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Monday, March 31, 2003

7:15 PM

That's the prescription here, I'm sorry to say.

Can't make Harbourfront in Toronto.

I'm down with something.

I deeply dislike having to cancel a scheduled appearance, particularly at the last minute. I think I may have done it three times in around twenty years, or four if you count getting snowed out of DC, on the recent tour.

But I know from hard experience exactly what two five-hour sessions of cabin-pressurization, plus a few days of dry hotel air, would do to this thing I've got going on in my sinuses.

I won't try to convince you that SARS-paranoia doesn't factor in at all, but I think I'd definitely be feeling considerably more bullish if I weren't already ill. My biggest semi-irrational fear re SARS and T-o, in fact, is that they wouldn't believe, when I'd try to board the return flight at Malton, that I'm only sweating and coughing because of this little old ordinary virus I'd brought along from Vancouver.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, though. Sorry indeed. I know that some regular posters, in particular, were planning on turning up, and I've started looking forward to putting faces to the icons.

You can, I trust, get your money back from Harbourfront. (For the non-Torontonians, Harbourfront is a vast annual literary festival that charges admission to readings and signings as if they were concerts. I've never seen anything quite like it, though to be honest the only events I've attended that were even remotely similar have been the Wellington [NZ] Literary Festival, the Vancouver International Writers Festival, and the Paris Book Fair.)

Now I'm getting into bed.

With Haruki. And the latest GIANT ROBOT. And the new issue of THE NEW YORKER with soldiers trampling over anti-war protest signs. And a liter of Apollonaris water, the only mineral water with actual analgesic qualities. ("A Johnny and a Polly", forgotten drink of the 1920s, Johnny Walker and Apollonaris water. I wonder if there's anywhere in the world today that you could order one of those and they'd just bring it? I doubt it.)

Goodnight, all.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

4:48 PM

Glad to learn that M-7 war dolphin Tacoma, 48 hours AWOL in the waters off Umm Qasr, has returned to base:,4057,6213096%5E25777,00.html

Wasn't there a story where they gave these guys opiates to keep them on task?


But still news to me:

Flattering, I guess, but I can't help but think of the confusion this must have caused visiting Japanese scientists. It would be as though the Japanese had insisted on calling their own scalable Linux test bed "Newark".

Saturday, March 29, 2003

6:23 PM

From THREE GUINEAS (1938):

'Let us then begin by summoning, if only from the world of imagination, some daughter of an educated man who has enough to live upon and can read and write for her own pleasure and, taking her to be the representative of what may in fact be no class at all, let us ask her to examine the products of that reading and writing which lie upon her own table. "Look, Madam," we might begin, "at the newspapers on your table. Why, may we ask, do you take in three dailies, and three weeklies?" "Because," she replies, "I am interested in politics, and wish to know the facts." "An admirable desire, Madam. But why three? Do they differ then about facts, and if so, why?" To which she replies, with some irony, "You call yourself an educated man's daughter, and yet pretend not to know the facts -- roughly that each paper is financed by a board; that each board has a policy; that each board employs writers to expound that policy, and if the writers do not agree with that policy, the writers, as you may remember after a moment's reflection, find themselves unemployed in the street. Therefore if you want to know any fact about politics you must read at least three different papers, compare at least three different version of the same fact, and come in the end to your own conclusion. Hence the three daily papers on my table." Now that we have discussed, very briefly, what may be called the literature of fact, let us turn to what may be called the literature of fiction. "There are such things, Madam," we may remind her, "as pictures, plays, music and books. Do you pursue the same rather extravagant policy there--glance at three daily papers and three weekly papers if you want to know the facts about pictures, palys, music and books, because those who write about art are in the pay of an editor, who is in the pay of a board, which has a policy to pursue, so that each paper takes a different view, so that it is only by comparing three different views that you can come to your own conclusion--what pictures to see, what play or concert to go to, which book to order from the library?" And to that she replies, "Since I am an educated man's daughter, with a smattering of culture picked up from reading, I should no more dream, given the conditions of journalism at present, of taking my opinions of pictures, plays, music or books from the newspapers than I would take my opinion of politics from the newspapers. Compare the views, make allowance for the distortions, and then judge for yourself. That is the only way. Hence the many newpapers on my table."

Hence also the increasingly lengthy list of bookmarks on my browser, the most valuable of which seem to be multi-source indie synthesizing operations on the order of The Agonist.


Message in a bottle, found on the Internet:

" Initiating preflight check..."

1. Cabal of oldsters who won't listen to outside advice? Check.
2. No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
3. National boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
4. Unshakable faith in our superior technology? Check.
5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
8. SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
9. Fear we'll look bad if we back down now? Check.
10. Texan in the WH? Check.
11. Land war in Asia? Check.
12. Rightists unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
13. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
14. Soldiers about to be dosed with our own chemicals? Check.
15. Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
16. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
17. B-52 bombers? Check.
18. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
19. Infighting among the branches of the military? Check.
20. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
21. Local experts ignored? Check.
22. Local politicians ignored? Check.
23. Local conflicts since before the USA has been a country? Check.
24. Against advice, Prez won't raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
25. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
26. Use of nukes hinted at if things don't go our way? Check.
27. Unpopular war? Check.

"Vietnam II, you are cleared to taxi."

