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Some of my art from the 1970s

Reading Bruce Sterling's "Black Swan"

Interzone-221-cover I just read Bruce Sterling's "Black Swan" (Interzone, Issue 221). I'd picked up the magazine intending to read Alaya Dawn Johnson's fantasy story in the issue, but when I saw the title of the Sterling story, I decided to read it first. (Johnson's an interesting new writer whom we've reprinted a couple of times before.)

BruceI was seduced by the Sterling story. Not just that it was by Chairman Bruce, but the title itself is an incredible narrative hook. I have a real fascination with unexpected catastrophic large-scale events driven by the interaction of simple principles. I am a sucker for Black Swan theory. The term "black swan" is, I gather, a coinage of Nassim Nicholas Taleb whose website is called

Blackswan The set-up os the story is pure old-school cyberpunk: a somewhat corrupt tech journalist is meeting in a cafe with a guy dressed all in black who's involved in some kind of industrial espionage. Okay. We know whose movement we're in.

But line by line, the story just gets weirder, appropriating a bunch of other sf movements: alternate history, quantum-mechanical hard sf, the power fantasy, etc.

And Sterling has packed a whole novel's worth of material in a story, on his way there. And it is bursting with moments of well-observed reality. I was going to quote a few, but I think this is a story that should be read in sequence. 

And then read again. I have a suspicion it will be different the second time through.