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July 7, 2012

Do I dare disturb the universe?
Posted by Avram Grumer at 07:07 PM * 47 comments

I forget if it was on 9/11 itself, or some time not much later during the political aftermath, that I was over at Patrick’s & Teresa’s place, and we were talking about how much it felt like we were living in a science fiction novel, and then tried to figure out who was writing it. I also don’t remember if we settled on someone, but Ken MacLeod and Bruce Sterling both came up as possibilities.

We seem to have left the Sterling/MacLeod/whoever era, and entered a new one. A few weeks back, we had that outbreak of weird cannibal incidents, implying that we were in a zombie story, leading the Center for Disease Control to deny knowledge of “a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead”. We all know that government denials are an important first stage of a fictional zombie outbreak, but zombies are so popular, this could be the work of any of dozens of authors.

But now the US government, for some reason, feels it needs to officially deny that mermaids exist.

Zombies and mermaids? This can only mean one thing: It’s Seanan McGuire’s world that the rest of us are living in. I should’ve guessed when Doctor Who came back on the air. Next month we’ll be seeing news stories about giant insects battling it out with teams of musical monster slayers riding rainbow-colored ponies with magnetic hooves.

(Hey, Seanan, while you’re molding all reality, couldja maybe hook a buddy up with a lottery jackpot? Doesn’t have to be a big one.)

Comments on Do I dare disturb the universe?:
#1 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 07:14 PM:

I wish they'd officially deny werewolves. We'd be living in a much cooler universe if there were werewolves.

#2 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 07:18 PM:

Mel Brooks is on the lathe of heaven.

#3 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 07:22 PM:

Gods forbid we get into a George R. R. Martin universe. Oh wait.

#4 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 08:01 PM:

How did I miss hearing about the cannibalism outbreak before now? Did I wander one universe over again without noticing?

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 08:42 PM:

My own hypothesis is that we are living in a musical farce jointly written by Mel Brooks, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Lord Dunsany, Karel Capek, and William Gibson. With additional dialogue by Henry Carey.

#6 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Fragano: If that's true, then I'm offstage during all the big production numbers. Bummer. I think I'd enjoy life a lot more if it involved random dance numbers in the street.

#7 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 09:59 PM:

One of the very first thoughts to pass through my head after waking up to the awful news on the morning of 9/11/2001 was "kzinti lesson".

#8 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 10:15 PM:

Nope, it's Phil Dick's world. Has been for decades.

#9 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:08 PM:

Lizzy L... Dick was a big fan of TV series "The Invaders". I wonder if he got nervous every time he saw someone with a stiff pinky.

#10 ::: Martin ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:14 PM:

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

#11 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:29 PM:

Well, at least in Ms. McGuire's multiverse, there are sure to be good cats.

#12 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:46 PM:

If Dick were writing us in the 70's, and Sterling and MacLeod were writing us post-9/11, and McGuire is writing us now, obviously this is a time-sharing system of some kinds.

This raises the question of who or what is responsible for the apportionment of story-time on the Universal Mainframe to authors. Did Dick annoy the wrong greybeard and get his processes SIGKILL'd in a fit of pique?

#13 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:14 AM:

Seanan's multiverse! That explains a lot. Thanks, Avram!

Lizzy @8: Mike Ford once said that in the afterlife he figured he would be in the Design Section, and his desk would be adjacent to that of Phil Dick. This has occasionally given me simultaneous giggles and nightmares.

#14 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:26 AM:

B. Durbin @ 11: Well, at least in Ms. McGuire's multiverse, there are sure to be good cats.

What, exactly, do you mean by "good"? Well behaved? Or large and vociferous?

#15 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:57 AM:

It’s Seanan McGuire’s world that the rest of us are living in.

Oh quinqueshit. Addicted to her reports as I am, actually moving into the world they come from was just about as high on my to-do list as applying for a settlement grant in Enedwaith. And now this!

