artificial pets. That's a common theme with movies from PKD books -- there have been a number of successful ones, and none of them have much of a resemblance to the source at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:39 AM
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Someone should play Blade Runner on one of the big screens in Times Square one of these days, so we could see whether it looks futuristic at all anymore.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:40 AM
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But there is a character named J.R. who can't go to the offworld colonies because he failed his medical exam and who works on synthetic creatures, and who is befriended by the renegade replicants (okay okay not replicants in the book) Deckard is trying to kill!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:41 AM
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147: Not to mention all of Mercerism, and Buster Friendly, which is huge in the book.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:41 AM
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David Drake

Yeah, I would think of David Drake as being a good sign that "military SF" was a thing. I had though he dated from the 70s, but looking at his wikipedia page, most of his work is from the mid-80s onward. Also, this is a funny line bit from wikipedia:

Drake's plots often use his extensive knowledge of history, literature, and mythology. Starting with Northworld of 1990,[1]

he has generally explained the background of each book in an afterword or preface. Additionally, Drake's plots frequently involve a contest of political systems.

As John Clute concluded in the entry on Drake in the 1993 edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, "Today there seems very little to stop [Drake] from writing exactly what he wishes to write."

Is that meant to be complimentary, it's difficult to tell.

Also, tangentially related, since William Gibson talks about music as an influence on his writing, I thought this review was interesting.

Her next step was to form her own band, the Marine Girls, in the summer of 1980 with some friends from school. Within weeks they'd made a tape on a borrowed four-track recorder and funded fifty copies through Saturday jobs in a village toy shop and a space-themed burger bar. They placed an ad in the NME. The blank confidence of youth and their roll-your-sleeves-up attitude was rewarded when letters arrived from a distribution company, a Germany radio DJ and a Dutch fanzine. They had yet to play outside Tracey's room.

The Marine Girls sound like what they were - a bunch of girls playing songs in a bedroom while trying not to disturb the parents downstairs. Thorn is amazed that these fragile sketches have become so respected but recognises their substance. Their friable nature is a form of resistance. They sound suspicious of the very idea of performance and are determined not to charm. They're trying to find a way to be a band without being boys. Thorn makes it clear that being in a band didn't make you one of the boys, or one of the girls either. 'Local boys in other bands would flirt with us a bit, then run away. And for girlfriends, they'd often choose girls who weren't in bands, and would never be in bands, but just wanted boys in bands to be their boyfriends.' If you were the only girl hanging out in the record shop you soon learned that music was something boys wanted to show you, not have you show them.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 7:51 AM
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148: I dunno about Blade Runner, but we're definitely living in Brazil.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 8:02 AM
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Some of the early Drake Hammers Slammers stuff isn't bad. Everything else I've read by him though...

The Darkover books aren't exactly great lit, but they can be very fun if you're looking for quick escapism. In general the seventies and early eighties stuff is the last period where the broader SF definition that included a lot of stuff with a fantasy feel, like Darkover or Dream Snake or Snow Queen or Lord Valentine's Castle still existed.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 8:09 AM
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If you want to get an idea of the field over time, here is a complete listing of DAW Books, understanding that Wollheim always was into reprints, always wanted to make a living, and used the commercial stuff to support the marginal and beginning writers. Not that he paid anybody, but that's the biz.

So DAW would publish EC Tubb, John Norman, and Jo Clayton, Sharon Green, Jennifer Roberson, Susan Schwartz, Suzette Haden Elgin, Charlotte Stone. Yeah, DAW always supported women. Check out Carr's lists.

I have always appreciated Wollheim much more than Terry Carr. Carr was a better editor, but was too much of a snob (esp in an macho intellectual sense) to sustain a business model.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 8:18 AM
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153:I read almost all of the Darkover books. They were pretty bad, and the one I liked best (Stormqueen) was the one MZB regretted.

I have been spending much of the morning examining, since I visited a site for feminist SF that left her off, whether and to what degree or in what way, early CJ Cherryh might or might not have been feminist writer.

Her books usually had a male protagonist, vulnerable and dependent, in a world where women wielded sword and sceptre (or tooth and claw.) So a reversal, and an examination of difference and the Other. But...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 8:30 AM
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Just realised that everyone in this thread is talking about SF, except for bob mcmanus, who, as usual, is talking about bob mcmanus.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 8:46 AM
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I thought Bob has been good in this thread. The list in 154 is interesting (oh, look, Timothy Zahn. I hadn't realized A.E. van Vogt was publishing that much in the 80s, I think of him as earlier, etc . . .)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:00 AM
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Between LB's reflections on McCaffrey in 134 and the mention of John Norman in 154 I'm now wondering: for geeky 12 year olds in the early 80s* were there any non-screwed up depictions of sexuality they might be exposed to when reading SF?

