(It turns out that Catz is more of a Chicago person, anyways. Note that she called him “Chi,” in a familiar term at the beginning. That said, she is pretty obsessive about the idea of non-conformity, and we don’t ever really learn which direction she takes.)
Let me tell you- this is one hell of a story.
It’s about City. The city of San Fransisco, in particular. And two people: Catz (a psychic rocker chick) and Cole (a club owner.)
A City is a formidable thing, in these stories. They are super-people. They are not omnipotent, but they are fearless, they do have special powers, and they are amoral. Or rather, moral in their own, curious, complex, and somewhat non-human way.
Cole comes to discover that he is totally and completely Cities. Catz rejects this, but we later come to find out that she’s really something more a Chicago person, anyways. (The story is ambiguous, at least by my FirstReading, about Catz’ concept of her relationship with her city. There is conflict, but not resolution, on this matter.) Cole comes to realize that he is Cities. “Yes, City is using me,” he comes to say, “but I know it, and I want it that way.” (Basically. I’m paraphrasing here.)
The cities have developed to a point where they have formed mentalities, and beyond the mentalities, formed physical incarnations.
But, there is an infection, and the cities don’t have control of the infection, nor the infection’s computers…
The mob has holed up in many of these cities, and is seeking to control society by bringing in computers systems, by getting people to use the computer systems, and to control people through the computer systems.
The problem isn’t the computer systems, and the problem isn’t that people will be linked into the GlobalVillage by the computer systems either. The problem is that the mob is going to control people with them. City needs to make sure that the technology that will probably make his doom is not developed by the force of the mob, the controllers.
This is a truely fantastic story, and I’m amazed more people haven’t heard about it. We are living this story right now; It’s incredibly pertinant, and the imagery is so powerful. I’d love to see a movie of this story.
There is, I think, an essential mistaken prediction in the story. The story anticipates that VirtualReality technology will lead to the disintegration of cities. The argument is that when people can interact just as well in the virtual world as well as we can interact in the material world, why would people live together? City explains this to Cole, and says that the mob wants to use the technology to divide people and to control them and to keep them far apart from one another. Again, City isn’t against the technology: He’s against it being used to control people.
Now, City’s prediction may be right. As we develop truely immersive virtual reality, we may be able to live far from one another. But I suspect this is not the case, and I’ll say why in a moment.
But first I want to say the principle miscalculation: As we develop technology, we seem to be moving closer to one another, rather than further and further away. I can state that for my own motivation, I want to live in City because City is where all the other people are. Technology has a few (3? 4?) decades before we have fully immersive virtual reality. In the meantime, it’s much better to be able to meet a person in the flesh. There are other economic pressures pulling people together as well, but on the psychic level, we seem to becoming much more society based, much less land based, and that means concentrating up together with other people.
Note that this does not interfere with the power and relevance of the story. It’s just an interesting side note.
Now getting back to that side point- “will people live all spread out?” I suspect not. I suspect that we will all, if we are still alive, we will place our brains into 3’x3’x3’ cubes, and stack them up closely together, and engaged in shared defence of our tower-o’-brains. It will be more economical as far as defence goes, and I think we will have towers for brains in each city. Basically. It’ll be like hard-core records management, where they bury everything underground. We will operate matter by remote control. This is why I think we will not dissolve out into the open.
But again: No interference with power and/or relevance of the story. Just another interesting side note.
What does the story say about the future?
It only briefly talks about the Global Village. But it does talk about it, and it is an important part of the story. Cole says, (and again, I’m paraphrasing “I see that this technology will develop. And I see that we will develop into lots of little communities, perhaps of no more than a hundred each. I have no idea what it will look like. But I think it will be good, it will be secure, it will be wild & crazy, it will have it’s dangerous and bad sides, it will be all the things that humanity is now. And out of this thing, there will be a new super-organism, like the Cities of today, but different. It will be global. There will be a Global City.” Now, I’m pushing the exact quote a bit far, but I’m also gluing it together with the other things he’s said.
You know what you should do? You should read the book. If you’re interested this far, check it out. They have the first few pages on Amazon. It’s a fun read.
That said, if you’re mainly interested in the ideas, feel free to just read this page, and ignore the actual book. But the actual book has a spiritual weight to it that I find fascinating, powerful, and not present in this description. Plus, John Shirley is an awesome guy who lives in an awesome City. These ideas are all rooted in real places and real people. It’s worth checking out.