Thursday, March 27, 2003

8:45 AM

A studio executive explains the need to make sure Chris Rock utters no anti-Bush statements when his new movie is released:

"We are confident Chris knows this is not the appropriate time to make jokes about war and the president," said one top studio source. "We don't want to get Dixie-Chicked, or anything like that, out of the gate."


"Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton", UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr", said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

9:00 AM

Someone expresses horror at the cost of the "Pattern Recognition" Rickson's. I think the novel remarks that the Rickson's is by far the most expensive garment Cayce owns. They're definitely pricey, and pricier still on this American niche-marketer's website, but that's the way with otaku tackle. (You should check out the prices on "garage" model-building kits. Amazing. Or those limited-edition non-action figures in GIANT ROBOT.)

How Cayce got her Rickson's: I have a Korean friend in Seoul who has serious otaku tendencies of his own. He got the Rickson's repro of the WWII U.S. Navy deck jacket and showed me a picture. (He has a friend, an office-mate, who collects only the zippers from WWII military outerwear. These were mostly by a firm called Conmar, and are huge, pure bronze, sort of the Jungian archetype of a zipper, and the idea of someone passionately assembling a collection of them still amazes me. Salvaging them from utterly wrecked examples of garments, I guess. So that, in a briefcase, you'd have a sort of symbolic ghost-wardrobe of American military wear. Or...something. )

It surprises me that these "PR" MA-1's are being made available at all (albeit in tiny quantities, which I trust is appropriate for potential demand). One reason I gave Cayce the jacket was my having heard that Rickson's were virtually impossible to get, even in Japan, the purchase of one requiring placing your order at least a year in advance. When Cayce asks Blue Ant Tokyo to find her one, I was assuming that she knows she's making an impossible request, but that she also knows that Blue Ant may well be able to meet it, and they do.

On the other hand, micro-niche-webmarketing is in my opinion a fine thing. Previously, the experience of ultra-narrow-bandwidth retail esoterica was something limited to a very few very large cities, or specialist catalogs.


The tricky purchase being the shirt, not the links. Plenty of cool cufflinks, almost no cool shirts that require them.


This guy sits home accessing umpteen different media-sources and logging them as brief factoids on a simple time-line. The scary thing is that I can understand why he does it, but the amazing thing is that, well, he does do it.

BTW, last night when I went out, around midnight, I turned on my car radio to hear a brief news spot about...Salam Pax! They didn't name the site or give the URL, though.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

8:17 AM

Has earned his own page on the BBC website:

The idea of Salam Pax as Tokyo Rose is an interesting one, though not because I think he's an Iraqi ruse. Rather because the people who immediately suspect he is often seem to have been previously unfamiliar with the concept of weblogging. One of those techno-cultural divides.

Myself, I think that if Iraqi intelligence were capable of cross-cultural emulation at the level required to spoof the likes of a Salam Pax, they'd be about as good as it gets. Their reputation in the international community of intelligence-watchers, however, is not that. In fact distinctly the opposite.

I doubt that simple totalitarian dictatorships often mount intelligence operations manifesting great imagination and creativity. Probably because most of the local creatives are already dead, or pretending to be stupid. More complex states generate intelligence burearocracies in which there are interstices for creatives. Mere ruthless cunning will get you somewhere, but I doubt it could produce as baroque a figure as a fake Salam Pax.

Nonetheless, I'm quite convinced that intelligence organizations the world over have duly noted Salam Pax, and the potential usefulness of such a figure. Next time around, it'll be harder to make the call.


Except the obvious, I guess.

Seriously weird: a case of product placement in reverse, sort of.

Am at least equally boggled at FORTEAN TIMES putting my "I am a Fortean" quote on their cover. You can't mess around with this stuff, can you? (However, I actually do consider myself a Fortean, and FT really is my favorite magazine.)

Sunday, March 23, 2003

11:14 PM

Went away. No internet, no tv. Re-hung pictures, last step after re-painting. Pacific thirty yards away. Windows lightly crusted with windblown salt.

Read a book of interviews with a man, 95, who lived on this same island in the 1920's.

They scarcely had the wheel, those people: one Ford, stripped to its chassis, one two-wheeled horse-cart. Otherwise they walked, rode horses, used the horses to pull "sleds", crude platforms with two plank runners, dragging them along dirt roads that were little more than trails. No electricity.

Rain blowing over from Orcas Island.

The simple awesome depth of a mere eighty years.


My hapless would-be policeman, protagonist of VIRTUAL LIGHT and to some extent of ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES. Anyone curious as to where the Lieutenant-Colonel's address to the troops might fit, vis-a-vis my work, should probably consider Rydell.

As incapable of irony as he is of cynicism, Rydell. Doomed thereby, of course. (Though there are, I intuit, worse dooms by far.)

Thursday, March 20, 2003

12:41 PM

I couldn't tell you, but...Salam Pax is still blogging. I just checked. It takes a long black-screen wait.

Salam's blog may be old hat to the bloggy, but I just found it this morning:

MSNBC backgrounder on the blog:


From the London Times:

A BRITISH commander told his men last night that not all of them would come home alive. He instructed his soldiers to wrap their fallen comrades in a sleeping bag, fight on and grieve for them after the heat of the battle.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins, the man leading the battle group of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Irish, told his troops: “It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive, but there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.

“We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.”