*Not that that describes anyone here


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:02 AM
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Yes, on second thoughts 156 is unfair. I blame lack of air conditioning. Sorry.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:06 AM
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158: Heinlein's healthy, right? Oh. Damn.

I mean, I don't know that SF is uniquely, or even particularly bad in this regard. I can't think of much literature I'd see as consistently less screwy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:10 AM
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158, 160: Left Hand of Darkness!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:13 AM
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160: I guess I'm not that familiar with other genre literature outside SF/Horror and mystery/detective novels.

It seems like John Norman and the later Heinlein are pretty hard to beat.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:15 AM
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160.last: Right, like the über bros of mid-century American fiction; a canon of totally fucked-up depictions of sexuality. Screwed me up far worse and for a longer time than anything I picked up on the playground (similar to how the WaPo is in the end worse than the Washington Times).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:19 AM
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127: But it is a strange term to use in relation to a planet nonetheless.

I always imagined it was describing a region of space that corresponded to the shoulder of the Orion constellation. Which I guess is what ajay's saying in 126. It's like saying something happens in Italy's toe. Really brilliant ad libbing.

I second 161.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:22 AM
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163: True. The mid-century Big Male Novelists provided real carnival of screwed up sexuality. I guess I don't see those books as appealing to even the more precocious 12 year olds though.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:22 AM
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I remember one of Asimov's early robot stories had a tedious portion with Susan Calvin becoming attracted to someone (a robot?) and turning all female-on-the-trawl. But then an author's note in the anthology recounted that in the originally-published version, this section was much, much more clumsy and fake, to the point that he had to get some help rewriting it.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:30 AM
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She has a crush on a co-worker, and has unfortunately also just invented a telepathic robot, which tells her that her feelings are returned. Sadly, the telepathic robot is lying to her so as not to hurt her feelings (which it can't do, laws of robotics and all). When she finds out the robot was lying, she drives it mad by telling it that it hurt her feelings anyway, and by asking if her ass looks fat in those jeans.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:38 AM
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Right, like the über bros of mid-century American fiction; a canon of totally fucked-up depictions of sexuality. Screwed me up far worse and for a longer time than anything I picked up on the playground (similar to how the WaPo is in the end worse than the Washington Times).

Yeah, the fact that The One Novel That Is Honest About Sex For The First Time Ever habitually refers to its hero's love interest as "The Monkey" is kind of strange.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 9:43 AM
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I hadn't realized A.E. van Vogt was publishing that
much in the 80s

Wollheim was always into reprints, ACE did Howard in the 60s...because:

1) Rights are cheap, reprints = profit
2) Nostalgia for DAW's youth
3) Maybe send some beer money the old guy's way
4) Hey, these books sold once, they'll sell again.
and

5) SF is the modernist genre.

Writers complain about the lack of discrimination of the readers, but it has always been part of the appeal of SF to read Banks and Van Vogt and say

"Look how far SF has come, how much we have changed how much better we are now. Some things are old, some are new, and the difference is very interesting."

SF is about progress. It is modernist both internally to itself and in how it reflects contemporaneous material conditions. And in an open, reflective way. To a large degree I won't go into, SF is about itself.

SF is, and has always been, a self-consciously historicized consumer entertainment, and the legacy works are as important, if not more than with art forms like painting and music.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:28 AM
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Panshin's Rite of Passage was OK on sexuality. IIRC.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:33 AM
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SF is, and has always been, a self-consciously historicized consumer entertainment, and the legacy works are as important, if not more than with art forms like painting and music.

Kind of related to this (or maybe not), I find it interesting how early on (the 1920s) a self-conscious self-identified fandom grew up around SF.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:33 AM
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When she finds out the robot was lying, she drives it mad by telling it that it hurt her feelings anyway, and by asking if her ass looks fat in those jeans.

Susan Calvin was GREAT. There is also the story where she's retired and called back in as a consultant. Her (male, bro-ish) successor has built an "intuitive" robot, and has christened it Jane (because, you know, women, irrational, intuitive) and most of the story is Susan Calvin being incredibly scornful and dismissive of this idiot, with the authorial voice cheering her on. And she solves the problem they were having with it as well.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:56 AM
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the legacy works are as important, if not more than with art forms like painting and music.

