Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Aug 01 14:34
Our next guest, Pat Cadigan, is sometimes called The Queen of Cyberpunk, although she says she never felt she was "at the heart of it," even though she is often mentioned in the same breath as other cyberpunk writers such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and she was the only woman writer included in the _Mirrorshades_ anthology. Cadigan is the author of five novels. Her first, _Mindplayers_, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and her second and third novels - _Synners_, and _Fools_ - both won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Her work has also been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. She has written several short story collections, and some non-fiction works, including _The Making of Lost in Space_. When her work first gained attention, she was writing and editing for Hallmark Cards in Kansas. She now lives in London with her husband and son. Cadigan's latest novel, _Dervish is Digital, brings back Detective Lieutenant Doré Konstantin, who was introduced to us in _Tea from an Empty Cup_. Konstantin is in charge of Technocrime, Artificial Reality Division. These tales have been called the ultimate in cyberpunk noir detective fiction. She will be interviewed by Jennifer Powell, who has a long history with communities, both as a political activist and community organizer. In the past few years, she's been active in online communities as well, as participant, host, and manager. Jennifer has worked for several prominent online community sites, including Go.com, Petopia, and Netscape. Her favorite online home is still The Well, where she's been a member and host since 1993. She's also a part of the community management team at Utne Communities, and acts as a board moderator at Lumthemad.net, a popular site covering online games. Jennifer works as a freelance writer, covering computers, technology, nature, and the environment. Her work has been published in several commercial magazines as well as in scientific journals. Please join me in welcoming Pat and Jennifer to inkwell.vue!
tastefully minimal plug (jnfr) Fri 10 Aug 01 16:34
Thanks for the introduction, <castle>, and welcome Pat! I've had a lot of fun looking into your background the past couple of weeks, and picking up a few of your older books that I hadn't seen before. Since _Dervish is Digital_ is your most recent work, let's talk about this book a little first. I have to admit that before I received this book I didn't even realize that there was such a thing as "cyberpunk noir detective fiction". And yet in some ways it seems like a natural combination, perhaps because both genres have a darker side. What brought you to write this kind of novel? Did you find that mixing the genres created any special problems for you as an author? For our readers here, I want to remind everyone that Pat is on London time, and so our questions and answers will probably be posted with some time delays.
Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Sat 11 Aug 01 02:12
Hi, there, and thanks for the warm welcome and nice introduction. Yes, the timing on the Q&A may be a little drawn out since I'm on the other side of the clock. I'll also be jockeying for position at the computer with my 16 year old son Rob (The Artist Formerly Known As Bobzilla, Scourge of the Midwest,now the epitome of London's Punk Renaissance). So bear with me.:) Let's see, cyberpunk noir detective fiction... Well, I wish I could erupt with some profoundly erudite and insightful pronouncement on literature in general and genre cross-pollination in particular, but the truth is, I write the kind of thing that I like to read, and afterwards, someone else tells me what it's called. That's the short answer. The longer answer involves my love of detective fiction and my belief that all the great stories are in fact mystery stories first, as well as the fact that all of my stories involve some kind of fantastic element. Why? Because I'm just that way. Last month, I was in the south of France for a literary festival called Soleil Noir--it's an annual event celebrating noir fiction, and this year, they decided to focus on futuristic noir fiction (unquote). The French have tons of the stuff, and very little, if any, has been translated into English, so if you don't read French, you're missing out. I read French a lot better than I speak it or understand it, but I still have to have a dictionary handy and it's not easy for me, but it's worth the effort! Anyway, the French find this a perfectly natural combination, to the point where the designation is as unremarkable as the fiction is terrific. Which is to say, exclaiming over the combination of noir and science fiction--cyberpunk, if you will--is like exclaiming over the idea of writing a story you made up in your imagination.:) When I was much younger, I used to learn languages as a hobby; these days, I'm going to take it up again because it's starting to dawn on me that I'm missing a lot.
Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Sat 11 Aug 01 02:13
PS: What do you have to do to get one of those witty headers on the post?