#16 ::: Lysana ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:01 AM:

Janet @14: What, exactly, do you mean by "good"? Well behaved? Or large and vociferous?

Having met some of her cats once upon a time, yes. Though "behaved" is relative to felines. They behave very, well, cat-like.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:33 AM:

I don't think I'd mind Mike Ford designing our world: though it might be somewhat challenging to live in a world he designed, the one we've got is a bit too interesting in the sense of the Chinese proverb for my taste. Phil Dick, on the other hand, was way too much interested in abnormal psychology for me to be comfortable in his world.

#18 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:37 AM:

I have written
the universe
that was in
your pocket

and which
you were probably
saving
for humanity.

Forgive me
it was compelling
so frail
and so undefined.

#19 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:42 AM:

.. Of course, there should probably be a "this is just to say" in there somewhere.

Or perhaps that goes without saying.

*rue*

#20 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 04:11 AM:

Oh, KayTei, you must wear your rue with a difference engine!

#21 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:01 AM:

I'm slightly worried because the novel I'm finishing up this week has both mermaids and zombies in it. Not kidding. (It's hard SF, too.)

#22 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:13 AM:

Charlie @ 21: Reality catching up on your book between finishing and publication, again? And here you were thinking that including both mermaids and zombies will save you from that particular curse.

#23 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:59 AM:

@ Charlie Stross #21

But,... but.... that's what they call talent, right??

Crazy(but not so much that she isn't arranging a hasty retreat just now... *wink*)Soph

#24 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 06:33 AM:

I don’t know, I wasn’t there
They say it rained a lot that night
The boys went swimming on a dare
They’d heard mermaids don’t like to bite

They say it rained a lot that night
Chances to swim are pretty rare
They’d heard mermaids don’t like to bite
The moonlight shone across their hair

Chances to swim are pretty rare
They splashed and laughed in delight
The moonlight shone across their hair
They disappeared from human sight

They splashed and laughed in delight
They boys went swimming on a dare
They disappeared from human sight
I don’t know, I wasn’t there

--
I wrote this in January, but it doesn't actually deny the existence of mermaids, so not my fault.

#25 ::: Paul Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 06:39 AM:

Kevin @12: what universal operating system (uOS) are we being run on?

Where's the keyboard (or other appropriate input device)?

> spawn /scalzi/redshirts
> ps -ef | grep "seanan mcguire" | kill -KILL

Sorry Seanan, your time is up and this is a timeshare system after all.

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 07:43 AM:

Charlie @21

Don't worry, the events are not taking place in our Solar System.

Are they?

#27 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:07 AM:

Zombies and mermaids, Charlie? If there's also a scientist who extracts our spinal fluid to turn a goldfish into a giant humanoid piscene, then we are living inside Irwin Allen's "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".

#28 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:51 AM:

Seanan McGuire’s world

So when do the cheering festival-celebrating mice show up?

Not that I actually want them to show up in MY apartment...

#29 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:58 AM:

Michael I @ 28... I hope McGuire's mice never show up here. Our cat Agatha just wouldn't get it that, while we exist to worship her, there are creatures that'd would be willing to worship anybody other than herself.

#30 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 09:36 AM:

By the way, McGuire has a couple of short-stories available HERE for free, about how Verity Price's grandparents first met. Yes, the mice are there.

#31 ::: Letterfrack ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 10:55 AM:

Somebody had fun writing those. But I'm also guessing that the CDC was watching closely how the links flowed. Was their announcement being used for serious debunkery? And, more importantly, did the zombie-believers accept the CDC version?

It's also a sign of the you must have a citation for everything mindset. "There are no mermaids? Do you have a source for that information?"

I'm back in school and finding this frustrating. I've been a voracious reader for going on four decades, which makes the learning part of it fantastic. But when you run up against the attitude of "you weren't born knowing that - if you can show me where you learned it you can't use it" things get very difficult. I'm learning to bring it up with the professor very early on, and/or writing on topics that I either don't have background knowledge on or still have the books in my library.

