I was turned onto Goulart by my friend John Sheehan - who gave me a collection of Goulart's books. As such, I'll forever associate Goulart w/ John - &I was turned onto Goulart by my friend John Sheehan - who gave me a collection of Goulart's books. As such, I'll forever associate Goulart w/ John - & I can appreciate how their 2 peculiarities coincide. John also exposed me to 2 inventions of his own: balloon fishing & slow-bowling - but that's a story for elsewhere.
I'll probably never read anything by Goulart that I'll be able to bring myself to give more than a 3 star rating too. "Liked it" sums my response. Goulart's too much of a gimmick writer - nothing that I've read by him tries to accomplish anything beyond short books w/ recurring themes & style. NONETHELESS, I've enjoyed them all! A few obvious pseudo-critical clichés come to mind: "guilty pleasure", "book to read at the beach while on vacation", "escape fiction"..
&.. yet.. somehow I think he deserves more credit than that. His gimmick, in most, or all, of the 28 books I've read by him, is dysfunctional technology &/or technology imbued w/ human failings - elevators w/ limited artificial intelligence that have opinions about the people who ride in them, robots as racist as their inventors, shoe dispensers that don't pop out matching shoes.. that sort of thing. AND there's more to it than that. His books are satires, somewhat outspoken about sex, race, revolution..
Take "Wildsmith": an android secretly built by a publishing company to crank out best-sellers - & very successful at that. BUT, in order for the android to have the appropriate personality it's had quirks built into it - like apparent alcoholic behavior. Since the public isn't supposed to know that Wildsmith's an android, all the aberrant behavior has to be kept in check enuf by his PR man to keep this a secret - wch means preventing Wildsmith from unscrewing his hands in public & such-like.
This being not only a satire of the publishing industry but also of the political atmosphere of the time there's an apparent parody of Al Capp & his "Li'l Abner" cartoon - in this case as Joe Chuck, creator of "Tiny Boob the Hillbilly Midget". In Goulart's rendering, Chuck is a nasty stereotyping creep whose comic is banned in Mexico b/c Chuck expresses such sentiments as:
""These amusing greaseballs come from a distant planet and they landed right in Tiny Boob's hillbilly home town of Hogwallow. They resemble wax basketballs and have amusing little legs and wear sombreros. They've come to our poor, plundered portion of this planet because they've heard you can get a handout quicker here than anyplace else in the universe. If there's one prick things these greaseballs hate, it is working for a living.""
NOW, that's somewhat the way I remember Capp as being - so imagine my surprise when I skimmed thru his Wikipedia bio & found naught but praise for the guy. It's even claimed there that John Steinbeck (who I have deep respect for) "called Capp "the best writer in the world" in 1953, and even earnestly recommended him for the Nobel Prize in literature"! AND Marshall McLuhan (who I'm beginning to think was a bit of an idiot) was reputed to be a fan. Contrast that to the footage of Capp's hostility to John Lennon & Yoko Ono as presented in Paul McGrath's movie "John & Yoko's Year of Peace".
At any rate, Goulart's satire seems just as pungent & pointed as, eg, Terry Southern's "Candy" - but "Candy" was made into a movie w/ prominent stars & I don't know of any Goulart movies (wch doesn't mean that they don't exist - eg, he's somehow connected w/ "Battlestar Galactica"). In fact, "Wildsmith" is somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen's "Broadway Danny Rose" - but 13 yrs earlier - & w/ the Sci-Fi touches lacking in Allen's story. Funny, I often feel the same way about Allen's movies as I do about Goulart's books - they're clever but gimmicky - & they usually don't go far enuf.
STILL, I recommend Goulart - it only takes a few hrs to read one of these so it's easy enuf to whiz thru one - & if you don't get anything out of it there's no great waste of time. Besides, he seems worthy of recognition as a precursor to Jonathan Lethem, eg, & as a prominent figure in the shaping of the fusion of detective & science fiction. For me, the dysfunctional technology is enuf of a hoot to make it worthwhile - given that tech-heads often act like technology is some sort of perfect savior - rather than just another product of imperfect humans.