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sat 11 Aug 01 11:01
Pat, if you mean a "pseud", which is the tagline beside your login name, you can change it by typing in a new one in the box at the top of the conference page. I love the idea of the Soleil Noir, and I wish I could read fiction in French. My husband is French-Canadian and his family is all French, and he's always after me to learn the language. That would be a wonderful reason to do so. Do you have any particular books or authors of futuristic noir that you would recommend? I'm a mystery fan myself, and one thing that is intriguing about the combination of genres is how the question of identity can be blurred and played with. Identity is pretty central to mystery fiction, and this blurring of identity underlies much of _Dervish_. Seems like it would be fun to write, but I wonder whether the fluidity of the futuristic setting made it harder to plot than a story in a more mundane, and constrained, setting. Hmm, I guess there's a couple of questions hiding in there. First, what intrigues you about playing with this concept of identity? And also, do you ever get the urge to write in a non-futuristic setting?
Une Si Douce Apocalypse (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 03:03
OK, I think I've got it.:) Une Si Douce Apocalypse is the title of a short story collection I'm working my way through, Roget's in hand; it's by Jerome Leroy. I'm also working on reading a novel called Tekrock by Roland C. Wagner. You'd have to ask someone a lot more knowledgeable than I to authoritatively recommend books and/or writers. I'm just getting acquainted, which is rather embarrassing to admit, as I've been published in French for as long as I've been published in English. Almost all of my novels have been published in France and are still in print. I've had great luck with translation there as well, as they are very true in spirit. Strangely enough, sometimes I come across parts I think make better prose in French than in English. This is really strange because I'm not French, although I had quite a lot of it in school. I enjoyed it, and it was easy for me to learn, but it wasn't one of my special interests. There was a large French-Canadian population where I grew up in north-central Massachusetts, so perhaps it was a case of cultural osmosis or something. Finding out that learning another language was not merely substituting strange new words for the old familiar ones but actually learning another perspective--perception of reality, if you will *chuckle*--was a major satori in my young life. Anyway. The issue of identity seems to be central in most of my own work, or at least the perception of identity--e.g., is it a case of you are what you eat, or is it that you are what they think you eat, or if you are what you eat, what are you if you find out you haven't been eating what you thought you were eating? As for the futuristic setting in terms of ease or difficulty in writing--it's always difficult no matter where or when you set a story, but you get to choose which difficulties you think are worth putting up with. I simply like thinking about what's going to happen tomorrow, or the day after, or next year. I have written quite a lot of stuff set in the present, all of it at shorter lengths, and I've written two stories set in alternative 1960s, both for anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. Those stories were among the most difficult things I've ever attempted, because I was working with actual historical people and events, and in spite of the alternative setting, I had to get all the real details right. But I think it was worth it, as I'm rather pleased with the way the stories turned out (and now a word from our sponsor: both stories, "Dispatches From the Revolution" and "No Prisoners", from Alternate Presidents and Alternate Kennedys respectively, can be found in my collection Dirty Work, Ziessing 1993). But, uh, where was I?
Une Si Douce Apocalypse Redux (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 03:17
(Hey, it's good enough for Coppola.) What intrigues me about the concept of identity...well, how many years were you planning to run this interview?:) Identity would seem to be My Personal Question. If I had ever settled it in therapy, I probably wouldn't have anything to write about. If someone were to ask me to describe the underlying premise of the story of my life, I'd call it a case of mistaken identity meets I Love Lucy. Talk about high concept. I've always been suspicious of the whole idea of high concept and I've just realized why.:)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 12 Aug 01 07:29
I found this interesting quote re. gender and identity in Sandy Stone's THE "EMPIRE" STRIKES BACK: A POSTTRANSSEXUAL MANIFESTO. This resonates, I think, with the concept of 'disembodied' identity in VR and cyberspace... "As clinicians and transsexuals continue to face off across the diagnostic battlefield which this scenario suggests, the transsexuals for whom gender identity is something different from and perhaps irrelevant to physical genitalia are occulted by those for whom the power of the medical/psychological establishments, and their ability to act as gatekeepers for cultural norms, is the final authority for what counts as a culturally intelligible body. This is a treacherous area, and were the silenced groups to achieve voice we might well find, as feminist theorists have claimed, that the identities of individual, embodied subjects were far less implicated in physical norms, and far more diversely spread across a rich and complex structuration of identity and desire, than it is now possible to express." <http://sandystone.com/empire-strikes-back>