In an emotionally charged address that reduced many of Britain’s toughest infantry troops to tears, the commanding officer told his men that he would tolerate neither cowardice nor a killing spree but that they should show no mercy to forces who remained loyal to President Saddam Hussein. He also declared that any Iraqi troops who declared a truce in the face of the advancing Allies would be embraced by the coalition and permitted to fight for regime change in their own nation.

He said: “The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his Nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of Hell for Saddam. He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.”

Wearing his kukri, the Gurkha blade that he is entitled to carry as a Gurkha commander, Colonel Collins spoke to his 800 men, an arm of Britain’s 16 Air Assault Brigade, at Fort Blair Mayne, their desert camp 20 miles from the Iraqi border.

He said: “We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.

“As for the others, I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle, remember to be magnanimous in victory.

“It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly.

“I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you, then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.”

As the men listened in silence, the dying minutes of a day-long dust storm giving added drama to his address, Colonel Collins reminded them that they were a band of brothers. He said: “If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform nor our nation.”

He said they would certainly face Saddam’s chemical and biological arsenal. “It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when. We know he has already devolved the decision to his lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself. If we survive the first strike, we will survive the attack.”

The commander said he expected the conflict to last between ten days and three weeks and that it was vital if the West was to curb the threat of Muslim fundamentalists. But he made it clear that his men were to respect Iraqi culture and religion and not to confuse it with the international terrorism that Saddam had cultivated within his borders.

He said: “Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.

“You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.

“Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor. In years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you. If there are casualties of war, then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.”

His closing words were resolute: “As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is north.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

11:30 AM

Someone asks whether there’s any point to the new-fangled formulation “mediated persona”, when the concept of “public self” is readily available?

The public self (or persona) has, arguably, been around as long as we’ve had selves and groups, but media are technologies. Monuments or other symbolic representations of rulers look to me like the earliest mediation of individual humans, and, while a ruler would have a public (as well as a private) self, this technological “broadcasting” of the individual constitutes something else, something fundamentally different.

Prior to the past century or so, with the exception of print, no mass media existed. When we listen today to the earliest recorded music, we are listening to musicians who themselves had never heard recorded music. I would argue that the experience of life in a world in which there was no recorded music was a fundamentally different (and, for us, perhaps literally unimaginable) experience. In such a world, a minimum of daily life-experience would be mediated.

Consider Madonna.

Madonna’s public self is nothing at all like your public self, though you definitely do have a public self. And it isn’t simply that hers is “larger”. That which exists in the human infosphere as “Madonna” is of a different order entirely. (I chose Madonna because her mediation seems to have surpassed any need for specific product; she’s in some sort of later stage, in which what she does, to the extent she does anything, is be Madonna.) There is woman who calls herself Madonna, who has a private self, and who may even be said (this gets tricky) to have a public self separate from her mediated persona, but “Madonna” is a mediated persona.

“Madonna” will survive the woman called Madonna in ways our ancestors would have regarded as purely supernatural.


"i wonder how things would have been if w.g. had been born 10 years later... with the tech, the music, the supermodels, everything."


Pharmacom is the Big Sinister Corporation lurking in the background of the plot of the film (though not in the short story). Weirdly, while studying detailed web-listings of shops on the Moscow streets Cayce was traversing, I ran across...Pharmacom! And giggled.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

7:51 AM

For your St. Patrick's Day greetings and virtual gifts!


British. Er, existential. Wonderful.,12864,914033,00.html

Monday, March 17, 2003

12:03 AM

Tired of a war that hasn’t even started yet? Can’t bear to think that there are CNN employees who already have MP3’s of the new war’s theme music?

Then join me, as I get seriously into choosing a new pair of shoes for the heroine of my most recent novel:

Those Harajuku schoolgirl shoes Cayce starts out with aren’t GOTHIC LOLITA BIBLE perv gear, but your regular traditional Japanese schoolgirl shoes. My wife got a pair, our first time in Japan. You wouldn’t have to go to Harajuku to get them, but I doubt you could find them outside of Japan.

However, having recently become obsessed with old school Adidas, I have rediscovered a shoe that is as utterly Cayce as a shoe can be.

If I had remembered these, I wouldn’t have made do with Japanese schoolgirl shoes. Cayce would’ve been wearing this special black version of the Stan Smith, the Official:

These are, in your smaller, “girly” sizes, seriously cute as buttons, but nonetheless downright spookily minimalist.

Not to mention sort of perkily dominatrixy as well.


Mention of Jane Birkin may have been, um, intended to bring to mind her role in BLOW UP. The fact that that ex had projected Jane Birkin, though, probably has as much to do with what she actually looks like as…Milla’s lips. (If Cayce had lips like Milla Jovovitch, she probably wouldn’t need to be vetting logos for Blue Ant. Those are some seriously marketable posthuman supermodel lips our Milla has.)

The fact is, I myself do not know what Cayce looks like.

Because I built her, you see, from the inside out.

To the extent that the reader “knows”, the reader must therefore be projecting.

But projecting…what?

Saturday, March 15, 2003

11:19 PM

I too use Google as a spell-checker, and also as a general mnemonic prosthetic, but I use eBay to induce crucially lateral dream-states, one of which produced Cayce’s “Stasi envelope” (about which someone asked, yesterday).

I’m fairly sure that the Stasi envelope is imaginary, or semi-imaginary, though similar things likely do exist.

