Friday, February 28, 2003
posted 10:48 PM
posted 12:28 PM
THE BAGHDAD BATTERIES
It's my day off, it feels like, but here's a BBC article about some wonderful Fortean gizmos that have fascinated me since I first read about them at age twelve or so.
The special-effects-in-the-temple hypothesis is new to me, and I like it.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
posted 5:50 AM
"THE HUNT FOR THE WORLD'S COOLEST SNEAKERS..."
Someone asks about this phrase of mine, describing the book before it was completed. Well, *way* before it was completed, and intended mainly to make the questioner leave me alone. But, note, this was pre-9-11, so it refers, to the extent that it refers to anything, to a narrative and world other than the ones you're reading and living in.
The sneakers on the back of the book are black leather Pro-Keds, purchased at Barney's in Seattle on my way to Karen Moskowitz's studio to take dustjacket pictures. Evidently the editorial minds at Putnam liked that particular shot because of the sneakers. I like the way the sneakers look, but think the expression on my face probably reflects my awareness that going to Seattle to have my picture taken is the first step toward actual publication, touring, etc. A "here we go again" expression.
Caycewise, I assumed these Pro-Keds to be a response to the recently born-again Converse All-Stars, which are also available in leather.
In any case, and again re apophenia, a great deal of the detail around publishing a book is accidental. Indeed, a great deal of the detail in any book (or any book of mine, anyway) is more or less accidental as well, as I like to work with "readymades", things I encounter either during or before the period of composition. This means that some of the detail will be accidental, in that it came along with the found object, and wasn't invented. I have a sort of half-conscious theory that this furthers an experience of mimetic texture, for the reader, that differs from the one that would result in my simply having made up some "random" detail. It also has something to do with my fondness for Cornell boxes, which consist entirely of found objects, framed, as it were, by a device akin to narrative.
WTC MEMORIAL DESIGNS
Toward the end of the tour I declined to write an essay for TIME on the various proposed designs. Had I been willing to do so, I would have had to say that this is the only one that I'd be entirely, joyfully, satisfied with:
NAME "PAVLOV" RING A BELL?
No? Never mind.
But "Bigend", like "Wintermute", is a strange-looking but actual surname, though I hasten to add that I had no real individual in mind in either case. My hunch was that Bigend is a Belgian surname, or possibly French (hence the nationality of the character) and would be pronounced, perhaps, something like "BAY-shend".
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
posted 6:18 PM
PATTERN RECOGNITION AS...NEUROMANCER
[Edited to remove spoiler. Sorry. I'm completely unused to thinking about that.]
This idea, which I'd never myself thought of, turned up in a recent thread: PR is really NEUROMANCER all over again.
This is really a wildly appropriate supposition for a set of fora in which apophenia keeps turning up (both as a concept and, I would hazard, as a behavior).
Long ago, I somewhere (T.S. Kuhn's THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS?) read of an experiment in which the subjects were shown a rapid series of standard playing-cards, which they were required to verbally identify. Unbeknownst to the subjects, a few these cards were *anomalous*, for instance an all-black ace of hearts. The result (expected) was that the anomalous cards were identified as their nearest non-anomalous equivalents: the all-black ace of hearts for instance as simply an ace of hearts. The unexpected result was that when reshown the anomalous cards, the subjects continued to ignore the anomaly, even on longer viewing, and became visibly pissed-off with the experimenters. This behavior is, I would guess, relates to apophenia, or to the more garden-variety psychological concept of "projection".
Likewise, I suspect, is the perception that PR and NEUROMANCER have much (or indeed anything) in common. (Could this also be behind the interest in Case/Cayce?)
