My Thoughts Exactly

Cyberpunk Pioneer John Jurek’s nanotech-powered programmable KaeLF Skin finally arrives

Photo from Endgaget of nanotech "artificial skin"

Jurek's KaeLF Skin seen in the wild

 

I see from Engadget that some wacky scientists at a “defense”-related (quasi?)-governmental research laboratory have invented a “cyberpunky” electronic skin using nanotechnology:

Researchers working for the Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab have figured out how to create relatively inexpensive “electronic skin” comprising carbon nanotubes enriched with semiconductors. Their process involves an enriched single walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) solution embedded in a honeycomb pattern of hexagonal holes. . .

The article goes on to say that this is a development reminiscent of the novels of William Gibson et al. But Gibson’s not the cyberpunk author that this story brought to my mind. I thought of John Jurek, whose 2000 self-published novel KaeLF Skin was about just such an artificial skin and the various fun and vicious uses it could be put to.  If I remember right, Jurek’s KaeLF Skin was invented at a quasi-governmental research lab — perhaps even Berkeley itself; I can’t seem to find my copy of the book right now to fact-check. But in any event, much of the book concerns Berkeley Laboratory-type doings. The Engadget article could have been ripped from KaeLF Skin’s prologue, that’s how close Jurek’s book is to this story.

I forget how John and I discovered each other’s books, but since we had both written and published cyberpunky thrillers based on nanotech themes, we agreed to do a book swap: he sent me an iUniverse (printed) copy of KaeLF Skin and I sent him a copy of my Acts of the Apostles.  He wrote a glowing review of my book for the Midwest Book Review,(alas, since confined to oblivion), and an abbreviated version of that glorious review for Amazon. I wrote a positive but somewhat less glowing review of his book and posted it on Amazon. After that we exchanged emails for a few months, and I remember that he was pretty down about the poor reception that his book gotten– like most self-published novels KaeLF Skin didn’t sell many copies and got few reviews.

My original review of KaeLF Skin, which I posted on Amazon, is below. Read More »

Posted in I Fear These Things, Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Wetware, Writing | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

You’re Right, Bruce Sterling: I *am* the future of printed fiction. Let’s discuss at SXSW!

A few months ago I blogged about my ten-or-so year long [career|hobby| pipe-dream|unhealthy obsession] as an itinerant peddler of my self-published nanopunky cyberpunky biopunky novel and novellas. That post was called Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations.

A few weeks after I had posted this bit, the cyberpunk celebrity/novelist Bruce Sterling picked up on it, writing in an entry about me in his beyond the beyond blog entitled “The Future of Printed Fiction“. (Actually he didn’t write a blog entry about me — he copy/pasted my Wetmachine post and inserted into it a few oracular comments of his own.)

It’s all about being a make-do gypsy at the fringes of the web conference scene,” Sterling said in his prefatory remarks. “Gothic High-Tech, Favela Chic”.

I’ve been pondering that pronouncement (and others like it that he sprinkled through post by way of annotation) for a few months now (his post is dated October 14, 2010). Below the fold, I make an attempt at parsing them. I do detect a general tone of condescension in Sterling’s comments. Which, y’know, who cares. And furthermore I’m not even sure about that, that his comments are condescending. It seems like he’s making fun of me, but maybe he’s doing straight reporting or maybe he’s free-associating/scat-singing, like a jazz musician or person with Tourettes; I can’t really tell and anyway I’m not well-placed to judge, inasmuch as the subject is my life’s work. Mostly I’m grateful that Sterling blogged about me at all, because he has legions of fans & I got a nice jolt of web traffic and a mini-spike in book sales after he anointed me The Future of Printed Fiction. So thanks, Bruce.

