April 4, 2003

First thought that popped into my head this morning:

If there is magical realism, are we shifting to technological naturalism? I'm thinking here of a variety of works, none necessarily "science fiction" per se, because of the contemporaneous nature of the writing (side note: has science fiction become historical fiction?). The most substantial example that comes to mind immediately is Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" - his history of early computing during World War 2 combined with a late 90s push to build a data haven. No Case's here, no Hiro Protagonists who virtualize, but plenty of cowboys with carpal tunnel and a laptop. Cyberspace juxtaposed with physical geography, "black ice" becomes trapped mountains that get hacked to boil forth beautiful gold, vivid descriptions of jail cells (confinement), bowel movements, physical punishment and torture. The danger of surveillance, the government, and multinational corporations replace (or at least exist alongside of) unfeeling, manipulating determinism. Survival of the fittest? Scary ex-roomates (Andrew Loeb always struck as a bizarre mutation of Marcus Schouler from Norris' McTeague) or ex-partners as certain foes.

And always, always, always, the media mind, the telemarketers' meme, the ubiquity of technology. Who needs nano when we have omnipresent?

Why is this even coming to mind? I've been struck lately by a shift (or perhaps just an attribute, depending) I've seen in some writers I follow. Cyberpunk is in some ways a historical "now" - subdued, current, but still, in lay person's terms, far out, unbelievable (Gibson's Pattern Recognition, for example or Stephenson again - the difference between Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon is telling). All of it leading you to ask - that's not possible now... is it? Echelon, Russian mafia, global travel, online love, arrows and land mines, submarines and sub-mountainous gold?

Other possibilities for inclusion, off the top of my head: Delillo's "White Noise"; Ellis' "American Psycho";

Maybe: Richard Powers' "Plowing the Dark" (less naturalism, more realism?); Tad Williams "Otherland"

There must be others in this vein. I had some in mind, but promptly forgot. Definitely time for morning coffee.

Edit: Possible film inclusions: PI ; Fight Club (haven't read the novel)

Posted by Jason at April 4, 2003 8:56 AM | TrackBack
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