I note that Goulart has a series (?) of books w/ Groucho Marx as a "Master Detective" that I've never seen. That seems like perfect grist for Goulart's mill. ...more
"Anvil of Stars" sequel to "The Forge of God".. - just the titles alone are enuf to make me wary.. BUT, that sort of thing is par for the golf course"Anvil of Stars" sequel to "The Forge of God".. - just the titles alone are enuf to make me wary.. BUT, that sort of thing is par for the golf course of black holes in SF - so no biggie.. In other words, the title is so rotten-cheese-ball that many a sensitive literary type might avoid it.. BUT, I liked this bk. Bear's plots are GRANDIOSE. I vaguely recall reading that he & Greg Egan are 2 of the main 'hard science' SF writers (or maybe that's just what I thought at some point or another) - meaning that all their plots have to be backed up by significant scientific projection of the day.. BUT, this is basically pure SPACE OPERA. The plot? A group of young people, survivors from a destroyed Earth, are traveling in a "Ship of the Law" seeking out those responsible for Earth's destruction to avenge it. They form an alliance w/ another Ship of the Law populated by a dramatically different species from another planet that's been similarly ill-served. Regardless of how much this story pulls out all the melodramatic stops, its scale is impressive: How many people can imagine conflicts that loom this large? Not many.. & reading such tales stretches one's own sense of possible proportion. W/o getting into spoilers, though, the ethical problems in all this, while addressed, aren't delved into as satisfactorily as a sentient being truly concerned w/ such things might like. ...more
I read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many ofI read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many of them likely to be known only to scholars) was thoroughly worked out. It was over 900pp long & took me at least a mnth to read. Now I've just read his collaborative political/medical thriller cowritten w/ J. Frederick George & I'm less impressed. While "Quicksilver" might've been somewhat comparable to something by John Barth &/or Robert Anton Wilson, "Interface" is more comparable to Michael Crichton &/or Robin Cook. In other words, while it's carefully written & well-worked-out, it still reeks of writing aimed at a market rather than something written to develop original ideas.
Take, eg, the title: There's already a SF bk by Mark Adlard called "Interface" from 1971. Not that that's such a big deal, the word's used in a significantly different way in each bk, but it immediately makes me think of mainstream cinema's seemingly endless remake mentality. An ad blurb on the front of the bk calls this most recent "Interface" "A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age" & that's entirely too true for it to be a compliment from my perspective insofar as the plot isn't really that original.
Even the multi-culturalism of the bk seems forced: just about every character is a representative of a different ethnic group. Nonetheless, I'm thankful that the politics aren't as numbnuts as Chrichton's "State of Fear" even if they are more than a bit improbable: a black woman who'd attained prosperity as a banker married to an engineer experiences an economic downslide & other miseries: she & her husband end up in a trailer park, he commits suicide, her son gets shot, she teeters around bag-lady-ism, she criticizes a racist politician in public, the politician's career gets ruined as a result, she gets launched on a political career on her own b/c people are so impressed by her articulateness, & becomes, what else?, the 1st black woman president. Well.. I'd like to see it happen, so I enjoyed the story, so.. whatever.