Consider: The reviewer for The New York Times Review of Books, who on contextual evidence is very conscious of Thomas Pynchon, saw PR as to some extent a "remake" of Pynchon's THE CRYING OF LOT 49. This startled me, when I first read the review, but I could see it, although I knew that I hadn't consciously been rewriting Pynchon's first novel. I had, however, thought of LOT 49, somewhere toward the close of the book, but mainly in the light of knowing I needed to *end* my novel. (THE CRYING OF LOT 49 has, as I recall, no actual ending in any conventional sense; the equivalent version of PR could be created by ripping out all of the pages following Cayce stepping through that on particular door; you would never see what was on the other side, or learn what's been going on.)
But my point here is that if PR so closely resembles THE CRYING OF LOT 49, does NEUROMANCER also closely resemble THE CRYING OF LOT 49? Not that I can see. Nor, as far as I know (which I suppose isn't very far) has this been suggested. What is going on here, in my opinion, is that the reviewer has a Pynchon thing going on, and the posters seeing NEUROMANCER in PR have a Gibson thing going on.
And that's the a-word, all over.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
posted 8:57 PM
WHITE DWARF / TOUR CLOSURE
Just back from White Dwarf, where I've signed, on publication, every book I've ever published, from the original Ace NEUROMANCER on. No other bookstore you can say that about. Always has a nice sense of homecoming for me. Whatever I'm doing in Toronto, next month, won't feel like part of the tour.
Tour is a wrap. My thanks to everyone, in all those cities, who came out for it! It was, really, a pleasure.
The Victoria signing was nice too, but I was reminded once again that the e-word always comes up for me when I visit Victoria. Not because of the signing, but because of the place itself.
For me it's not the socioeconomic divide discussed in today's thread (though that's certainly real) so much as the contrast between radical Disneylanding and some sort of Lovecraftian underreality (in the way that HPL obviously found the adjective "antique" to be provocative, almost sexy). The Victorian underlay of Strangely Old Stuff, in this very young province, always reminds me of Lovecraft's descriptions of Providence.
Though there's also a remarkable overlay-of-similacra going on: Victoria and Wellington, NZ, bear a weird twin-sisterly similarity, and the first similacrum is more apparent in Wellington, which is a Little Bit of England meticulously terraformed from an alien landscape that would make a good set for JURASSIC PARK. In Victoria, at about the same time, the same "company" was doing exactly the same thing, using the same standard colonial kit. So Victoria begins, like Wellington, as a deliberate similacrum of England. About a century later, the second layer was applied: the Disneylanding, the heavy coat of Ye Olde to attract American tourism.
It really is, as the thread repeatedly states, one of those uniquely peculiar places.
Monday, February 24, 2003
posted 7:09 AM
PETAL-FALL SOURCECODE, 9.20.01
Wrote following for THE NATIONAL POST, September 20, 2001, where it was published as "Mr. Buk's Window":
All that terrible week I would think of the very small display window of E. Buk, a marvelously idiosyncratic antiques dealer in SoHo. E. Buk is never open. There is no shop directly behind the little window in a side street. A locked door, and, one assumes, stairs. A tarnished brass plaque suggests that you may be able to make an appointment. I never have, but when I happen on Mr. Buk’s window (somehow I can never remember exactly where it is) I invariably stop, to gaze with amazement and admiration at the extraordinary things, never more than three, that he’s dredged from time and collective memory. It’s my favorite shop window in all of Manhattan, and not even London can equal it in its glorious peculiarity and Borgesian potency.
Gazing into E. Buk’s window, for me, has been like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores its dreams. There is no knowing what might appear there. Once, a stove-sized, florally ornate cast-iron fragment that might have been a leftover part of the Brooklyn Bridge. Once, a lovingly-crafted plywood box containing exquisitely painted models of every ballistic missile in the arsenals of the US and the USSR at the time of its making. This last, redolent of both the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis, had particularly held my attention. It was obviously a military learning-aid, and I wondered what sort of lectures it had illustrated. It seemed, then, a relic from a dark and terrible time that I remembered increasingly as a dream, a very bad dream, of childhood.
But the image that kept coming to me, last week, was of the dust that must be settling on the ledge of E. Buk’s window, more or less between Houston and Canal Streets. And in that dust, surely, the stuff of the atomized dead.