Um, what was the question again? (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 17:42
I saw Sandy Stone do this wild song-and-dance--and I mean *literal* song-and-dance--at a conference in Maine back in 1999. It was called "That's Why The Lady Is A Trans....sexual." Prior to that, she had argued that we are all, in some way, transed. Or trans'd. I agree with that. But I'm pretty sure that I don't think of my own physical aspect in quite the same way that a transsexual does. I think--and this is only a theory, as I do not have first-hand experience--that if you have lived a number of years with the certainty that your true sex doesn't match your biology, your day-to-day awareness of being embodied is something quite different. Perhaps if you feel that if you are, for example, a woman trapped in a man's body, then you could say there exists a virtual woman. But once the biology is corrected to match the truth, what does that mean for the virtual woman? In my own experience, my sex has both nothing and everything to do with who I am and what I do and why. Which is to say, of course I am who I am in large part because I'm female, but when I think of myself, "female" isn't the first thing I think about myself, or even the second. I don't think about it, because I have had the luxury of being able to take it for granted. Because I do take it for granted, I also take it for granted that I'm female with or without my body. Without my body, however, there seems to be little point in thinking in terms of male or female, unless you start thinking of male and female in the virtual realm in terms of something like flavor--i.e., some people are chocolate, some are raspberry ripple, and some are vanilla. (All of the foregoing probably reveals me as being about as vanilla as you can get, but I like to think of it as a rich, deep vanilla.:)) Meanwhile, I've just had another idea and I'd better go scribble it down before I forget it...
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sun 12 Aug 01 21:31
Well, you don't seem vanilla to me, at least not in the sense of "plain vanilla". I love the idea of "mistaken identity meets I Love Lucy". Sounds like quite an interesting life. And not really high concept exactly... more kind of mixed concepts. The gender issues of identity are interesting in themselves, of course, but also interesting since part of your notoriety, for better or worse, is because you are a woman writing cyberpunk -- which is considered to be a boy's game for the most part. Why do you think that is? Women are "supposed" to write fantasy, I guess because that's the softer stuff. And while there are some women who are dazzling writers of hard s.f., cyberpunk is sort of the hardest of the hard. At least that's how it's classified (in my admittedly limited experience). How do you wrap your mind around this "role" you've been slotted into, and is it a comfortable one for you?
How many women w/PMS does it take to change a lightbulb? (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:06
Oddly enough, I had another one of those moments of clarity or realization regarding this very thing when I was at Soleil Noir. All of us British writers did a panel with Maxim Jakubowski moderating and I was, as is often the case, the only woman. All the questions for the other panelists were directly concerned with their work. My question was about how I reacted to being the only woman. As is also often the case...and is, in fact, very seldom not the case. It's a lot like the old days, at the dawn of feminism, when someone--was it Gloria Steinem?--remarked that no one ever asked a man how he managed to have both a family and a career.:) I mentioned this to Maxim, but not to rag on him about it. We both agreed that it was a legitimate question, and when you're conducting a panel discussion in which you have to pause after every sentence so the translator can tell the audience what you said, you have to go with intriguing things that will keep the audience from deciding that listening to it is more trouble than it's worth. Still, I think it's worth pointing out that the major thing for me as the rare woman in cyberpunk is that, after almost twenty years, I'm still the only writer who ever gets asked how I feel about being who I am...or maybe, who I'm not. To my knowledge, no one has ever asked Bruce Sterling why there aren't more women in cyberpunk and how he feels about that. (If I'm wrong, and someone has, I'll be interested to know what his answer was.) The truth is, of course, that no one should expect Bruce to account for the dearth of women or provide a theory about it. Perhaps it's only logical for people to think that I might have some insight into why that is. But I don't. I don't *know* why there aren't more women. I've thought about it a lot and I still have no idea. One of the few things I *do* know is that all my life, I've often found myself the only woman in the group. And that can be tough. Every Friday here in London, a bunch of us freelance writers get together for lunch. I'm usually the only woman. We used to get one other semi-regularly, but she moved to