In related news, both Sterling and I are slated to be in Austin, Texas next March for SXSW, the mega indie artist hipster conclave, at which event he will be giving a keynote talk to the multitudes and I’ll be on a panel (presumably before a much smaller and less adoring audience than Sterling’s) entitled “The Self-Publishing Novelist: Report from the Trenches

Since Bruce & I will both be at SXSW, maybe I’ll get a chance to chat with him & ask him what his comments meant. Or, maybe, just maybe, when I get to SXSW & plop myself down in a chair to listen to his opening address I’ll discover that I’m the subject of his keynote talk, which will be about nothing other than, yes THE FUTURE OF PRINTED FICTION & how I, Sundman is it! And I will find myself thereby catapulted into cyberbionanonovelist superstardom, right alongside Bruce Himself and William Gibson and what’s his face, who wrote Cryptonomicon and is now working some newfangled space-age post-fiction with my friend Nicki Galland and that other guy who wrote the book about little nanomachines taking over your mind — no, not Acts of the Apostles , the other one. Probably not, I realize that. But if you’re reading this, Bruce, and would like to join me for a cuppa whatever, please do  have your people call my people.

While I do confess to a bit of bewilderment about what Sterling is actually saying about me in his post, I think the gist is that printed (fiction) books are rapidly becoming “collector” artifacts for niche and rapidly shrinking communities of readers, like classic 35MM film cameras (Pentax, Minolta, Leica, Hasselblad. . .) that once commanded premiums in specialty stores and now go for a few bucks at flea markets.

Who knows, he may be right about that.

Read More »

Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | Also tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Guest Post: Chris Kelly on Putting the “punk” into Steampunk

Recently Chris Kelly (@indiechris on twitter) interviewed me on his site Dun Scaith about so-called “biopunk” fiction. Today I’ve invited Chris to tell us a bit about one of the genres he writes in–Steampunk.  This is a genre that, it seems to me, erupted after the publication of The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It’s a kind of alternate history generally set in Victorian times, when steam engines were a dominant technology –before the widespread adoption of, for example, internal combustion engines, telephones, or electricity. It imagines what might have happened if technologies had evolved differently — say, if computers had developed without electricity. I don’t have too much familiarity with this genre, myself, but I do usually attend the Arisia SF convention each year, and I can tell you that as a subject area for discussion, and as an influence on fashion and so forth, Steampunk has a greater influence in some parts of SF fandom than does futurism or “outer space”. It really does get you to wondering, “what if?”.

Below the fold, Chris talks about a particular aspect of the steampunk aesthetic: what makes it “punk”. So without further ado, take it away, Chris!

Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

“I felt like I was in Church”

That’s a line attributed, if I recall correctly, to Eddy Vedder when asked about how he felt the first time he played with Neil Young (whose “Cortez the Killer” is playing through my headphones right now, now that you mention it, as it often does when I’m digging into basso philisophico depth of my own poor over-mined skull).

I didn’t feel like I was in church when I met uber-scientist George Church in his Harvard Med School lab/office six weeks ago, but I did feel a little bit awed and of course impressed. Turns out Church is a nice guy and we had a lovely chat. (How we met & what we talked about is a story for another day; all you CCD buffs might want to brush up on The Bremser Spam; that’s a hint.) I left behind a set of my books, and, somewhat to my surprise, he read them, and what’s more, liked them, and we’ve since become email buddies and we talk about this and that — subject to time constraints, of course, inasmuch as I’m an unemployed sometime novelist and he’s a world-famous scientist in charge of several important projects at various laboratories, not to mention being on the boards of too many companies to count, so sometimes I don’t have as much free time on my hands as he does. Read More »

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Wetware, Writing | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

Defcon Leaning

Looks like I’ll be heading to the mother of all hacker conferences, Defcon 18 in sunny Las Vegas 2.5 weeks from now. I’ll be attending parties and tech sessions, trying to not get hacked, and, mainly, selling my famous geekoid hackerific novels from a table in the vendor area.

I’ve got two reasons for wanting to attend: (1) I’m writing another hackerific novel, Creation Science, and I want it to feature either some action at Defcon or at the least, some characters (white & black hat) who are Defcon types. So I’ll be doing passive research & keeping my eyes open. (2) I want to sell books and get some notice for my books. If ever there were a target market for them, I think Defcon must be it. Maybe with a little luck I’ll get some notice as the author of what may well be the ultimate hacker book.

Any of y’all as have been to Defcon or who plan to attend this one, I would appreciate your saying hello in the comments. Any advice on how I can meet my two objectives would be especially welcome. In particular, what’s the best way for me to get the word out to the Defcon crowd about my books before I get there?

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed
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