The stuff of pyre and blasted dreams.
The fall of their dust requiring everything to be back-read in its context, and each of Buk’s chosen objects, whatever they may have been, that Tuesday: the dust a final collage-element, the shadow-box made mortuary.
And that was a gift, I think, because it gave me something to start to hang my hurt on, a hurt I still scarcely understand or recognize; to adjust one of my own favorite and secret few square yards of Manhattan, of the world, to such an unthinkable fate.
They speak of certain areas in Manhattan now as “frozen zones”, and surely we all have those in our hearts today, areas of disconnect, sheer defensive dissociation, awaiting the thaw. But how soon can one expect the thaw to come, in wartime?
I have no idea.
Last year I took each of my children for a first visit to New York. I’m grateful now for them both to have seen it, for the first time, before the meaning of the text was altered, in such a way, forever. I think of my son’s delight in the aged eccentricities of a Village bagel restaurant, of my daughter’s first breathless solo walk through SoHo. I feel as though they saw London as it was before the Blitz.
New York is a great city, and as such central to the history of civilization. Great cities can and invariably do bear such wounds. They suffer their vast agonies and they go on -- carrying us, and civilization, and windows like Mr. Buk’s, however fragile and peculiar, with them.
THIS EVENING: THROUGH THE TWEED CURTAIN
Monday, February 24, 7 pm, at Bolen Books in Hillside Centre, 111-1644 Hillside Ave, Victoria BC, 250 595 4232
"The Tweed Curtain" is a Couplandism. See DC's Vancouver city-book, CITY OF GLASS, for the brief psychogeographic survey of Victoria in which the phrase appears. (Did you know that Victoria BC is the headquarters of global Satanism? No? You don't remember MICHELLE REMEMBERS?)
Sunday, February 23, 2003
posted 8:49 AM
THE MYSTERY WOMAN AT THE SEATTLE SIGNING
Is a complete mystery to me. No idea. I don't even remember her. Probably just someone bold enough to dart to the head of the line, make an excuse, and bolt. This happens. Most often with someone who is having the book signed as a gift for someone else.
Some other odds and ends that turned up in various threads:
Probably correct that this is a goof in memesis. They are stamped metal, today. However, it may well have been a Senior Moment, as I seem to recall that, thirty or so years ago, they were still cast, as opposed to stamped. But I could be wrong there as well. Scarily, there are Levi's otaku who would definitely know.
Someone remarks on how *tight* 501's are, today. I specified Cayce's as oversized, thinking maybe three waist-sizes too big, but on reflection I doubt she'd wear Levi's, which are, increasingly, the poorest simulacra of a once-iconic product. This was brought home to me in their Union Square store in San Francisco, on the tour. Pathetic, really. They've been messing with the cut of 501's, attempting to hit a fresh demographic. Cayce would more likely wear Lee or Wrangler. Or, like her author, she'd wear (when she can get them) R.W. Williams moleskin five-pockets from Australia, "moleskin" being a thick, very dense sueded cotton. Hard to find but definitely in the CPU ballpark. I bought a black pair in Copenhagen, hope to find more in London.
THE BOTTOMLESS POT OF SOUP
Definitely not symbolic as far I was concerned, but, hey, you're the reader: have fun. I suspect it popped up a couple of times because my friend Howard had retained such an intense gastronomic memory from Hong Kong.
Saturday, February 22, 2003
posted 6:54 AM
BACK IN THE BASEMENT
I did find an even worse method of public Internet access: LodgeNet, an in-room system at my hotel in Chicago. You surf on tv, using a wireless keyboard that has no cursor. Just the arrow-keys and Enter. Almost comically awkward. It couldn't talk to Blogger, though.
The night before, in contrast, playing with my friend Alan's new Samsung photo phone. If even one of Cayce's friends had had one of those, PR would have been way more postgeographical. Actually, this little gizmo induced serious techno-vertigo. This'll change things, I suspect. Until you see one, it sounds like just another bell or whistle, but it's one click for image-capture, another to email the jpeg to preselected addresses. People tend already (and has this ever changed, since the last time I toured in the US) to have phones in their hands most of the time. If each of those phones were an email-ready digital camera...
