Monthly Archives: July 2011

you’ve been murdoched!

What Facebook thinks

“I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away,” she said during a panel discussion on social media hosted Tuesday evening by Marie Claire magazine. “People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.”

Our “leaders” scramble to enact

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-10 for H.R. 1981, a data-retention bill that will require your ISP to spy on everything you do online and save records of it for 12 months. California Rep Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats who opposed the bill, called it a “data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites.”

Dots connected.

review – the windup girl

Paolo Bacigalupi is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. Not because he so deftly speculates on the more pressing social and environmental issues currently ignored by most of our so-called leaders, but that he does so with such an effortless ease in mixing his ominous messages with exciting and thought provoking stories. Readers like myself may just enjoy the escapism of a good, suspenseful dystopia without getting depressed that it might actually be true within a few decades.

Bacigalupi’s science fiction is odd in that there is an uneasy anachronistic feel to his near-future milieu.  His stories are set against omnipresent backdrops and/or rumors of rising seas, dissolving borders, and energy scarcity (coal,oil). The only energy available is that which humans expend or is inefficiently dissipating within their makeshift and inefficient coils and springs.

Such is the case with Bacigalupi’s novel The Windup Girl.  A longer exposition of two stories found within his collection “Pump Six and Other Stories”, The Windup Girl is a novel of totality in a new, yet stagnant-world order.  It is a story of scavenging and survival on multiple tenuous levels: of a kingdom, its government ministries, corporations, and its occupants.

It’s a story of archetypes more than anything.  Amid the wondrous, giant lolling megodonts and overcrowded towers of crime lords and suffocating tenants, The Windup Girl describes the ebb and flow of power-hungry generals and governmental ministers, the infiltrating genehacks of farang agri-corporates, the unpredictable order infused with terror by the incorruptible white shirts, the “yellow-card” immigrant Chinese fighting for scraps within a so-called welcoming Thai society, and the not-so-human consorts trying not to overheat in the incessant, sopping humidity.  It’s a story that sparks with every intermingling among these factions, inevitably bursting with the sad disappointment of human predictability, better termed samsara, that Bacigalupi has such a firm grasp of.

The genius of Bacigalupi’s writing is found not just in what is necessarily written, but equally in what is evoked by his speculation. Massive societal contractions and expansions in Asia, Finnish anti-corporate insurgence, and the ascendancy of potential seats of power in Iowa, of all places, all due rising hunger and seas. It is inspired with the tension and vision of the Blade Runner worldview, but for a new generation of science fictioneers that is entirely original and engrossing.

review – take the all-mart!

For such a concise story, there’s a lot of stuff thrown together in J.I. Greco’s  Take the All-Mart!. An amalgam of mainly The Road Warrior, Fallout 3, Shaun of the Dead and others, All-Mart! is a thoroughly gonzo, strangely quirky story utilizing many of the popular themes found in serious and not-so serious sci-fi: post-apocalyptic wastelands, artifical intelligence & human interfacing, quasi-cyborgian drug use, and deification of William Shatner, along with a few merciless though good natured, large chested nuns, nanochines, and zombies thrown into the mix.

Terrifically linear, the story lacks the depth for the reader to fully contemplate Greco’s futuristic design. Instead, the reader hurtles along with our heroes Trip and Rudy through a haze of hot scrubland interrupted by dusty shantytowns, where the worship of beer is the raison d’être. Heading east and armed with no less than a full arsenal of sawed-offs and nipple-regulated THC infusions, our intrepid opportunists meander into nothing other than adventure, drawn inevitably toward the all-consuming mecha-tentacled maw of the mother of all convenience stores.

A character-driven work, All-Mart! revolves around the roguish Trip and sidekick Rudy, wastelanders looking for their next big score, whether beer, money, or other easily accessible drug. Priorities are rearranged when Trip meets Roxanne, belonging to The Sisters of No Mercy, adherents of charity work, environmentalism and polyamory, all in good proportion. Therein adventure ensues.

It’s not until nearly halfway through the work where the characters’ eccentricities and proclivities give way to the ominous All-Mart and its zombified inhabitants.  Needless to say, it is a clever though unsubtle imagining of America’s megastore problem, but one not distracting from the story itself.

In sum, Take the All-Mart! is a fun, fast-paced story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and expects the same of the reader. “Sure as Shatner”, it delivers some chuckles along the way and makes things seem more tolerable in this hot summer readng season.