Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 30

Strossed out

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I've been rereading Charlie Stross's Accelerando stories, so I found myself calculating aloud while Laura and I were buying storage space at J&R yesterday. My new hard drive cost $349, which comes out to a little over 87 cents a gig.

About 10 years ago, when I was buying a new PC, I thought I was doing well with a 120 megabyte drive, which probably ran me about $300, if I remember correctly. That was $2.50 a meg, in other words. At those prices, just one gigabyte of memory would have cost me $2,500 (nearly 3,000 times as much as it does now), and 400 gig would have cost a cool million dollars. A million dollars. (Not to mention how unwieldly it would have been to attach 3,333 120 Mb drives to my box!)

Now I have that much storage sitting on my desk, and it's about the size of a trade paperback.

Is that a singularity I spy ahead?

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It's official, or will be when the promised contract arrives in the mail. I just made my first sale to Asimov's. A 19,000-word novella no less.

The story's called "Inclination," and though it takes place a few decades earlier, it's set in the same future milieu as my Nebula-nominated novelette "Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites." And it certainly won't be the last thing I write that's set on or near or in a place somehow connected to Netherview Station.

No clue yet when it will run, but publication is surely many months away.

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I'm just sayin'

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The Years Best Science Fiction: Twenty-first Annual Collection
I stopped by Borders on the way to Petco, and I can now confirm that The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-first Annual Collection is out and available in stores.

I would never suggest that you buy a $20 book for the sake of a four-page story by yours truly that's available online for free, but if you do pick up a copy of YBSF 21 you'll be getting a heaping slab of Really Good Stuff, not the least of which is William Barton's novella "Off on a Starship," one of my favorite stories from 2003. I'm just sayin'.

(Btw, Gardner's honorable-mentions list at the back of the book includes no less than five of my stories from 2003. Not counting the one he actually reprinted, of course.)

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There's a new series called "Parking Lot" on the cable network Trio. Loosely based on a short documentary from the '80s called "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," which was shot in the parking lot outside a Judas Priest concert, the series interviews hardcore fans and other bystanders hanging around outside various odd events.

Last night's episode visited parking lots outside a Motörhead concert, a Cher concert, and a science-fiction convention—I-Con 22 at SUNY in Stony Brook, NY, to be exact. Bob Howe and I happened to have dropped by the con for half a day to have lunch with Scott Edelman, and all three of us ended up being interviewed at length by the TV crew. A few snippets from our interview were interspersed through the I-Con segment, amongst conversations with pookas, plushies, and one precocious little girl in angel wings who couldn't stop using the word "inappropriate."

Anyway, if you get Trio and want to catch it, the episode is running again this evening at 9:30 pm EST:

http://www.triotv.com/schedules/sched.php3?sdate=01/26/2004

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Well, I'm just back from a four-day trip to Arizona, so if you've been expecting email from me, that probably why you don't have any. I returned to discover an awfully nice gift—my short story "The Practical Ramifications of Interstellar Packet Loss" has just been reprinted on the very fine SF site Infinity Plus. Check it out if you get a chance.

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Curse you, Gene Wolfe!

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With the recent release of Return to the Whorl, volume three of The Book of the Short Sun, I decided it was finally time to go back to the start of The Book of the New Sun and read through all twelve *Sun books. I'm about 200 pages into The Citadel of the Autarch, and the only problem is, I'm not getting any writing done. I'm going to have to put the rest of this reading project aside after The Urth of the New Sun and pick it up again after I get a good deal farther on my own book.

Curse you, Gene Wolfe! You motherfucking oneiromancer, you!

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Maybe you caught the news this morning that, in a surprise announcement, Andrew Cuomo declared his intention of running for governor of New York. Cuomo, until ten days ago, was of course our HUD Secretary, and you probably know that his dear ol' dad Mario used to be governor here.

What surprised me was that this was a surprise announcement. What else is the son of a former governor going to do when his Cabinet appointment ends—particularly one whose family connections stretch back so far in national politics on both sides?