Thanks to everyone who posted reports and photos. Interesting, to have digitally-augmented memory of these events, which tend otherwise to slide past, on tour, and blur into a tunnel of planes, hotel rooms, book stores, people.
Sorry the weather conspired to make me miss DC.
Otherwise, it was my most pleasant US book-tour. (Well, I've never run a marathon, but I imagine that the people who do, enjoy them; not sure they'd say one was "pleasant", though; satisfying, more like it.)
NICENESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT
While "surfing" the site on LodgeNet, in that Chicago hotel room, I fumbled past a post from a reader declaring that PR sucks, and very badly indeed. He had had a brief moment of hope when Cayce headbutted the guy in Tokyo, but then, alas, he had found that it all (as he read it) went back to nice people doing nice things to one another. Actually I had expected more of this, as I know that a certain part of my readership will always (literature being magically atemporal) be looking for the deep-fried anomie of NEUROMANCER. There's nothing really to be done for this either way, except to recommend, for those of you needing a hit of deep-fried anomie, Robert Stone's DOG SOLDIERS. This is a book I always forget to mention when people ask about NEURO influences. But it definitely was one. I remember finishing it and wondering what it might have been like if it had been reframed as science fiction. Absolute zero niceness; fine book.
Will try to get this info sorted and posted Monday morning.
That novel I kept recommending, on the tour, is Robert Mailer Anderson's BOONEVILLE.
I can only hope that Rydell and Chevette, after the close of ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, make their way up the coast to Boonville. He, at least, would be very happy there. (Thanks to RMA for seeing that I got a copy of this in San Francisco. It was very much enjoyed.)
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
posted 3:38 AM
HEADING OUT OF LOGAN
Planes leaving on time. Looks good for Twin Cities signing.
This is *the worst* public Internet access-point I've ever used. Hard to imagine it being any worse-designed. Mouse-pad action requires three hands.
Nice crowd in Cambridge last night. Looking forward to Minneapolis.
Monday, February 17, 2003
posted 7:32 AM
ONE BIG-ASS BLIZZARD
Just walked up Broadway to Spring, *middle* of the street. Reminds me of Cayce's memories of London in the snow (which are of course mine, from another book-tour, long ago). I was poised, literally, to train up to Penn Station, when the call came through that the Virginia bookstore is closed, and may well be closed tonight as well. State of emergency, records being broken... In any case, I won't be there, so stay home, stay warm, and maybe I can cover DC later. Me, I've checked back into the hotel and plan on catching up on some more sleep. (Even though I always describe the life of the touring author as "rock and roll without the party", sleep-deprivation does set in; you get back to the hotel around eleven, then get up around five to catch the next plane.)
THE ROSETTA DOTS
Yes, there's a message, a crucial one, but you need *ten* copies of the book (plus some duct tape) in order to decypher it.
No, wait: that's a *joke*. I haven't seen the dots in question, but I can assure you they are just splodges: some random, utterly meaningless artifact of production.
What this is about, actually, is *real* apophenia. A perfect example. Want to see the Virgin Mary on a tortilla?
Look long enough.
CAYCE'S "WILD TALENT"
Exactly. The universe of PR is a Fortean universe, as, indeed, I, personally, assume this one (or however many there might be) to be. I actually *am* a Fortean, were you to pin me down philosophically. (And I've got the new issue of FT, with that hot Anomalous Big Cat update, waiting for me baqck in the room. Perfect blizzard reading!)
"WELCOM TO CYBER SPACE"
That's what it says on the mag-card they rent you when you check into this place. My sentiments exactly!
Sunday, February 16, 2003
posted 9:42 AM
In a cybercafe on Spring Street. Outside, New Yorkers are looking increasingingly Dickensian as the temperature plummets further still, their faces turning interesting colors.