Paris, and the commute is a bit long, even just once a week. Is this because the guys are sexist, or because I am, or is it society's fault? Well, you can call the guys sexist, but you'll have to answer to me if you do. These are my closest friends; I love them fiercely and I wouldn't feel that way about them if they were bigots. You can call me sexist, but I know I'm not. We could blame society, but this is usually only useful if you need a subject for a doctoral dissertation.:) Maybe we could come to the conclusion that sometimes statistics confer false significance and the reason why there are so few women in cyberpunk is that there just aren't many in the field. Cyberpunk is something that seems to split along gender lines, but the circumstances don't bear that out. No one is stopping women; no one is encouraging men by telling them it's a great boys' club and they won't have to put up with women. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. If there's some conspiracy going on, it's so extraordinarily efficient that I can only conclude it must be extraterrestrial in origin, as human beings would have screwed up by now.:)
Yes, but what about the lightbulb? (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:16
So, how do I wrap my mind around this role I've been slotted into? Same way I do everything else, actually. I've said this elsewhere, and I'll keep saying it: I insist on living in a world in which the word 'feminist' is as quaint as the word 'suffragette.' Which is to say, I just realized the other day that my famous 16 year old son doesn't know that his grandmother was born the same year the US Constitution was amended to allow women to vote. The idea of dividing society along gender lines is alien to him. The concepts of 'girl stuff' and 'guy stuff' are, to his mind, strictly for fashion design and haute couture--lots of fun, but doesn't have much to do with what you do for a living or what kind of person you choose to be. I love my kid.:)
But the lightbulb... (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:22
OK. Q. How many women with PMS does it take to change a lightbulb? A. Oh, don't give me that already-heard-it crap. If anyone else around here ever bothered to change a lightbulb once in a while instead of always expecting *us* to do it, they wouldn't have time to be so goddam critical. Do you even know where the lightbulbs are? Of course not...etc., etc., etc.
Amazon.com sales ranking: 1,304,455 (wendyg) Mon 13 Aug 01 06:03
Hard to think of Pat as vanilla. Last time I saw her was at some London shindig -- Clarke awards, perhaps? -- something at the Science Museum, anyway, and she had torrents of long, curly blo9nd hair and was dressed sumptuously in dark red velvet. Hi, Pat! wg
David Calvarese (dhcalva) Mon 13 Aug 01 06:50
Sounds like French Vanilla with cherries or maybe red raspberries from that description, but I digress. Hopefully I'll get to read some of her work here shortly, got some on order from the local library. Dave
Now I'm a red-head... (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 08:44
Hi, Wendy.:) Yeah, that sounds like the Clarke Awards. This year, we had a full afternoon of readings and panel discussions before the evening ceremony, and it was great. Lots of people came, and we managed to have all the nominees present for the ceremony, and a good time was had by all. This evening--which is not far off in this time zone--I'm doing a gig at the Borders Books on Oxford Street. Once a month, I hold a sort of discussion group-cum-talk show, interviewing two other writers about their work, the universe, and life in general. This is our second one: guests are Trisha Sullivan and Adam Roberts, and I'm hoping this month's turn-out is as good as last month's. David, I hope you enjoy whatever you can find.:)
Amazon.com sales ranking: 1,304,455 (wendyg) Mon 13 Aug 01 09:21
I was not invited to the Clarke awards this year, and never heard when they were. :( Will try to come to the Oxford St. thing once the tennis evenings season is over. wg
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 13 Aug 01 09:22
Well, dammit, now I wanna drag <bruces> over here and ask what he thinks about gender and writing in cyberpunk! But that's an excellent point you make about how simply being a woman means you are somehow expected to answer for all women. I don't think that's exclusive to science fiction writing. In many kinds of work, successful women are rare, and I suspect lots of them end up having to "speak for their gender" more often than they might like. Perhaps in this case it's because science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, smacks of research and science which are both things too many women learn to steer away from. Pure imagination seems less intimidating if you're not well trained in science. So, from that thought, how much research do you do for your books? Do you draw on your own background? (I think you were a theatre major in school, is that correct?) What are your sources, other than imagination, for your vision of the future?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 13 Aug 01 12:36
Also, I want to know more about this book, since I haven't read it, and it really doesn't matter to me whether you are a woman or not. If it's a good book, I wanna know about it! And who is your famous 16-year-old son?? In the meantime, I will slink off and go see if Bruce will come and expound...
