Re-Reading Hardwired

by wjw on March 14, 2009

I’m quoting here from an email I sent to highly intelligent reader Jason Thomas, about re-reading my own book for the first time in twenty-odd years, this when I had to correct the Night Shade edition.

It occurred to me that the things the reader was supposed to find shocking, back when I wrote the book in 1983/84, are now so commonplace as to be part of the background hum. Unending multiplatform assaults encouraging people to heedless consumerism? Check. Drugs widely advertised, including TV? Check. Governments in thrall to multinational corporations? Check. Balkanization of the former Soviet bloc? Check. Worldwide climate change? Check. Rising ocean levels? Check. Widening gap between rich and poor? Check. Entire populations slavishly devoted to celebrity and fashion? Check. Vast unregulated manipulation of securities market by unscrupulous insiders? Check. State-controlled military being replaced by mercenary forces? Check. Pharmaceutical companies making vast fortunes off human misery? Check.

I’m sure folks here will note others.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t such a good prophet.

Marcus March 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Hardwired was one of the first books I tried to copy when I started trying to write fiction of my own; the result was what it was, I was 14 or 15 and I mostly wrote “cyberpunkish” fiction for my role playing games, and, well, as a teenager I wrote teenage stuff. I also tried to copy Hemingway and, well, that did not work brilliantly either… /// But what I got from Hardwired was writing in present tense (I hope this is correct English); something that has stayed in my writing for magazines where the focus is on a story and not on a subject (very few magazine writers write present tense). Hardwired has a intense presence and a as a reader I got a strong feeling of being there and now – in the middle of the action (and that is not achieved just from the present-tense writing -there is a lot more to it). And the book is very stylish on all other fronts as well (except for the cover – but this is, I suppose the fate of scifi-novels; looking like Dungeons and Dragons books). /// During my first trip to States now in September I bought Voice of the Whirlwind from Powell's Books in Portland – the last time I read it I lent it from the library in my hometown Kokkola, Finland (look it up at a map and marvel at the fact that the Voice could be found in a public library in such a place): I did not quite understand all the English then, it is 15 years ago, but the chapters about Sheol stayed with me; not that far from descriptions I've recently read on the battle of Stalingrad and neither that far from descriptions of the Winter War that is part of my upbringing (and some of my experience of conscript service as scout – I am a Finn). /// When I reread Voice on a mattres in a basement in Portland I was again struck by the dramatic vision of Sheol; the ships that appear in the night to beam away some message to the troops and then disappear back to where they came from. I would really like to read something simliar again, but I don't know if it is possible to do anymore (at least not in the same form). This type of fiction is playing against the background a cynical take on the ethics of the society (much like the first Robocop movie); this cynicism is part of our lives now; we have lived it too long for it to be new or a contrast, the news on TV are filled with this 24/7 – the new sci-fi has moved on with the 80:s cyberpunk as part of the luggage and the cyberpunkishness has become part of our present experience; This is not a Game, Spook Country, etc. – has shifted the focus from the near future of Neuromancer and Hardwired to the present. /// Anyway: IF someone (like the author of Hardwired) would like to reinvent the black trenchcoat & neon lights genre I would buy the book(s). Or is it already reinvented? By whom? Where?

Marcus March 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Just to be clear: "The black trenchcoat & neon lights genre" was not meant as critque or disrespect (and it is not a fair description of the genre; what I was getting at is the noirish stylishness of this era of cyberpunk literature); I LOVE Hardwired & Voice of the Whirlwind. Ok…

dubjay March 14, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Welcome, Marcus! I am overjoyed at the thought that you found Voice of the Whirlwind worth struggling with in a foreign language, and I’m in total raptures to know that the book is in the Kokkola library.

(I am, by the way, of Finnish descent myself: all four of my grandparents came from Finland. The name “Williams” is an accident; the original name was Kuusikoski.)

The problem with reviving the “trenchcoat and neon lights” genre is that it’s been so thoroughly co-opted by the media. I’d find myself having over and over again to explain how I’m not really basing it on the Matrix movies.

There are other reasons, of course. I’m not poor any longer, and I don’t live in the hood. If I wanted controlled substances, I no longer know where I’d go for them. I’m a very different person now. I have different ways of dealing with my anger.

What I’ve tried to do, very consciously, was substitute the wisdom of experience for the rage and energy of youth.

Hope I’ve done that well.

JW Johnson March 17, 2009 at 12:53 am

Funny to pop on here and see you talking about Hardwired which I am currently reading again for about the fifth time. Still my favorite book of yours and still making me go wow after all these years.

Al March 22, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I think that this was the first novel of yours I read when I was a pre-teen, early teen, along with the early Gibson and Sterling books. It was what made me your fan over the last 20 years. (Aristoi didn’t hurt either!)

I just picked up your new book and read Implied Spaces in hardcover a few months ago as well.

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