If you go to (that’s German eBay) and search “NVA”, you’ll get over 1,500 (I just checked) auctions of various things East German. The Stasi envelope was the result of my having opened similar auctions (I don’t speak German, so can’t read the titles) simply to look at pictures of East German artifacts. This is something I do a lot of while “writing” (or while “stuck”, depending on how you look at it). EBay as shamanic induction device.

I very briefly visited East Berlin, when the Wall was not so long down, and has subsequently allowed me to view an utterly random cross-section of the stuff they produced there.

What a ludicrous, terrifying, tragic and absurd society they briefly created, there, and every so often offers an object that says it all, in a simple digital snapshot.

They made, for instance, light-fixtures out of recycled plastics; the plastic was chopped up, melted and molded, but the various chopped bits retained their original color, resulting in a translucent solid that looks exactly like joke-shop vomit.

Quite a lot of the infrastructural detail of East Germany, you see, looked as though it was made of solidified puke. The cruelty extended to the esthetic. Or perhaps it began there. Ugly. Unimaginably ugly.

8:49 AM

I knew this would happen, if I mentioned Don Johnson...


I have a long-standing policy on this. I neither give nor deny anyone permission to do this, ever. But I would point out that 99.99% of start-ups with names lifted from my fiction have tanked utterly. And there have been quite a few, over the years (though not 8 billion).


I've just been told, is going on their website today. Don't have the URL.

Friday, March 14, 2003

4:57 PM

The Department of Special Effects drops a 21,000-lb. bomb in Florida, New Orleans prepares to rename its most famous neighborhood the Freedom Quarter...and what doe it take to get me to comment on current affairs?

Don Johnson.

Word has only recently (Wednesday) emerged that the former MIAMI VICE star, crossing into Germany from Switzerland in November, was found by German customs authorities to be accompanied by a cool $8 billion USD in credit notes, etc., contained in a black leather suitcase. (I think that if it had been a Louis Vuitton suitcase, they would have told us. Too nice a detail to pass up.)

"They're all legitimate papers and stuff from a passenger that was in the car. It has nothing to do with me."

I only mention this now in case any of you were puzzled, day before yesterday, by a mysterious recurring sound. That was the sound of many (though surely not 8 billion) writers of genre fiction. What you heard was their eyes rolling. Writers of the sort of fiction in which very large sums of money (or equivalents thereof) are transported across borders in suitcases are generally not advised to go much higher than a billion, else the Kazillion Factor set in:

"But why are Mr. X and his army of henchmen so determined to find this suitcase? Do we even know what it might contain?"

"It contains...a kazillion dollars."

I myself, having always wanted to have a suitcase full of the cold hard change fictive hands, recently forced myself to make do with an attache case and mere pocket-change.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

8:24 AM

I’d forgotten what it was like. That weird, ugly, green abduction-scenario glare from inside, the sheer slowness of it (this is, mind you, a Sanyo close to a decade old, an antique in its own right). The various sounds it makes, once so familiar. I keep it around for those odd times when I absolutely need to send a fax, when there’s no other way, and I did, today.

Then I remembered the first time I ever saw a fax machine.

I can remember when we got our first television, in the Fifties. It had a wooden cabinet. I’m not entirely certain it was the first one I ever saw, though. I can remember receiving my first-ever transistor radio, and my first-ever stereophonic phonograph, but I’d probably seen others before I got my own. I do remember seeing, and instantly buying, my first-ever Sony Walkman; until I saw it, in the spring of 1981, I had had no idea such a thing existed. (And shortly thereafter, I saw my first personal computer, a Sinclair ZX like the ones Voytek is after in PATTERN RECOGNITION, though probably it was the Timex version. It was hooked up to a black-and-white tv purchased for this express purpose from the Salvation Army. It was as unexciting, to me, as the Walkman had been exciting.)

I saw my first fax machine in the Tokyo home of Katsuhiro Otomo, who was completing (I think) AKIRA at the time. He had at least two of these things, and from them were scrolling what may have been in-betweens. I’m not even sure what year that was, now, but I remember that he was quietly proud of this new technology, and that he told me (perhaps through a translator) that they loved these machines, in Japan, because, for the first time, it was possible to send hand-written notes. And, of course, images.

I was impressed, though not as impressed as I was by the images on those scrolls. I think I had heard, vaguely, about these things, in some business context, in Canada, but I’m sure I never imagined I’d live with one for a decade or so, and go through, probably, several miles of that horrible slippery paper.

I don’t remember whether Otomo had a PC. If he did, he didn’t show it to me. Somehow I doubt he did. The home computer I remember hearing most about in Japan, that trip, was the Nintendo Famicom, and those didn’t sound particularly exciting either. (Famicon: "family computer". ) I’d written NEUROMANCER, it had been translated and published in Japan, and here I was in Tokyo: seeing my very first…fax machine.

At some point on that trip I also saw half a dozen really boring checked sports-jackets, in a department-store window, in front of a large banner that said “CYBER-SUMMER!”.

Damn, I thought, this is getting weird.

And of course it continued to.


Someone asks about this, having been puzzled for years: at the end of NEUROMANCER (p. 252, current Ace trade paper) 3Janes says “Take you word, thief.” Case then does whatever it is he does (you tell me) to penetrate the final membrane of…whatever:

And his voice the cry of a bird
3Jane answering in song, three
notes, high and pure.
A true name.

Anyone daydreaming of a feature film of NEUROMANCER might want to pause to ponder just how the hell one might go about depicting this climax (and it is the climax) on the screen.

