Voltaire and Aylett: Two Peas in an Alien Pod

It’s a good thing Steve Aylett writes “little books,” as The Complete Review  calls them. Aylett’s books are so dense with information and ideas, if they were any bigger they would sink like slabs of gold into our gray tributaries. This is one of the reasons I enjoy them. In fact, I deliberately chose gold over lead as the metaphor here, because lead implies sluggishness, and these books are anything but. They move briskly and shine off the page. Rudy Rucker defines cyberpunk as “fast and dense… a lot of information . . . will try to reach a high level of information-theoretic complexity.” Rucker says that the visual representations of “punk” (spiked hair, safety-pinned britches, etc) will gradually fade with fashion, but the essence of punk, and by extension, the essence of cyberpunk, will remain.

It took a few pages to acclimate my senses to the Aylett style, but it’s no different than the transition from, say, J. K. Rowling to Mary Shelley, or from Hunter S. Thompson to Thomas De Quincey. After a few pages you’re fine.

I definitely recommend reading the four Accomplice books in the order they were written. I unwittingly started with Karloff’s Circus and it was like arriving in the middle of the night. It was a wild and memorable visit, but you will appreciate Accomplice more if you read Only An Alligator, The Velocity Gospel, and Dummyland first. Your best bet is to get the Complete Accomplice, four books in one.

I even used the trading cards! You don’t have to, but it’s fun. I laid the cards out beside me while reading and referred to them often until I could see the characters clearly in my mind. For those who don’t normally associate these kinds of illustrations with quality literature, I should point out that some award-winning graphic novels have emerged in recent times to assist in the reproduction and transmission of literary DNA into the universal text of tomorrow.  

Speaking of the future, it has just come to my attention that Voltaire probably wrote the first science fiction story. I became interested in Voltaire when Steve Aylett named him as a major influence. Known mainly as the author of Candide, Voltaire also wrote a philosophical close encounter story called Micromegas. Thanks to The Wondersmith, a.k.a. Blake Linton Wilfong, we can read Micromegas and other selecteions free online here!

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