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tom moody

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Currently reading a short story collection called The Ultimate Cyberpunk (2002); evidently it's part of a The Ultimate... series, hence the horrible name. It has fallen to the hapless Pat Cadigan ("Queen of Cyberpunk") to assemble this material and despite a bland introduction in which she does nothing to explain the history of the movement or compare her choices, the stories are pretty good (so far--I'm about halfway through).

Alfred Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit" is a natural prototype, using the now-familiar Hollywood trope of a serial killer moving from city to city (probably a lot more shocking in '54), the twist(s) being that the killer(s) are an android and his human master who have become so psychically entwined that the reader is never entirely sure who's doing the butchering. Whenever the artificial human starts to go funny he sings a tune from the turn of the last century ("Oh it's no feat to beat the heat. All reet! All reet! So jeet your seat/Be fleet be fleet/Cool and discreet/Honey...") Very creepy, but definitely all reet.

Cordwainer Smith's "The Game of Rat and Dragon" initially surprises as a choice with its space opera setting, but damned if more foundations aren't being laid: in order for ships to traverse the stars, humans merge minds to combat murderous dragons lurking in the depths of planoformed spacetime, using an electronic device called a pin-set. The story hook is that the pinlighters also partner telepathically with domestic cats, who see the dragons as rats and are much more effective than humans alone at annihilating them back. I like this tale but blanch that it's basically an extended love letter from a writer to his kitty, and wish Cadigan had included Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain," one of the greatest cyborg stories ever written, instead.

Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" served as the bare bones of the Gropenfuhrer vehicle Total Recall, and I mean bare bones. Typical Hollywood move, Douglas Quaid was originally Quail--so much less manly except the character is supposed to be a dweeb. James Tiptree, Jr.'s "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is unreadable, marred by the breezily hip, drunk-on-the-elixir-that-was-the-60s style so prevalent in New Wave sf around '72-'73 (see also Norman Spinrad, John Brunner, RA Lafferty). Having not read Tiptree I wanted to like the story since we now know "he" is a woman, Alice Sheldon, and many were pissed off back in the day by her "deception," which is cool, but had to skip this after a page or two. By pure contrast, Wm Gibson's "Burning Chrome" hasn't aged a day since '82 and is lit'rary but much more sparingly written. Also looking forward to re-reading his "Dogfight," written with Michael Swanwick, another story about cybercowboys and the women they neglect...

- tom moody 6-06-2005 11:22 am [link]