Sunday, January 11, 2009

Six hail marguerita, we're going straight to hell!

Being a circular of items recently read by D.D. Tinzeroes, Number 2.

George Alec Effinger

The third and final (published) volume of Effinger's Marid Audran Budayeen novels. Set in a near-future unnamed Arab city, which most resembles either Cairo or Damascus, I think. This one's probably the least sci-fi of the batch, really, with tech-elements serving only to provide plot leaps (but never a crutch). But then again, since the style of the Marid books is Sam Spade-in-Cairo, all these a really are is hard-boiled detective novels with some Godfather elements mixed in. The book's basically a big bedouin-in-the-desert sequence followed by a Marid-in-the-City section. Marid's goal is revenge, and his lessons in the desert aid him on his return to the city.1

George Alec Effinger

A collection of Effinger's short-stories, published after his death, dealing with the Budayeen district of his fictional desert city, including the first 2 chapters of the unfinished 4th Marid Audran novel. "City on the Sand" stands out, about a ex-pat (unpublished) author wiling away his days in front of a café.

Olaf Stapledon

What is the evolutionary future of man? When this topic comes up, I now just recite the crux of Stapledon's narrative. We are the First Men, according to a well-defined criteria set out by Stapledon. The Second Men are giants, 8-10 feet tall, because for the human brain to become larger, by extension, the body's frame must grow as well to support the overlarge skull. Stapledon carries this exercise on through several iterations, up to the 14th Men, who live on Uranus, I think (this is after stretches on Venus and Jupiter, and after the Sun goes red giant). Puts Sterling's Schismatrix in a new light, which was dedicated to Stapledon, and likewise involves several iterations of humanity.

Rudy Rucker

The second installment in Rucker's ___ware series. In this one the creators of the boppers (sentient robots who live on the moon, because the freezing vacuum negates the need for super cooling systems for their circuitry) revive their dead creator, and set about the creation of a new race of biorobots which can live on earth. Includes one my favorite insights ever, observed by a bopper, that the two greatest flaws of humanity are boredom and selfishness. A quick read, lots of fun.

John Shirley

A collection of Shirley's short stories, supposedly the stuff which influenced and inspired Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, and the rest. There's really very little of the dystopian future type stuff here, and even less tech-stuff, really, but Shirley certain is a hotbed of ideas, I'll grant. The biggest disappointment here was that Shirley integrated bunch of these stories into the 2nd (mainly) and 3rd volumes of his Eclipse trilogy, which his right and privilege, and certainly explains a couple of somewhat tangential chapters in those volumes, but after identifying the first story w/ which he did so, there were a several others which I skipped since, technically, I'd already read them. Faves for me included: a bit about nuclear war being the result of Events, which are conscious entities, who destroy the earth to make it an exhibit for a sort of cosmic World's Fair, judged by Time itself; paintings in the modern art style are actually beings from another dimension, which come alive after reaching a critical mass of art (this story is, like, 2 pages long); a piece about getting in this egg-device and visiting heaven, which creates hell on earth for the poor; and (my favorite) a sort of stage-by-stage environmental narcotic tenement building in New York, the climax of which is a hypodermic set into the nipple of a massive boob-wall, through which you are shot up with the real personality of a real person.2


1 The cover art to the Marid novels are hilarious. The artist is trying to capture "future-arab" but his main way of doing this is to just throw a flying car in there, even though flying cars are no where to be found in the Marid novels. These covers are also part of the proud tradition of my wife mocking my reading choices based on terrible cover art... (men who look "gay," and women with inevitable visible cleavage).
2 I vividly recall reading this last story in the 2nd Eclipse book, while sitting at Basement Pub, waiting for Fat to show up.

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