It's hard to imagine legacy works being more important than they are in pop music (look, a new Big Star box set), but that's a helpful analogy, I believe that one mark of the discerning Fan is the ability to recognize the best stuff from the previous generation or two as well as being conversant with the current cutting edge.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:56 AM
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Cyteen has really magnificently weird sexuality, but I think the winning book available to an early-80s child nerd has to be David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself. (Although it's probably much less likely to actually lead to screwy notions than the later spanky-spank Heinlein novels or the bizarre gay stereotypes in something like McCaffrey's Pern books. Except maybe for that douchey right-wing economist who wants to raise his own clone.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 10:59 AM
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(look, a new Big Star box set)

Speaking of which, the opening from this review is amusing.

Big Star aren't just rock's greatest cult band; they were arguably rock's first cult band. Like Magellan, they discovered a new route to iconic status, but theirs was more circuitous and didn't involve such niceties as sales, audience, tours, or really anything resembling actual success. . . . Big Star were sincere about being big stars and having #1 records. They didn't set out to be cult: Striving for celebrity and confirmation, they wrote what they thought should be hit records, and they played to please. Their appeal should and could have been broad. By comparison, their loyal audience nearly forty years later is a fluke.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:01 AM
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It's always been striking to me how Communist early fandom was, although that may have been specific to New York City (or just the Futurians).


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:02 AM
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And she solves the problem they were having with it as well.

Given that the problem was that it was unexpectedly hit by a meteor, she doesn't actually solve the problem with the robot. She solves the problem of having lost the intuitive robot's last insight before it was hit by a meteor by figuring out that a truck driver heard what it said.

(The detail I remember all this nonsense in worries me terribly -- if I had that spare capacity to do anything useful with, I might not be sitting here buying my own office supplies.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:07 AM
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158: I'm having warm reminiscences of Tanith Lee. Actual sensuality, which is depressingly absent from a lot of yer boffins-boffing books, and a reasonable tendency for protagonists who act like jerks to their lovers to regret it. Eventually. Several lovers in.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:14 AM
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In what?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:16 AM
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Immured in topless towers of marble, aged into twittering bundles of twigs, drifting restless in the deep tides of the sea.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:24 AM
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In Nuendo. I think it's somewhere in Spain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 11:25 AM
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161: Tehanu ("handy with a pitchfork").

- Of course that was also the age & times where I was reading R. H. van Gulik's imitations of old Chinese detective novels, which not to put too fine a point on it are pretty damn pervy. (Of course Judge Dee does not approve.)


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 1:35 PM
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More to 158, there's a sex scene in an Alix-the-Thief story that has been mildly useful in real life; her first passage with a young man of a bookish bent is perfect, but the second one is disconcertingly perfect in exactly the same way, and she realizes he's following a script instead of paying attention to her.

Can't remember who wrote those -- Merritt? Brackett? Moore?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 2:31 PM
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there's a sex scene in an Alix-the-Thief story that has been mildly useful in real life . . .

There's a similar description in Close To The Machine.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 2:36 PM
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re: 175

I've told my Alex Chilton story here before. But I can't find it in the memory hole.

Basically, he was staying in my flat as a guest of my flatmate. I came back drunk from the pub with a bunch of mates, one of whom gets totally star struck, when he realises it's him. And starts babbling about how I'd told him [my friend] that Alex and me were friends, and how this was so cool, etc. Chilton, who had only met me a couple of times, and with whom I'd barely had more than a few words of conversation, just turned and said, in a slow drawl:

'Remind me just exactly when we became friends, Matt.'

Now, I hadn't _actually_ been dropping names or claiming intimacy that I didn't have, but he wasn't to know that. So he made me look like a dick. I don't even think there was any malice intended on is part. It was part curiousity ['Have we met more times and I've forgotten?'] and part put down.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 2:47 PM
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183 - Joanna Russ, if you're talking about Alyx of Picnic on Paradise.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 3:29 PM
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185 is a great story and is such a rock and roll guy thing to say -- part bafflement, part put-down, part self-protection.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08- 6-13 3:32 PM
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Yes, of course it's Joanna Russ! I think the story in question is _Picnic on Paradise_ , too. And the _Close to the Machine_ example is exactly it, and there's an affectionate reference to a new lover as `a technician' in one of Walter Jon Williams' Dagmar novels. It's not a bad approach, it just has a recognizable failure.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08- 9-13 5:59 PM
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