Anyway, it's 616 pages long so, as usual, any capsule critique is going to be grossly oversimplifying - as this one is. I read it quickly b/c I was sucked into it as I might be by any well-written thriller &, yet, wd I recommend it? Not really - there're so many truly great bks out there to be read: Read McCoy's "The Politics of Heroin" or Joyce's "Ullyses" if you haven't already - & skip this one. ...more
This was probably the Delany bk that most intersected my own life. As I recall, the novel begins w/ a street performance group entering the "u-l" wchThis was probably the Delany bk that most intersected my own life. As I recall, the novel begins w/ a street performance group entering the "u-l" wch I think meant "un-lawful" zone or some such. I've done many a guerrilla 'performance', I've walked down the streets of Baltimore dressed in totally bizarre clothes completely high at 3AM KNOWING that it was always open season on people who looked different, that I cd be killed at any moment, that there was no such thing as police protection for people like me, & knowing that the only thing likely to keep me alive was my alertness, my articulateness, my quick wit, my very audacity, my extremely necessary psychosis. Like the time 2 thugs flanked me & sd "You owe me $5" to wch I replied "No, I distinctly remember that you owe ME $5." Back & forth, them fucking w/ me, me giving it right back, defiant. Finally a 3rd friend of theirs appeared & heard the interchange & told them to leave me alone & they left. In order to defend myself physically I wd've had to've gone completely psycho - something I was prepared to do - & it wdn't've been pretty - but I preferred talking my way out of it. A dangerous game to play. But I wasn't going to hide in a car, in a protected neighborhood - even if I cd've afforded to - wch I cdn't. & Delany's characters were just like I was. This was the 1st novel where I ever saw MYSELF depicted. & one of the very, very few. ...more
What did I learn from this bk?! Probably nothing.. but it's still one the greatest SF novels I've ever read. On the back-cover of my smoke-damaged copWhat did I learn from this bk?! Probably nothing.. but it's still one the greatest SF novels I've ever read. On the back-cover of my smoke-damaged copy there's a ball-point pen created arrow pointing to the publisher's blurb. This blurb consists of 10 lines. I scratched out the 1st 9. I can barely make them out:
"THE SUN HAS GROWN DEADLY THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD; SOCIETY HAS PERISHED; SAVAGERY RULES OVER ALL. ALL THAT WAS KNOWN IS OVER, ALL THAT WAS FAMILIAR IS STRANGE AND TERRIBLE. TODAY AND YESTERDAY COLLIDE WITH TOMORROW IN THESE DYING DAYS OF EARTH;"
Those are the lines I scratched thru. You'd think they were describing "Planet of the Apes" or something. The line I left is:
"A YOUNG DRIFTER ENTERS THE CITY..."
That's more like it. This back-cover blurb tries to sensationalize a bk that's anything but. It tries to sell it as a disaster novel - but what is it really? Yeah, the sun has changed & that's a vague pretext for what's changed socially. I must've read this around 1984 (24 yrs ago) & my memory of it's pretty vague too but I do remember it as being close to a description of urban decay (or is it just urban change?) in the mid-late 20th century - in an only slightly alternate universe. There's the middle-class white family trying to hold their old world together in the face of a new society where all the support mechanisms just aren't there anymore. Like so many of Delany's novels, lawlessness prevails.. but w/ the sensitivity of an anarchist (& I have no idea whether Delany IS an anarchist) 'lawlessness' doesn't necessarily mean "savagery": it means the characters who want to keep their delicateness intact have to adapt, they have to be clever & alert. They can be KIND, they can be GENTLE, but they can't necessarily rely on an externally imposed 'order' to protect them. ...more
My bookshelf for this is named "SF" precisely b/c of the ambiguity of having SF possibly stand for "Speculative Fiction". According to WikiPedia, "TheMy bookshelf for this is named "SF" precisely b/c of the ambiguity of having SF possibly stand for "Speculative Fiction". According to WikiPedia, "The term is often attributed to Robert A. Heinlein. In his first known use of the term, in his 1948 essay "On Writing of Speculative Fiction," Heinlein used it specifically as a synonym for "science fiction"; in a later piece, he explicitly stated that his use of the term did not include fantasy. Heinlein may have come up with the term himself, but there is one earlier citation: a piece in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1889, in reference to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000–1887." I don't remember where I 1st encountered it, but I embraced it immediately - science fiction seemed too restrictive.
Delany's the archetypal Speculative Fiction writer. Science may play a part in his SF but, more importantly, possibilities of social development are explored. Here are the titles of the stories in this collection:
The Star Pit Dog In A Fisherman's Net Corona Aye, And Gomorrah Driftglass We, In Some Strange Power's Employ, Move On A Rigorous Line Cage of Brass High Weir Time Considered As A helix of Sem-Precious Stones Night and the Loves of Joe Dicostanzo
Look closely at the cover image of my copy of this bk & you'll see that even the rats loved it! That wd be the title of some speculative faction by myself. ...more