As to what the word is, well, I never considered it to be a word, really, though 3Jane, teasingly, calls it one. It is in fact three “notes”, something akin to birdcall. The key to the cipher, that is, is revealed as being purely tonal, musical, rather than linguistic. Case’s “cry”, a species of primal scream, the voicing of the emotionality he’s been walled off from throughout the narrative (and his life), torn finally from the core of his being, is what actually forces 3Jane to give up the key. Call and response, of some kind. Hearing him, she can’t help herself. When she taunts him (“Take your word, thief.”) she’s in fact daring him, and assuming he can’t -- just as she was, a moment before, daring Molly to kill her.


Re the new thread about Australia, I’m certainly not alone among North Americans in my awareness of that part of the world. Very much a mirror-world, for us, and for residents of Canada there seems to be another mirroring as well, with Australia seeming to reflect the US while New Zealand reflects Canada. As no doubt many have said, these are places I’d visit more frequently if they weren’t so far away! I’ve only been twice, and very briefly: to Wellington for a literary festival and Melbourne for a science fiction convention. But Vancouver has visible pockets of Australians in a way that one probably doesn’t encounter in the States. One of my local anti-Starbucks, for instance, seems to be staffed exclusively by what I take to be Australian exchange students. (Australia and Canada share consular facilities now, in many countries, out of old friendship and common needs.)

As to why I don’t (“The Winter Market” is the one exception so far) set fiction in Vancouver… That’s complicated. Something like: because I need a place in which I’m not doing that with my immediate surroundings, in order to continue doing it with other places. If I were to incorporate Vancouver into my fictive universe, I fear that in some sense I’d be “writing” all the time. As it is, in Vancouver, I get to be a civilian, that way. I just live here. I don't have to write fiction about it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

9:34 AM

That's how Rudy Rucker, in an email yesterday, described how it feels to be a novelist between books. No place to take the shiny things we constantly find. He's treating his own condition, he said, by writing a horror sorry about having belonged to a country club in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the early Eighties (man, that *is* scary).

No place for the magpie mind to take the trinkets and bits of tinfoil, currently. If I bring them here, for instance, I'm just leaving them on your window-ledge, something no magpie would ever be satisfied with doing.

This is, in some way, the first time I've ever had the recognition that I've become someone who needs to be writing a book, to some extent, in order to feel content. Interesting how we "catch" recognitions from others -- in this case requiring, for me, someone whose recognition emerges from what I can take to be a very similar ecology of mind.


At my having remarked yesterday (with an evident sense of discovery) on something (the mediated persona) that I dealt with, extensively, as far back as IDORU.

Keep in mind that anyone who's read a novel of mine has read it much more recently than I have. I can't recall ever having reread anything of my own, in its entirety, after publication.

But, also, now I think about it, IDORU was the last of my full-on I-don't-do-the-Internet freestyle extrapolations. When I wrote IDORU, I was still faxing my daily pages to friends for comment, and probably wasn't at all sure what websites *were*. ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES was the first book I wrote as an email-using, web-searching, spam-accreting human. So I suspect that my unlikely-seeming wonderment at the democratization of mediated personae is about that awareness arriving, for me (as opposed to my Man Behind The Curtain) only just now.


The point-form notes on the CBC Radio taping, posted today, I find quite wonderful. Dreamlike. If I could get away with it, I'd be that gnomic in all of my public utterances, and could feel sort of like that back-alley fireplug that the Finn winds up getting downloaded to. (I *hope* that was the Finn. It's literally been so long since I've read that book that I'm no longer certain. And I'm perversely proud of the fact, too.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

1:03 PM

Why I said it bothered me that I met people who assumed I still wrote on a manual typewriter. Does this make me, for instance, feel old? Well, no, not particularly. What bothers me about it is the gap between self and mediated persona. A mediated persona just sort of accumulates, of its own accord, the way balls of dust build up under a bed. It isn't as though there's any entity ("the media") controlling this process; it just happens. If there was something, no matter what, that you didn't do, and you kept meeting strangers who were convinced you did do that, because they had received, from the dust-ball of your mediated persona, the idea that you did, it might eventually start to bug you too.

It's usually some sort of "hook", the result of journalism's need for shorthand, for sub-heads: "Cyberspace guru uses manual typewriter"... With "Cyberspace guru" being by far the more dubious construction on display there, but *it isn't even true that I use a manual typewriter*. (For the record, once again, it was two and one third novels on manual, Apple ever since.)

While I'm on the topic of mediated personae, something that came up during that CBC taping, last night (for me, anyway) was the idea that blogging (or even posting to fora) represents the democratization of the mediated persona. Literally anyone can have one, now, or several. I am an exception to this, because I have mine via the printed word, the oldest mass medium on the planet, and this website is maintained by a publishing company that belongs to an even larger corporation owned in turn by shapeshifting reptiles from Beta Reticuli, but the rest of you, today, are free to mass-mediate your own personae. Which was formerly, hugely, not the case. Choose a handle, post: you're mediating a persona.

Monday, March 10, 2003

10:14 PM

Went off to CBC to tape two hours for North By Northwest (radio, airs this Saturday morning, here) with a large, very keen and brainy audience, all of whom had had to qualify by submitting short essays (!). Excellent co-hosts, thoughtful questions, very enjoyable.