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 13 Aug 01 14:32
*Well, I don't have to be dragged. Pat is the Old-Skool Queen o' Cyberpunk, but I often wonder if there's anybody *but* women writing cyberpunk, nowadays. You got Melissa Scott, Ann Harris, Shari Lewitt, Lisa Mason, Tricia Sullivan, et alia, and if you stretch it some more, even Joan Vinge and wow, Poppy Brite with that gay Cajun hacker book she did... I could likely find more midlist, female writers doing sci-fiberpunk right now, than there were ever men in MIRRORSHADES. So "why aren't there more women" isn't even an issue. "Why aren't they any damn good," that would be a considerably more provocative query. And then in this crowd of females, there's, I dunno, there's Charles Stross. He's like the Prince-Pretender of Latter-Day Cyberpunk, when all these aging graying 80s cyberguys are writing artsy pomo technothrillers with their fountain pens. If you were a sensible woman writer deeply interested in cyber issues, would you want to be writing sci-fi for ASIMOV'S? Why even go there and do that? Wouldn't you rather be Sadie Plant or Donna Haraway, or at least Joan Gordon or Veronica Hollinger? Prof. Donna Haraway probably sits there next to the dean's office reading old tattered-cover copies of Tiptree, and just chuckling. I tend to imagine this imaginary woman-famine is just a Pat Cadigan thing. She overshadows the others so thoroughly it's as if they don't exist. Like, how come Pat Cadigan is the only American woman who gets top billing *in British SF*? She wins more Clarke awards than anybody else, and she's considered a muse and linchpin of the "New British Renaissance." That's like M John Harrison, and China Mieville, and Ken MacLeod, and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, and Jon Newsinger, and a bunch of other men you've never heard of, and there, turning up like a bad penny just as content as you please, *Pat Cadigan.* Two decades later and another damn continent. Explain *that one* away, if you can. Ha!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 13 Aug 01 19:02
Aha, she's a member of the sci-fi jet set!
Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Tue 14 Aug 01 08:26
Wendy, I'm shocked, and sorry. I'll tell Paul Kincaid, and you will be invited hereafter. The afternoon event is now going to be an annual affair, with nominees and previous winners and VIPs. I tried to get Ken Livingstone to present the award, but I guess he was booked that night. You don't need an invitation for that--you just show up at the museum. This year, it cost everyone something like 7 pounds to get in, but after next month, I think the Science Museum is either going to be free to get into, or at least ridiculously inexpensive. So I'm hoping for an even bigger crowd next year. The Oxford Street Borders event is, in theory, supposed to happen on the second Monday of every month, but we sometimes have to work around conflicting schedules. September's event happens on the 24th, so I've moved October back to the 15th rather than the 8th, just so they won't be so close together. With any luck, November will return us to our regularly scheduled Monday. December's event will be something more interactive than usual.:) Last night's event went very well. I had Tricia Sullivan and Adam Roberts, and then brought up their editors, Tim Holman and Simon Spanton (respectively) and grilled them for a while. Everyone seemed to have a really good time, and once again, there were more people than chairs. I love it when that happens.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 14 Aug 01 10:49
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 14 Aug 01 18:52
Pat emailed me that she's having some trouble accessing her account. I let helpdesk know, so with any luck we'll be back at this tomorrow.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 14 Aug 01 18:58
Thanks, Jennifer!! Anxiously waiting for Pat to reappear...
Hi, I'm Not Dead Yet-- (patcadigan) Wed 15 Aug 01 02:01
OK, I have reappeared successfully.:) Where was I... Jennifer's question about research: yes, I was a theatre major when I waw at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. But then I transferred to the University of Kansas after I got married (my then-husband was getting his doctorate in theatre there), and about a semester's worth of credits got lost in the translation. So I ended up getting a Bachelors of General Studies. I started graduate school at KU in the English department, but after one summer and one full semester, I had to face the fact that I really did not want to remain in academia. I'm not really sure why, because I love studying and learning, but I guess I just don't have the temperament for structured postgraduate education. Anyway, although I have to study like mad for the scientific content of my work, this is tempered by the fact that I pretty much write about things I want to know more about in the first place, so I end up writing about things I'm intensely interested in. A theatrical background is useful, but I've found that my decade of experience in a large corporation is often even more useful.:)
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