In all fairness, I had some, er, insider information. My friend Jonathan worked until recently for Kerry Kennedy Cuomo's human rights organization Speak Truth to Power. Kerry is Andrew's wife, and she's also RFK's daughter. Jonathan invited Laura and me to a private signing of the coffee-table book Speak Truth to Power in December, which was held at Kenneth Cole's flagship store at Rockefeller Center. Kenneth is married to Andrew's sister, and all the above-mentioned folks were in attendance at the little shindig, plus RFK Jr., who looks far more like his father than JFK Jr. looked like his.

Anyway, Jonathan told me that Andrew would be running for governor, and that he has his eye on the Presidency eventually. (Maybe he and Hillary will duke it out for the Democratic nomination in 2008—which would be an even stranger scenario than the one I sketched out for my story "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left," which appeared F&SF in 1993 and concerned the Presidential Inauguration of 2009.) Andrew's intent seemed so inevitable that I guess I couldn't believe anyone would find his announcement a surprise.

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More Disching

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In all the excitement of slagging Vintage (whom I had previously appreciated for reissuing Fawn M. Brodie's watershed 1945 biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History), I forgot that there was a beautiful paragraph or two from Disch's 334 that I wanted to share:

"Okay, Mickey, it's your life."

"Goddamn right." These words, and the tears on which they verged, were like a load of cement dumped into the raw foundation of his new life. By tomorrow morning all the wet slop of feeling would be solid as rock and in a year a skyscraper would stand where now there was nothing but a gaping hole.

What's the word for something you've experienced time and again but couldn't ever render into language to save your life?

Yeah.

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Time to Disch

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I just finished reading Thomas M. Disch's fine, fine novel 334, in the recent attractive Vintage trade paperback reissue edition. It wasn't until I was almost done, however, that I bothered to read the back cover copy in any detail. Here is how the blurb, written by some anonymous, bitter, and underpaid editoral assistant, ends:

Poisonously funny, piercingly authentic, 334 is a masterpiece of social realism disguised as science fiction.
Disguised? I'm sorry—excuse me while I heave. As if anything worthwhile in literature can't possible be science fiction—instead it's masking itself and is really something else altogether.

Disch is one of those writers who has written plenty besides science fiction, but is this the price one pays for literary respect? A Galilean disavowal of one's unsavory roots? I'm tempted to throw the book across the room, if only for the sake of the poisonous, piercing back cover copy. I'm sorry I gave Vintage my money. I should have just gone back and read my old tattered paperback copy, with it's unashamed proclamation of SCIENCE FICTION right there on the spine.

I bought a similar Vintage edition of Camp Concentration at the same time. Now I'm going to have to go back home and read the back cover of that one very carefully. I'm not sure how they can possibly spin it away from science fiction, but I'm sure they'll try.

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Ray Bradbury

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The visionary whose stories foretold the Sony Walkman, who imagined virtual reality at a time when there were 400 television sets in the entire state of California, does not own a computer.  He does not like the screens.  "Computers are for people who make mistakes," he says.  "I don't make mistakes."  He does his work on an electric typewriter.  But if not for writing, surely Ray Bradbury surfs the Internet?  "There is nothing on it that I can use," he declares.  "I'm not a researcher.  I am an emotional hand grenade. . . ."

No one less than Aldous Huxley--fellow Angeleno and author of Brave New World--made a dose of hallucinogenics available to Bradbury.  "I was offered," he recalls.  "Aldous Huxley offered me a chance.  He said it would be perfectly safe.  There would be doctors and attendants.  But I told him, 'What if the trapdoor on the top of my head stays open, and all the nightmares come out and they won't go away.  Then what will your doctor do for me?'  I wasn't being moral.  I was being hygienic. . . ."

As a writer, Bradbury says he was blessed with total recall.  He claims that he can remember his own birth, the taste of his mother's milk and being circumcised.  Total recall is "a damn wonderful thing for a writer."  And what about the memories of people he knew and loved?  "No, memory is a curse, especially at my age," he says.  "All my teachers are gone, and most of my friends are dead, and the ones who are alive, you see all these old people, including yourself."

—William Booth, Washington Post Service
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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn

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