This is one of those Dancing Lessons From God moments, as I was supposed to be getting to DC about now, but it's snowing there. Actually it's *really* snowing, there, unless the Weather Channel folks are just waxing Ballardian.
My friend's Russian wife can't understand why Americans get all worked up over snow. Well, I can get worked up over it being this *cold*, something I mercifully haven't experienced in years, living in the Rain Shadow. It wasn't this cold in Copenhagen, even.
Worth it, though, to be back here. I haven't, not since before 9-11, and I've been loving every minute of it.
One odd moment, sitting in the lower lobby of the SoHo Grand, Cayce's entrance suddenly unspooled and I looked up, almost expecting her to walk in. And simultaneously reminded I don't know what she looks like; she's written "from inside".
No time to even begin checking out all the posts, but thanks to everyone, as usual.
Ands see you. I hope, in DC.
Probably a good idea to check that the DC-area signings aren't snowed out, if you were planning to attend. They probably aren't, but it's worth checking.
Someone was worrying about these. Yep, they're real. I signed (ouch) a couple of thousand "tipsheets", to be bound in at the factory. Mainly, I assumed, they were to go to places I physically can't, on this tour.
Friday, February 07, 2003
posted 10:50 PM
Still Friday, but doubt I'll have time to blog tomorrow. Back from Booksmith, in the Haight. Another nice crowd. Met the translator of that odd Sterling-Gibson Italian anthology (our mutually collected non-fiction, I think) that has no equivalent in English.
"They have recently hosted authors such as Chuck Barris and Mariel Hemingway," advised Putnam publicity. Right. Gotcha.
Tomorrow it's M Is For Mystery in San Mateo. Fair enough: it's a book about a mystery.
Sunday, a counter-intuitive jog back up the coast, to Portland, before heading south again to LA.
This is all (or, anyway, mostly) pretty enjoyable. The dread Tupperware phenomenon hasn't set in yet at all -- perhaps the result of Dave, my media-escort for the Bay area, having indoctrinated me into the world of Extreme Polka (bands with names like The Polkaholics, and Polkacide). Big cherry-colored Lincoln towncar, Polkacide at full volume. Maybe not what the fans expect but you do what it takes to keep the Tupperware off, right?
posted 8:37 AM
Friday. San Francisco. Have located net node in side lobby of small but perfectly-formed hotel. Not much use, though, as I spend all my time either out signing stock, in my room doing phone interviews, at readings/signings, or travelling between same.
Numerous crossings of the Bay Bridge, which really would be an interesting place to walk around and buy a hotdog.
Cody's was great, last night; the very funny woman who introduced me had made up "NEO-CRAP? NOPE!" stickers, some customers availing themselves of these when it came time to have their books signed.
Sorry I'm not able to post more frequently, but I seem to be just too 20th-century an entity to simultaneously maintain virtual presence and be on the road meeting live humans.
Will try to get back later and add a little more.
Thanks to the extremely pleasant woman at Book Passage in Corte Madera, yesterday!
Off to the 9:30 phoner. Lunch later with LOCUS, the hometown paper of science fiction.
Tonight, the Haight. See ya.
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
posted 5:23 PM
OUT AND ABOUT, WITHOUT A LAPTOP
Day two, still not very far from home but starting to see that blogging on the fly and in internet cafes is probably not the best way to keep this updated. Though on the other hand I suspect I get to see more things because I don't travel with a camera. In the peculiar mobile fishbowl of a book tour, the only time I'd have to use a laptop would be the time I have to sit alone, staring blankly into space. I suspect that those moments serve some vital function.
THE GOLLANCZ NEUROMANCER GAME THAT ONLY I GET TO PLAY
The real "hardcover first" of NEUROMANCER was published in England by Victor Gollancz Ltd. With its distinctive yellow jacket and relatively miniscule print-run, this has become the most valuable book with my name on it. Actually I'm not sure what they go for, today, but I'd guess well over $1000 in fine condition. A tour of this scale will usually bring about half a dozen of these out of the woodwork. Saw the first one last night, at Kane Hall
Tuesday, Feb 4, Eliott Bay Books. You know the drill.
