Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Going Underground...

When I was in Paris in January 2003, I did a signing at Mille Pages. During the signing I received two gifts: an oversized Moleskine notebook (in which several chunks of Anansi Boys have since been written, not to mention several dozen afterwords, introductions and speeches) and a book of photographs of the Parisian catacombs. I also learned that evening from several people who had firsthand knowledge of the matter that Paris -- and particularly what one might call Paris Beneath -- contains a number of individuals for whom Neverwhere is less of a novel and more of an instruction book, or a manual. Alas, due to logistics, I didn't manage to get taken on a French catacombian journey (you can read about it in the middle of
So I wasn't very surprised to learn from the Guardian about the secret cinema beneath the streets of Paris...

Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital's chic 16th arrondissement.

Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or used one of Paris's most intriguing recent discoveries.

"We have no idea whatsoever," a police spokesman said.

(Check it out. And thanks to all of you who've let me know about it.)


I've put up details on the Washington Library of Congress Book Festival on October 9th over at WHERE'S NEIL -- . There will be a reading and a Q&A, and a signing earlier in the morning. It's a marvellous line-up of authors as well.


I think Robert Sawyer is a smart man, and am familiar enough with the ways of journalists to know that quotes from an article like this one in the Globe and Mail can be dodgy enough things at the best of times.

Still, these paragraphs fascinate me:

Take the movie
2001: A Space Odyssey. When Stanley Kubrick's film was released in 1968, it had a vision of the future that included commercial space stations and widespread cryogenics. By the actual year 2001, however, the movie proved to be light-years ahead of available technology.

"Regrettably, with 2001 having a title that had a year in it, science fiction essentially set itself up in the public's imagination as saying: 'Here's what you get if you wait to that year.' Well, we all waited till that year and we didn't get anything at all like that . . .," said Sawyer. "So part of it is that the readership has bailed."

I am, I pride myself, old enough to remember 2001 (the year, not the movie) and, although I was looking quite carefully, I completely failed to notice people announcing that since there were no orbital space stations and Black Monoliths, they would now, disappointed beyond endurance, be "bailing" and no longer read science fiction. But then I'm also old enough to remember readers not giving up reading SF in 1984 despite a peculiar lack of Big Brother, the non-appearance of the Anti-Sex League, and Margaret Thatcher's obdurate refusal to rename the British Isles "Airstrip One".

"I would not be encouraging a young person today to be entering science fiction as a profession. I do have a fear that the science-fiction novel is as much an artifact of the 20th century as Victorian literature was of the 19th," said Sawyer.

For myself, I'd happily encourage any young person to enter SF as a profession. I don't believe SF is dead, or any deader than it was in 1983. I do feel that SF right now, like SF then, is waiting for new paradigms, for some new fiction that brings the same fresh buzz that Bill Gibson's "Neuromancer" did when it was published in 1984, the same sense that this was Today's Future, rather than Yesterday's; and that we'll get that from the young writers who, today, just have dreams that one day they could, possibly, make a living from making things up...


Reading, with horror and fascination,


The fax machine downstairs had almost become a dusty antique, but recently Dave Sim has been sending daily faxes of each day's Cerebus mass-mailing. Some of them are really, really funny. I'm hoping there will be a place for people to read them all.

It's also becoming obvious that Dave is Planning Something. I have no idea what, but he seems to be enjoying planning it no end.