01/08/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Tachyon. 431 page enlarged paperback. Price: $16.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61696-020-9.
check out website: www.tachyonpublications.com
‘Future Media’ is a mixed bag of stories, story snippets and essays on how the media is evolving. Rather telling is Nicholas Carr’s article, ‘Is Goggle Making Us Stupid’, about his over-use of the Internet which has reduced his desire to read books. Whether this is for non-fiction or fiction, he doesn’t say for himself or those he conferred to on the subject. Myself, I think it’s more a lack of discipline as I seem to do both well. In fact, I read more books, not the other way around, mostly because through various websites, it’s made a lot of older books easier to find than my trawling bookshops when young. If Carr’s musings were totally true, then this book would have smaller snippets than decent slabs of books. I suspect it depends on the individual and how much you let it take over your life rather than just using it as an extension of things you want to do.
James Patrick Kelly’s ‘New Brains For Old’ does tend to go the Net way which is loaded with links about his subject matter, although I would like to see how many of you can type in the lengthy ones regularly. Maybe Kelly would have been better off giving a link to his home page and have the links there for ease of use?
The choice of fiction tends to be a spread from early material like snippets from Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ with only Cory Doctorow’s snippet from ‘Makers’ being truly modern. You would have thought that there might have been more demonstrative modern fiction writers thoughts on the media been available for selection. Of the snippets, the one that is always readable is Norman Spinrad’s ‘Bug Jack Barron’ which once read here, I hope you go and buy the original book as it still holds up. Despite the unfortunate title which, to a British reader like me who thought it was about some insect originally, when in fact it’s about an investigative TV host who takes on people’s problems that equally irritates him.
Robert Sheckley’s ‘The Prize Of Peril’ would make a great movie as its lead character has to keep alive through a variety of TV games to amass a fortune, at least by 1958 standards. There are some similarities to the Schwarzenegger film, ‘The Running Man’ based off a later Stephen King story.
The other articles are a mixed bag and of particular note is, ‘The Future Of The World Wide Web’ as its writer is Timothy Berners-Lee who was one of its founders.
This might look like I’m being over-critical. From one aspect, the age of a lot of the material shows that in SF, consideration as to how media will take over our lives is actually an old idea that has already been examined. As such, it made this book very much a reasonable read. However, with my reviewer’s hat on, I wish there was more from more current writers as they see what we have today evolving and a potentially wasted moment unless editor Rick Wilber is planning a follow-up. We all have an invested interested in media advancement and none of the early SF writers ever saw the rise of the home computer let alone the multitude of uses, including games, that we have today. It might even be regarded as a clarion call for modern SF writers to check this book out and then come up with their own interpretations where things are likely to go next.
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