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Revolver (one).

When I hear of Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my gun.

—Stephen Hawking.

The other day I saw a battered Volvo station wagon downtown that had been refitted as an ice cream truck, with Good Humor menus stuck to the sides and the ominous snout of a deedle-deedle-deedle loudspeaker wired to the hood. It was, thankfully, silent. It lowered a moment in the mouth of Park, then jerked into a left turn onto Alder against the oncoming traffic.

There’s a lot of books I’m not really reading at the moment. One of them is Stone, by Adam Roberts, and I really do want to like it, not least because I picked it up on Miriam’s recommendation. —I really want to like it because what I want is a gonzo spicepunk genrefuck genderchuck kick-out-the-jams drop-your-jaw throw-back-your-head-and-yee-fuckin’-haw honest-to-God space opera, one that mainlines every color in a Bollywood rainbow through showboating Hong Kong action arias, that’s full of Doc Smith lantern jaws and William Gibson mirrorshades taking the piss out of each other, that’s wisely foolish enough to make you laugh when it breaks your heart, that dumps you breathless and shaken on the other side, ready to climb back in and read it again. And I’m enough of a mensch not to kick Stone just because it isn’t that book. (Maybe if Michael Chabon were to channel Angela Carter? Or Cordwainer Smith, or James Tiptree? Maybe if John Irving were to get with Neal Stephenson and they could work on endings together? Zadie Smith could team up with Vernor Vinge, sure, or maybe Samuel Delany could somehow heal the Splendor and Misery, which maybe isn’t quite what I’m on about in this parenthetical aside to a digression from an introductory sally, but hey, a jones is a jones, and while I’m at it I might as well wish Avram Davidson were slipping new pages into the Akashic record when no one’s looking. —Maybe what I need isn’t prose. God forbid. But maybe what I need is for Elaine Lee and Michael Wm. Kaluta to get back to work already and live up to the premise this time. Maybe what I need is for the entertainment revolution to happen already and for television to collapse under the weight of manufactured reality and for epic digital video pop operas with Spike Jonez sword fights and mashup limewired dance numbers to get piped directly into our handhelds at 13 episodes a go.) —Confidential to whomever: Iain M. Banks ain’t doin’ it. At least, not yet.

  1. mjones    Jun 2, 08:21 AM    #
    Oh god, I can't take the responsibility! My palms are sweaty, my stomach is in a knot. Excuse me, I have to go and find a paper bag.


    [wails from the next room:] And I like Iain M. Banks too!!

  2. PZ Myers    Jun 2, 12:32 PM    #
    Yeah, what do you find deficient in Banks?

  3. Steve    Jun 2, 01:01 PM    #
    Ken MacLeod? Charlie Stross? Alastair Reynolds? <mumble>Iain Banks?</mumble>

  4. sennoma    Jun 2, 01:19 PM    #
    If you'll settle for (space) operetta, I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold. Mind candy, yummy if you're in the mood but not nutritious and will probably give you mental caries.

  5. --k.    Jun 2, 01:45 PM    #
    Geeze, if I'd've known (M.) Banks would've been so controversial, I never would've stuck him in for the cheap joke. MacLeod: yes, but; Reynolds, keep tossing to one side with sighs of disaffection, like a network executive when the pilot broadcast doesn't send my Nielsens into orbit; Stross, haven't read, there's a list somewhere with his name on it, I'm sure; Bujod, well, all unread she raises both my Imperialist milfic class reverse-snobbery and the Heinleinian hackles I had implanted in college, which is impressive and doubtless wrong-headed as all get-out; Banks, well—I haven't read him without the "M," granted—

    I'm trying to articulate what it is I want (and figure out why it is I want it, and now, and so badly) in part by locating where it is Stone falls short of that (admittedly unfair) ideal, and there's something about how that intersects with politics and such at least lately or at least from where I'm sitting over here in the corner, which might make sense to me, and I'm hoping to spin at least some small entertainment out of it. Through centripetal force, if nothing else. If not, well, hey. Heckling.

    As for Banks: do note I said he ain't doin' "it"—fulfilling this highly particular ideal—"yet." The two books I've read have both been world-as-backdrop for the adventures of an elite and privileged few, rather than world-as-world to be explored and lived in through the adventures of one's proxy, except that's horribly unfair, both to Banks and to whatever-it-is I'm getting at. And this isn't supposed to be about Banks, anyway. Or Robert Reed, for that matter; or Andre Norton. Paul Park; Maureen McHugh; Barry Hughart—now we're getting closer, off the top of my head, and you'll note I'm stacking the deck with curveballs again. (Barry Hughart?) —Richard Calder, even assuming he could wake up and realize the whole Mars-Venus thing was a funny-once, well, he's something else entirely. But this isn't supposed to be about them. So there.

    Enough gnomic marginalia! Back to cryptic utterances!

  6. Steve    Jun 2, 02:40 PM    #
    Enough gnomic marginalia! Back to cryptic utterances!

    Remember the Alamo! Damn the torpedos! Croaton or bust! Back to mono!

    The two books I've read have both been world-as-backdrop for the adventures of an elite and privileged few, rather than world-as-world to be explored and lived in through the adventures of one's proxy, except that's horribly unfair, both to Banks and to whatever-it-is I'm getting at.

    Excession is by far the most typically (in the sense I mean, not that other sense) space operatic of the Culture books. (And the M.-less Iain Banks books? You're not missing anything, even with the reasonably clever The Wasp Factory.

    I'm not sure the thing you're looking for can really be done (I haven't read Calder, though he's on my list now, an the Barry Hughart thing makes me want to whop you with a few issues of Planetary). Are Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi and Sterling's Schizmatrix closer to the mark? Part of the problem, I think, is that Sterling's whole rationale from Cheap Truth through his first, what, five novels was largely to poke the Lensmen-Foundation axis with a point stick, then snigger and drink all their liquor.

    If you find it, though, tell me. That Racoona Irving, s/he could really tell a yarn.

  7. Bill Humphries    Jun 3, 05:50 PM    #
    Well there's Look to Windward that very nearly gets there, but shuts down after shooting the reader with the Arrow of Time.

    Singularity Sky, however, it worth it for the smacking down of the Prussian Space Opera genre. It's a fine and good thing for the Other End of Time to pimp slap Right Wing SF.

    BTW: thanks for the kind words on LJ. They're appreciated.

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