Tomorrow, San Francisco.
Sunday, February 02, 2003
posted 1:24 PM
The irony here is that I myself don’t have a copy of this. The phrase “No maps for these territories” comes from the Memory Palace text, though I didn’t recognize it when the maker of the film first suggested it as a title.
I’ve seen a video of the piece, as performed by La Fura dels Baus, the Barcelona street-performance group who were a sort of cross between Survival Research Labs and Panther Modern (Dance). Mind-boggling, as indeed were the other La Fura performances I was lucky enough to see in person. (The outbreak of the Gulf War caused me to miss La Fura’s one actual collaboration with SRL, in Barcelona; security issues around the show’s planned portside venue caused a delay, and we had to fly home before a new venue was arranged. Hanging with La Fura and SRL as they prepped, though, was as real-life cyberpunk as it ever got, for me.)
There's now a permanent link to the NO MAPS site on the Source Code page.
That’s what publishers shoot for: the new book in every store on the same day, and not sooner. Tomorrow’s that day, for PATTERN RECOGNITION. I get up way too early, fly to Seattle in a funny little Air Canada prop effort, and it begins. The first signing of the tour will be:
Monday, February 3, 2003
4326 University Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
Reading, Signing and Q&A
Turn up and see a fresh, pristine, pre-Tupperware author read (probably) the novel’s opening scene. Thereafter, check in here to chart the steady decline into interview-fried zombiehood.
FAVORITE BOOK-TOUR GADGET
Fold-and-compress packing units.
Ever wonder how flight-attendants get much at all into those dinky little wheel-on bags? They’re using fold-and-compress units. With a little practice, you can learn to fold a freshly-pressed shirt (or just about anything else, up to and including a suit) around a thin plastic guide, remove the guide, then use Velcro and nylon mesh to precision-squash your folded shirt flatter than a pancake -- and keep it that way ‘til you need it, at which point it unfolds, relatively wrinkle-free. These units easily double the amount of clothing you can carry (in wearable shape) in a given bag.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE SHERATON, DR. JEEP PLAYS ON AND ON AND ON...
Bruce Sterling introduced me to Sisters of Mercy on our DIFFERENCE ENGINE tour, and "Vision Thing" became our official tour anthem; so, no, I wasn't listening to them when I wrote NEUROMANCER. I was listening to what Andrew Eldritch listened to in order to write those songs, I intuit.
He's one fine lyricist, is Andrew Eldritch.
As is Nick Cave. I'd like to write a novel as good as THE BOATMAN'S CALL.
Saturday, February 01, 2003
posted 9:22 AM
When I was a little boy I believed passionately in space travel. I had a book by Willy Ley, with illustrations by Chesley Bonestell. The hard covers were slick and glossy, and if you ran your fingernail over them, hard, the cardboard beneath the glossy coating dented. Eventually the coating broke, and started to peel off, and the glossy night behind the stars was dull, and sticky as tar, collecting lint.
The grown son of my mother’s best friend was a pilot in the Air Force. He came to visit us, in uniform, and I showed him my Willy Ley book and told him about rockets, missiles and space travel. He said it wasn’t possible. Would never happen. That Willy Ley was wrong. That you couldn’t do that with rockets. I argued with him. It was the first time in my life, probably, that I openly disagreed with an adult.
Later on, I built kits like these:
The Monogram Space Taxi was a particular favorite, and I kept the space-suited figures long after the taxi itself had broken up and vanished.
Broken up and vanished. In the sky over Nacogdoches County. And I’m sad all the way back to the little boy with his stiff black book and his Bonestell rockets.
But Willy was right, and nobody ever said it would be risk-free.
If it were, it wouldn’t be glorious.
And it’s only with these losses that we best know that it really is.