Monday, February 11, 2013
BETTER LIVING THROUGH SKUGGERY
Frankly, my dears, I enjoyed the living hell out of Rudy Rucker's latest novel, Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel. Just look at the title: Turing – Burroughs – Beatnik – SF . . . a recipe for some kind of brain-slamming ecstasy. And it delivers!
Yes, it really is a novel about Alan Turing, one of the men who brought us into the computer age, and William Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch and seminal figure of the Beat movement. It is science fiction and takes place in beatnik spacetime.
It brings all these elements together in an adventure with two renegade homosexuals and skugs (Turing's living biocomputational inventions). It transcends sex, sexuality, and race, reminding us of Astouding Science Fiction's influence of Burroughs, and putting a spin on history that will make the conspiracy theorists happy.
It's cutting edge, but reads like excellent classic science fiction.
Okay, the hallucinatory joys of skuggery and biocomputational transformation would have been a horror that the government would be justified in destroying in a traditonal Fifties sci-fi novel. This is a different viewpoint, more William Burroughs than John W. Campbell, but at the same time Rucker gives us a joie de vivre – or maybe I should say joie de weird – that is his own, and quite contemporary.
And you don't have to be a Burroughs/Beat scholar to enjoy it, though those in the know will be impressed at how Rucker can write in Burroughs' voice.
This is a book for the 21st century beatniks living in the new underground. Or, as Rucker has Allen Ginsberg say:
"New pariahs! The queers, the commies, the Blacks, the dope fiends, the jazz musicians, the mad, the abstract painters, the unions, the Beat poets . . . and now the skuggers."
There was a time when science fiction was such a thing. I think it's time it became that again.
Note that Turing & Burroughs was self-published rather than a big release from a New York publisher. The dying world of traditonal publishers wouldn't dare touch it, even though its appeal is to multiple crossover markets that could make it a bestseller. The corporate world is too busy chasing old formulas that are out of sync with our transmogrifying world.
They are afraid. And it's their loss.
So buy yourself a copy, read it and spread the word. The world will be a better place for it.