You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


City Come A-Walkin'City Come A-Walkin' by John Shirley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the introduction to the 1996 edition of Shirley's original 1980 novel, William Gibson refers to Shirley as the Patient Zero of Cyperpunk. I'm in no position to contest that assertion, and it goes a ways towards explaining why the novel, while never seeming dated, seems so familiar. Shirley's imagined San Francisco of 2008 has the post-punk feel, vigilante dangers, and cynical corporate plots that are now the mainstay of sf in books, movies, and television. Shirley does seem to have gotten there first, and at the age of eighteen while fronting for punk bands in Oregon.

Reading about Shirley threatens to become more fascinating that reading him, but I am saying that on the basis of this one, early book. Gibson refers to him as one of the people who have survived themselves. Punk rocker, and still a lyricist for Blue Oyster Cult, periodic resident of Oregon, San Francisco, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and currently the San Fernando Valley. He has written sf and horror,a sympathetic biography of Gurdjieff, the screenplay for the original Crow film, and has a bibliography that runs to just over 30 novels and seven collections of short stories. On Vimeo you can watch his short, thoughtful film called The Spiritual Quest that interviews philosophers, Wiccans, Gnostics, and Eastern Orthodox Priests residing in the San Francisco area/

And what of City Come A Walkin'? Stu, owner of Club Anesthesia, sees a customer one night that stands out from the voguers and punks. He is a man in a trenchcoat, homburg, and reflective sunglasses that disturbingly disappear under his skin. Stu asks his star performer, Catz Wailen, to psyche him, something she is apparently able to do, and she discovers that he is not a man but the city of San Francisco itself. He has a job for Stu.

The following sf adventure story must have been, as they say, mind-blowing at the time, but now simply provides a good read. I want to read more.

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