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Locus, Asimov's, IFF, The Cloud Atlas

I’ve been doing a lot of promo for the Lifebox

book.

There’s an interview with me in the Locus science fiction magazine, September, 2005, issue, with photos by Beth Gwinn (such as the one above).

I have Lifebox-related article called “Adventures in Gnarly Computation” in the October/November, 2005, issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. The article's online at this link, with a slight misprint: the first letter is “W” not “T”.

And this afternoon I’ll be at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto. I put up a Powerpoint for the talk, and maybe I’ll capture and post some audio.

***

On another topic, I’m almost done reading the best literary book I’ve read in a long time The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

The Cloud Atlas is actually six short novellas (or long novelettes), about 20,000 words each, arranged in this curious onion-like way. That is, five of them are cut in half and nested, so that the book’s structure is: 1a 2a 3a 4a 5a 6 5b 4b 3b 2b 1b. The author compares it to a matryoshka doll, that is, a nested Russian doll with dolls inside. Or to a music piece with six solos, each of which is interrupted by the next solo, and which then takes up when the intervening solos are done. What’s really cool is that in each successive story, a character reads or sees the first half of the preceding story, and then when a given successive story ends, the character gets to read or see or show us the second half of the preceding tale.

The fifth and sixth novellas are both science fiction. I’d been prepared to be resentful of the slumming literary mandarin, but, hell, they’re damn good. Number six, “Sloosha’s Crossing and Everything That Came After,” reminds me of Russell Hoban’s superb Riddley Walker. “Trubba not.” And the fifth is “An Orison of Sonmi-451”, which is a lovely tale. Very serious, but not humorless. Odd in good ways.

The “Orison” is about cloned slaves in a future fast food place with the “logoman” Papa Song, I guess he’s a hologram, he stands on a plinth and gives them exhortatory morning sermons and later in the day entertains the customers. He’ll, like, pretend to surf on waves of noodles, or throw holographic boomerang “fire clairs.” What makes the style really great is that the person describing this, the “ascended” (= become intelligent) clone Sonmi has a very flat, matter-of-fact, wise tone, and doesn’t see any of this as funny. Even though the story is satirical. I guess Brave New World was like that, satirical and, if you think about it, funny, but with the events treated in all seriousness by the protagonists. Actually by the end of the tale, the satire gets so sharp and pointed that it’s more horrific than funny.

This and Charles Stross’s Accelerando do a lot to raise the SF bar. Synchronsitically enough, Charlie too talks about Matryoshka dolls. Except his are Dyson spheres.

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