This novel made me fall back in love with science fiction. Gritty future noir set amidst AI, evil multinationals, and organized crime. The novel glitters with beautifully written passages, amalgamating techspeak with Japanese, Haitian creole, and back-alley slang. Sure, it’s been criticized as “surface and gloss,” but what surface, what gloss! When most speculative fiction writers — including some Grandmasters who will go unnamed — became prolific typists with good ideas, Gibson took a well-worn idea (hard-boiled crime fiction), gave it a spin, and produced a spectacular gem.
To top it off, Gibson wrote it on a typewriter — how retro! — and had no knowledge of computers. Get this, he used his Imagination to come up with these ideas.
Since 90% of science fiction writing is crap, pick this book up. It’s part of the other 10%. Wonderfully written, tightly plotted, and filled with memorable characters, it’s a fun romp through a neon-lit dystopia.
Reads like a cold bullet out of Hell. Taut, razor sharp prose; tough ferocious heroes and even more ferocious villains. Imagine the bastard stepchild of Jim Thompson and Mickey Spillane fighting the good fight on the edge of the socioeconomic abyss. Yet above the bleakness, violence, and viciousness aimed at the weak and defenseless, there’s a glimmer of hope. Burke, the hero of these novels, offers that hope, especially when the law can’t or won’t help those who need it the most.
This is an article I wrote in 2005 when I was a graduate student in the Museum Studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My course work involved classes at the Milwaukee Public Museum. One assignment was researching a specific artifact. It turns out that the Milwaukee Public Museum has a Feegee Mermaid. This article, posted on Showhistory.com, was a distillation of the research I did for that assignment.
The Feejee Mermaid represents humanity’s attempt to deal with its myths. This physical manifestation of ancient myth hearkens back to other works of art, but over time became a myth in its own right, resurrected in the modern sideshows. Modern sideshow professionals keep the myth alive, entertaining crowds and preserving a specific part of American cultural heritage.
Throughout the centuries, there have been alleged mermaid sightings and exhibitions of mermaids before the Fejee Mermaid. The Fejee Mermaid (note the spelling) became Phineas T. Barnum’s greatest humbug and remains a staple in the Barnum literature. The humbug tradition is carried on with the Milwaukee Public Museum’s “Japanese Mermaid” (as seen above). Today modern taxidermy artists make “animal gaffs” for sideshows and a general audience. On the surface, their profession appears peculiar, but they actually carry on a tradition spanning hundreds of years in supplying sideshows and carnivals with fake animals.
Because the “Japanese Mermaid” is a taxidermy hybrid— a combination of fish and papier-mâché— it presents a series of challenges in a number of areas, including: cataloging, conservation, and collections. The fake animal was constructed out of the cheapest of materials for the entertainment of the sideshow audience, but has mythological, cultural, and historical associations that make it one of the more valuable and intriguing artifacts of the Milwaukee Public Museum.
For the rest of the article, click here.