Drains off whatever it is that blogging requires, though.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

6:27 PM

Someone suggests this (it's been suggested before) in a recent post, along with the suggestion that I might have set it up that way, as some sort of mirror of the situation in the book.

The situation in the book [I'll try to avoid spoilers] involves an author (of sorts) who is an utterly unknown quantity. About whom nothing whatever is known. Who is in fact (though this never comes up on F:F:F, because it would have complicated things for me) a hypothetical entity. (Why couldn't the footage be the result of some sort of collaborative, community process? Why does Cayce and everyone else automatically assume that there must be a lone maker, a solo auteur?) The fifty-four-year-old man (as Fashionpolice keeps reminding me) typing this into a window on is no hypothetical entity, but someone who's just braved a coast-to-coast gauntlet of bookstores (not to mention the Great President's Day Snowstorm) to demonstrate his physical presence.

I'm a guy in a basement in Vancouver, pecking away at the same coffee-stained keyboard I wrote PATTERN RECOGNITION on, and am here, in fact, as part of some vague personal process of deliberate dePynchonization.

If there's a mystery here, it's that some aspect of the rather ordinary person I know myself to be (and whom you would certainly know me to be as well, were we both to stay here long enough) is somehow able to write novels. I am not the Man Behind The Curtain. The mystery is that I do, apparently, somehow contain one.

And that's the mystery we all live with when we know writers, as indeed it's the mystery we live with when we *are* writers.

When the publisher suggested having this site (there had been a site for ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, but I'd had nothing to do with it) I suggested, somewhat to my own amazement, that I should have some sort of personal presence here. I hadn't had much contact with my readers, for the past decade or so, and had started to worry, vaguely, about the sort of legends that grow up around excessively reclusive writers. (It had begun to bug me, for instance, that I continued to meet people who believed that I still wrote on a manual typewriter.) And in the course of writing PATTERN RECOGNITION I'd experienced (anonymously -- ah bliss) enough of the world of online fora to have some idea of what the experience of being here would be like. So I did it, and here I am.

But I certainly didn't do it to further confound any mystery. I am personally not all that impressed with the mysterious creativity of my Man Behind The Curtain. Probably because I've had to clean up after him for decades now (as indeed, and even more constantly, have my wife and family and friends). And I, I'm proud to say, turn up for work a lot more regularly than he does -- most of the time, anyway.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

9:10 AM

Fashionpolice mentions "Lars Von Trier's TV mini-series, 'The Kingdom'". This keeps coming up. for me, but I've never seen it. Is there a DVD that'll work in a North American player? I've always imagined it as a Scandinavian second-cousin to WILD PALMS (not the mini-series, but the much more interesting Wagner-penned open-ended graphic novel that ran in Details).

If I'd known that that Danish interview would wind up as streaming video on my own website, I'd've been a lot more nervous about it. (Of course everyone else in the studio was stark naked the whole time, except for whatever techie fannybag stuff they needed to be wearing. Where does this fit in with the "melancholy" thing?)


Kevin Kelly just recommended this to me. A variant Google that only pulls up sites where the thing you're looking for is actually offered for sale. Simple but brilliant: no need to winnow through sites where the object of your desire is merely being discussed:


Every so often, I just have to dredge up something like this:

"SORRY! SORRY! The home unexpectedly company collects the simulation gun also is the grave offense?
That calculated, oh! Really is has heavy responsibilities! Looks like only immigrates to North America,
good envies North America the compatriot, France but actually may buy the gun, but immigrates
difficultly! Does not know has not only is for buy the gun only then immigrates, ha-ha, if does not have,
please from Âêæ beginning. heh heh"

Heh heh indeed.

Friday, March 07, 2003

7:28 AM

Someone finds BOONVILLE lacking in the depth of its depiction of women. It didn't strike me that way. I thought the author was trying pretty hard, in that direction. I would have liked the book to be about three times as long, though. It does, as the reader points out, just sort of end.

Book-recommendations are, by their very nature, ever dodgy .

I myself am currently enjoying THE DESIRE AND PURSUIT OF THE WHOLE, by Fr. Rolfe, AKA Baron Corvo:

That page doesn't even come close to suggesting how amazingly, hilariously and deeply sadly peculiar this author is, but there certainly aren't all that many people I'd actively recommend him to. (Though the fact that everyone I would recommend him to is already a very close friend may say something.)

Fashionpolice [actually it was Fashionista, sorry] asks various questions about, ahem, attire. I would say that Sean Stussy (designer of the label of the same name, though sadly not for the past several years) and I would probably be attracted to many of the same items, were we to find ourselves in Value Village at the same time. Though I doubt we'd come to blows over anything but the real scores.

As my favorite maker of leather jackets has it, "Never In Fashion, Always In Style". Garments of a certainly timeless utility do do it best for me.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

9:21 AM

Fab Soviet & Eastern Bloc rides. Don't miss the experimental models of the Gaz and the Tatra:

Legend of the Yugo:

"What is the function of the rear glass defroster on the Yugo?"

"To warm the hands of the person that pushes the car, when the weather is bad!"

Canada had much more of a mirror-world thing going on, when I first came here, the finest frissons of cognitive dissonance being provided, for your American boy, by trade with the USSR and China. Adventurous camera-shops, for instance, sold Russian cameras. They looked exactly like older German cameras, but weighed four times as much. Certain consumers, perhaps of a determinedly leftist bent, availed themselves of East Bloc auto dealerships, driving Lada's and Yugo's. Not very many, but you did see them. They were said to be relatively inexpensive, and certainly looked it.