And ... there should be mermaids. Can we vote Concerned Women of America off the island and bring in some mermaids?

#32 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:09 AM:

I have heard the zombies singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

#33 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:12 AM:

Charlie Stross #21:

Having just finished Apocalypse Codex, I *had* been going to suggest we were in the Laundryverse but you seem to have substituted yet another universe of your own creation.

#34 ::: Austin Loomis ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:25 AM:

IHNTA, except that I was instantly reminded of the post on her EllJay where Seanan expresses a similar suspicion... as a fear that everything she's experienced since December of '08 has been her dreaming that the world is finally deigning to give her what she wants.

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:45 AM:

Austin Loomis @ 34... I remember reading that. That'd be one very cruel universe.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:34 PM:

joann @ 33:

I've just finished The Apocalypse Codex which is why I very deeply DO NOT WANT to live in that universe. I'd far rather live where the CIA is an incompetent but dangerous bunch of imperialists than a highly competent and mostly inhuman bunch of necromancers who consider the depopulation of the state of Colorado "acceptable collateral damage".

#37 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:25 PM:

Charlie Stross @21, hmm, I don't think I've ever seen you and Seanan in the same room at the same time....

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:14 PM:

Avram @37, that deficiency is probably going to be remedied at Chicon 7.

#39 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:20 PM:

When I see a reference to official denial of mermaids by U.S. government (which doesn't happen all that often), this is what I think of: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/burt-cole/funco-file.htm

#40 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 01:05 AM:

So, Mr. Stross, for Colorado it's the Fire This Time? And, floods? Humph. Good thing I'm eating dessert first....

#41 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 06:05 AM:

Bruce, @36: Given the alternative in TAC, I'd say, yes, Colorado could be written off as an "acceptable collateral loss". Thankfully, I don't think the situation is anywhere near being on the same continent as that dire.

#42 ::: Michael Paulukonis ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:52 AM:

It feels like we're sliding towards a Jack Womack novel.

Except for the whole time-travel thing.

#43 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:35 PM:

One of the more out-there experiences was having to update the software in a laptop's battery. When batteries have software, we're in some SF universe. Possibly Vernor Vinge's.

Now, I'd like to arrange to transfer to some of the classic SF universes. Hal Clement's would be a nice optimistic one (although remarkably computer-free, so hard to find employment.)

#44 ::: Tracy Lunquist ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 08:36 PM:

Letterfrack@31: I know this pain. The hardest part is learning where, in any given discipline, the postulates are. Do you get to pass off the greenness of grass as a generally accepted truth, or do you have to cite chapter and verse even about that? What I learned in studying social science at the master's level is that we really, really, really want to be real scientists, and thus we don't take ANYTHING as given. And yeah, the "rigor" gets just a little silly at times. But hey, if you can't be pedantic in college, where can you?

And I'm with you on the mermaids.

cgeye@40: I have elected to take that advice a step further: Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first thing in the morning.

And this whole conversation puts me strongly in mind of Adam Savage's t-shirt (to wit: I reject your reality and substitute my own).

#45 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:51 AM:

Henry Troup @ #43:

I've often thought that if I had to pick an SF universe to emigrate to, I'd lean toward the one Janet Kagan created for Hellspark. It's nicely friendly and optimistic, with room for everyday normal people who aren't Villains or Heroes.

And if it turns out science fiction has lied to us and people in The Future don't speak 20th-century American, the glossi would come in real handy.

#46 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 07:45 AM:

If I wound up inside a Michael Crichton reality, my first reaction would be "Who the bleep designed this place?"

#47 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 10:46 AM:

We seem to have left the Sterling/MacLeod/whoever era, and entered a new one.

I can't speak for Sterling and whoever, but - oh, the relief!

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