Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Editorial

SF and the Net

by Jerry Wright

I just got finished reading a fine novel by Syne Mitchell called Technogenesis. A while back I read one of hers called The Changeling Plague which I thought was an interesting take on some biological SF, but Technogenesis really grabbed me. This is a near future look at the Internet and what might happen if billions of people were accessing the Net, while it in turn was accessing them...

Anyway, it was very well written, and she had the computer terminology down pat, and her extensions of present tech was crisp, clear, and believable. One of these days I'll get around to reviewing, probably. Anyway...

I got to thinking about the books and stories that "get it." Mycroft Holmes, the computer on the Moon in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is less an AI than a genie in a bottle. "Moon" was written back in 1966, long before the Internet, and so I regretfully say, "Nope, not what I'm looking for."

Two of the stories that I found both "real" and "quality" are John M. Ford's Web Of Angels published in 1980, and "True Names," a novelette by Vernor Vinge, published in 1981. Wired Magazine had this to say about "True Names":

Many Net veterans cite "True Names" as a seminal influence that shaped their ideas about Net policy. It became a cult classic among hackers and presaged everything from Internet interactive games to Neuromancer.

If you haven't read either of these, don't rest until you find them. Web of Angels predates the Internet, and yet, Ford's Galactic network is called "the Web." This is a good coming-of-age story, and very well written. It was re-released in 1992, but if Ford wanted to, he could re-write it with the stuff that his "first readers" are still angry with him about excising, and have a hot new book.

What can I say about Vinge, a computer scientist who slings a mean story. And if you haven't read "Cookie Monster," you need to remedy that also. A recent story from Analog and a 2004 Hugo Winner, this story again has the flavor of the best SF, intermixed with very well done speculations about Internet interconnections and the speed of computers, and... well... Read it, darn ya!

Then there is Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires. De Lint would have to work hard to write a bad book. This stirs together his "urban fantasy" universe of Newford together with the "science" of computers and the Internet. Here is a link to a review of this fine book from ComputerCrowsnest.

And those are just a few of the very fine stories by very fine writers that deal with SF and the Net.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories

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