Someone asked about Victor Tsoi, of Kino. I was at some point introduced to Rashid Nugmanov, a young Kazakh director who had made IGLA (The Needle) with Victor Tsoi, a dramatic feature shot (I believe) in Rashid's hometown of Alma Ata, and in the Aral Sea (or what used to be the Aral Sea -- source of the dead zone Cayce walks through in PATTERN RECOGNITION). Rashid gave me a tape of IGLA and another, for my Walkman, of Kino, Tsoi's band. I became an immediate fan of the music, and was impressed by Tsoi's film presence. He was Russian-Korean, extremely handsome, and evidently as serious about martial arts as we was about his music. Intensely charismatic. An American producer expressed interest in a Soviet-American co-production, to star Tsoi, and Rashid and I began working on a storyline of his. But when the time came to get down to it, and actually go to Russia to write the script, I was busy with a novel. Unable to go, but unwilling to drop this wonderfully odd project, I recruited my friend Jack Womack. Jack went off to Russia in my stead. (See his wonderful LET'S PUT THE FUTURE BEHIND US for some idea of what he found there.) Victor's tragic death in an automobile accident (nothing rockstar about it; he was a non-drinker who never did drugs) killed the project as well, but by then Kino had become a permanent part of my musical landscape. I sometimes wonder where Victor mightn't have gone, if he'd lived. He was extraordinarily talented. The world of the squat, in PATTERN RECOGNITION, that endless party, the element of some kind of spirituality, I owe to Rashid's memories, Kino's music, and Jack's experiences.

Rashid's story, for the film we never made, involved ritualistic gang-warfare in some sort of sideways-future Leningrad. I thought of it when I saw the opening battle in GANGS OF NEW YORK. Very similar! I remember Rashid describing large-scale combat in a snowy, midnight park, one gang armed with sharpened spades, the other with Cossack sabres. We were also trying to work in a six-wheeled tank, equipped with a water-cannon, which he'd picked up for a song in Alma Ata.

[Tip of the bloghat to Eileen, for showing me how to make the links clickable.]


USAF N-3B, 1953. Coyote-ruff trim, dead these many decades now. Close to NOS. eBay.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

9:03 AM

It's a good thing I know Bruce Sterling. Otherwise I'd never hear about things like this.

> 'World's smallest combination lock' promises to foil even the best computer
> hacker, say Sandia developers
> ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The "world's smallest combination lock," a minuscule
> mechanical device developed at Sandia National Laboratories, promises to
> build a virtually impenetrable computer firewall that even the best hacker
> can't beat.
> The Recodable Locking Device, which uses microelectromechanical system
> (MEMS) technology so small that it takes a microscope to see it, is a
> series
> of tiny notched gears that move to the unlocked position only when the
> right
> code is entered. It's the first known mechanical hardware designed to keep
> unwanted guests from breaking codes and illegally entering computer and
> other secure systems.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

7:12 AM

Here's a "readymade" for you, as fine a one as I've seen in a while. You can start building your own novel, around one like this.

AKIRA-inflected secret city beneath Tokyo; retired construction workers whispering about the diamond-cutter required to tunnel existing concrete, when the maps show nothing but soil should have been there...

Subway fantasy is a genre unto itself. Delighted to see it's taken root in Tokyo.

Monday, March 03, 2003

8:06 AM

Someone asks why I put the titles of books (and, as it happens, feature films and recordings) in all-caps. (They also point out that Starbucks is spelled sans apostrophe. Thank you.)

Mechanical typewriters were generally limited to a single, fixed font, which meant that unless you were using an italic typewriter (these existed, though I’ve no idea what for, but were very rare) you were unable to render book-titles as they would conventionally be set in type.

The convention, therefore, as backed up by every academic stylesheet, was that titles of major works (books, feature films) were to be underlined, while lesser works (poems, short stories) would be put in quotes.

[Dead Tech backgrounder, for extra points: In the decade or so prior to the advent of personal computers, IBM produced an electric typewriter called the Selectric; this had a “type-ball”, a metal sphere about the size of a golf ball, which held an entire font; you could switch fonts, which at the time was little short of miraculous; you could also, even more amazingly, power-correct mistakes with a built-in paper-colored ribbon. The IBM Selectric, when I started writing for publication, was the most shit-hot professional writing machine on the planet; by the time I could have afforded one, they were propping up broken barbecue grills in Value Village. The Finn’s shop probably has at least one box of Selectric type-balls, somewhere; they are beautiful sculptural objects, these balls, and won’t be easily thrown away.]

While underlining was the academic convention, it required the typist to backspace for the length of a given title, then underline. Just that added little bit of work. Just that little bit more tedious.

Much of my earliest typewriting experience had to do with mimeography, a pre-thermocopy form of reproduction once fairly universal in the world’s offices. You typed, once, on a waxed paper “stencil”, clipped this over a silkscreen device with a moving pad or drum of ink behind it, and your mimeograph ran off (or silkscreened, really) as many copies of your document as you required. Owing to the physical peculiarities of the medium, though, it was unwise to underline too frequently on a mimeograph stencil: the single unbroken line was particularly prone to tear, producing leaks and smudging.

