Cory Doctorow has the gift of both turning the present day on its head while writing what could be considered hard SF in some cases that doesn’t baffle or lose the less technically-oriented reader, all while never forgetting that it is always the characters that should come first in any story.
Cory Doctorow gives away his vital writing secret right here in these pages, a guaranteed method for producing cutting-edge, engaged, supercharged SF. In his preface to “Anda’s Game,” he says, “The easiest way to write futuristic (or futurismic) science fiction is to predict, with rigor and absolute accuracy, the present day.” Ah, but like the words of all oracles, his pronouncement has a cryptic, paradoxical air to it. What exactly can this mean?
Well, he’s simply giving us the classical, core methodology of SF from its Golden Age, restated for post-modern times. Doctorow is just doing, after all, what Robert Heinlein did at his best: steeping himself in the culture of the present and them amping up what he registers as significant to a day-after-tomorrow condition. Sounds trivial, put that way, doesn’t it? But the relative paucity of Heinleins and Doctorows on the market indicates it’s not as easy as it looks. One has to canvass thoroughly the whole of scientific, artistic and sociological progress, distill the essences, and then find a plot and characters that can best embody the lessons to be conveyed. Knowing a lot about history and the human heart is essential as well. In other words, even before one begins the conventional task of storytelling, one already faces a full-time job of analysis and prognostication.
But Doctorow, like Heinlein, is up to the task. As these stories illustrate, he has a knack for identifying those seminal trends of our current landscape that will in all likelihood determine the shape of our future(s). Add in a recursive affection for past landmarks of SF (besides the Asimovian references, there’s a lot of Clifford Simak in the “Row-Boat” piece), and a gentle empathy for the underdogs in such scenarios, and you get a winning narrative and ideational combination.
If you want to glimpse the future of copyright policing, video-game sweatshops, robotic intelligence, info war, and how computer geeks will survive the apocalypse, then this collection of shorts is your oracle. Studio Pitch: I, Robot meets Dr. Strangelove. Lowdown: The four-page opening fable is as absorbing and prescient as the gruesome 76-page war story that ends the book. Doctorow is rapidly emerging as the William Gibson of his generation.
In this collection of stories by SF author, technopundit, uber-geek, and now college professor Cory Doctorow, you’ll find a half dozen award worthy stories about the “future present”, with brilliant extrapolations “ripped from the headlines” and recast as tales of tomorrow. This is what SF has always done, though rarely with the self awareness Cory brings to the stage. Each short story is an idea bomb with a candy coating of human drama, wrapped in shiny tech tropes and ready to blow your mind. Overclocked is SF info-warfare ammunition of the highest caliber, so load up, move out, and take no prisoners…let Asimov sort em out.
Overclocked, which you probably recognize as a computer term for running a processor faster than the clock rate it’s rated for, generally courting some sort of meltdown, is a fantastic collection of stories about people living with technology for better or worse and you should feel free to stop reading here and just go buy the book. At least if there’s a drop of geekazoid blood anywhere in your veins, which there is or you wouldn’t be here…
The hard part of all this is that every one of these stories deserves consideration for a Hugo and I’d hate to see him split his own vote as a result. Not that it matters. What matters is that this is a collection really worth reading, sharing, downloading and generally infecting others with. Overclocked is SF info-warfare ammunition of the highest caliber. Load up, move out, and remember, take no prisoners…let Asimov sort em out.
Five substantial stories plus one short-short, all previously published, all computer-related and
bulging with knowing SF references… The appealing characters, snappy
writing and swift pace will surely tempt the younger and/or geekier sections of the SF audience.