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The Metanovel Variations, #4

Don’t forget my “Dread Lords of Cyberpunk” reading on Tuesday, with John Shirley, at 7 pm APRIL 18 at “SF in SF: A Monthly Series of Science Fiction Readings and Discussions at New College of California in San Francisco Curated by Adam Cornford and Terry Bisson,” New College Valencia Theater, 777 Valencia St., San Francisco ($4 at the door, free to New College community). I’ll be reading my short story “Chu and the Nants,” which is part of the first chapter of Postsingular, and which will appear in Isaac Asimov’s SF magazine in June.

One more varation on the notion of a metanovel from my Chapter Three.

{Begin Postsingular novel excerpt.}

Intense, lipsticked, nail-biting Carla Standard had used what she called a simworld approach in creating her metanovel You’re a Bum! Her virtual characters were artificially alive, always in action, and somewhat unpredictable, a bit like the non-player-characters in an old-school videogame. Rather than writing story lines, Carla endowed her characters with goals and drives, leaving them free to interact like seagulls in a wheeling flock.

You’re a Bum! was experienced through a single character’s point-of-view, this protagonist being a homeless young woman who was enlisting people to help her unearth the truth about the mysterious disappearance of her kiqqie boyfriend. There was some chance that he’d been abducted by aliens. The heroine was bedeviled both by her mother’s attempts to have her brought home, and by the advances of a predatory pimp. Backing her up were an innocent younger-brother figure, a potential new boyfriend, a mysterious federal agent, a wise old junkie, and a cohort of hard-partying lesbians. For the You’re a Bum! dialogue and graphics, Carla had her beezies patching in data from the day-to-day world: conversations of kiqqies in Mission bars, shops, apartments and alleyways.

Each user’s You’re a Bum! experience was further tailored with data drawn from the user’s personal meshes and social situations. In other words, you saw something vaguely resembling your own life you accessed Carla’s metanovel. Thuy’s two sessions with You’re a Bum! had proved painful, even lacerating.

First she’d relived the moment last spring when she and Jayjay stood under a flowering plum tree off Mission Street, Jayjay shaking the tree to make the petals rain down on her, Jayjay’s eyes melting with love. And then she’d seen their breakup, but more objectively than before: Thuy hung-over from the Big Pig, her leg-warmers in disarray, hysterically screaming at Jayjay in a mural-lined alley, and poor Jayjay’s trembling fingers nervously adjusting his coat and hat.

Thuy nursed the irrational suspicion that Carla had deliberately made Jayjay more sympathetic than her, and that Carla had done this as an oblique way of flirting with Jayjay — Thuy thought this even though, at another level, she realized that Carla had absolutely no fine-grained control over individual users’ emergent experiences with You’re a Bum! Yes, she was losing it. Why did she have to miss Jayjay so much?

{End Postsingular novel excerpt.}

2 Responses to “The Metanovel Variations, #4”

  1. Steve H Says:

    Excellent excerpt! Interesting metanovel possibilities! But, will people still read books as well? I’m a speedreader, obsessively chewing through piles of print to feed that black hole in my backbrain; would kiqqing make me read even faster? I’d need sedation!

  2. Ray Says:

    The side of that building is absolutely gorgeous. I would love some more pics of it!


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