Some people who liked books, and frequently wrote letters, on typewriters, to other people who liked books, tended, free from the constraints of an academic stylesheet, to render titles in all-caps. (It required fewer case shifts than capping each required word in the title, you see.) People who wrote about books for publication in amateur journals (mimeo was an authentic medium of the American samisdat) rendered titles in all-caps in order to avoid stencil-tears.

At various times, I was both.

So it’s a techno-generational thing: a cultural artifact of two dead media platforms.

Though I suppose it may seem, to someone raised on the Internet, as though I SHOUT the title of each book…

But don’t let these foibles frighten you off. I’m quite harmless really.

(Cue Waylon Jennings’ “Man From Another Time”, which, since it isn’t the title of the album, CHILL FACTOR, on which it appears, doesn’t need to be in all-caps.)

Sunday, March 02, 2003

8:03 AM

That's espresso with a tot of crystal meth, said to have been the bevvie of choice among the local equivalent of rickshaw boys in 'Nam-era Saigon. Now that would've made for a different sort of Third Place...

"Third Place" comes from THE THIRD PLACE, a book I'm too lazy to google for you this morning. It was published, I seem to recall, slightly pre-Starbuck's, and may even have provided inspiration.

In any case, as several people have now remarked, it's really not about the coffee. And it's evidently a generational issue, largely, as to how much Starbuck's sucks or doesn't. Those old enough to remember the world of North American coffee (or, God help us, UK coffee) prior to Starbuck's are inclined to forgive a great many faux-Murano lampshades.

Number me among them. Aside from making it possible to readily ingest really pretty damn good coffee just about anywhere, Starbuck's also deserves some credit for having inadvertently birthed a back-market of Anti-Starbuck's, everything from hole-in-wall-with-thrift-shop-sofa operations to the indie-coffee equivalents of The Tattered Cover. If Starbuck's wasn't there, these guys wouldn't be either. (And a lot of them don't make as good drinks as Starbuck's, if you get right down to it.)

Starbuck's culture note: On the east side of Vancouver, where fewer rich folks traditionally live, and freak flags are traditionally flown a bit higher, I know of two Starbuck's where the dress code for staff has either been abandoned entirely or so willfully subverted that the home office might be thought to wish it had been. I'm curious: Does this happen elsewhere? When did you last see a Starbuck's barista wearing neither black, khaki, nor green, and where? "Alternative" neighborhood? Could this actually be *policy*?

Saturday, March 01, 2003

12:19 PM


Chances are, I was actually listening to some of this stuff while I was writing NEUROMANCER. I'd bought various Roky output as 45's and EP's in '77, when they were being released, enigmatically, by French micro-labels that had their own idea of what constituted punk. Later, visiting Sterling in the heyday of cyperpunk Austin, such as it was, he played me more, and regaled me with tales of seeing the man himself in the local 7-11.

SAINT ETIENNE -- Finisterre

My friends Rodney and Shannon like this band. My friend Johan gave me this CD when I was in New York, and I listened to it in my hotel room, watching the blizzard.

JOHNNY CASH -- American IV: The Man Comes Around

Hard to grow up where I did, when I did, and not think of Johnny Cash as the voice of God. So far, with this one, I just keep listening to the cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt", as stunning a recording as I've heard in quite a while.

KINO -- Noch (home-burned by my son)

Back in the USSR, when it still was. The late Victor Tsoi was something like a cross between Bob Marley and Bruce Lee, but that scarcely covers it. Astounding, if you can get it into it.

WALTER BECKER -- 11 Tracks of Whack

Hard to find '94 solo album. Brilliant.


I love this guy, though I paid no attention whatever until MURDER BALLADS, and have never subsequently found much in the backlist to get as excited about. THE BOATMAN'S CALL is a masterpiece. Just getting into this one.


I cheated. I cheated when she has the Tommy attack, because I gave her my own reasons for disliking Tommy product, when, on the basis of the rest of the book, her specific logo-phobias seem random.

Brian Eno defines culture as everything we do that we don't absolutely need to do. We don't really need to wear pants, say, when a kilt will do as well, or drink coffee, or have global chains in which to drink coffee...

But Starbuck's first "product", even before coffee, is the "Third Place" (not home, not work) it offers, in environments where a safe, reasonably conversation-friendly, multi-gender Third Place could previously not so easily be found. Then there's the coffee. Younger readers don't remember when most coffee in the US (not to mention the UK) was tragic swill. Pre-Starbuck's, really good coffee in the US was limited to New York, San Francisco, and ethnic or bohemian enclaves in other places, but generally was very thin on the ground.

And Starbuck's coffee is *strong*, relatively speaking. I had the experience, in December, of running on about a dozen Catalan latte-equivalents a day, for three days, and not really *getting there*, then breaking down and going into the only Starbuck's in Barcelona for a tall Coffee Of The Day. An hour later, I was kicking myself for not having bought a thermos.

There's at least one chain in London that has better coffee than Starbuck's, but I'm still deeply grateful, in London, for Starbuck's. You literally cannot imagine how poor most coffee was, in London, twenty years ago.

Cayce's reaction to Starbuck's is pretty much my own: a slightly ambivalent comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Favorite London Starbuck's: Kensington High Street, morning rush hour; pay a little extra and you can go down a few stairs to a small back room, where you can sit and watch local civilians headed for work. (The ones who order the quintuple lattes are generally Glaswegian.)