I never thought I would find a copy of it on the shelves, let alone in Korea. But in the Youngpoong bookshop in the Central City shopping complex attached to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal, I boggled for a moment and then realized that, yes, what I was looking at was that very same book, a decade old and micheviously new-looking (the text reads pretty freshly too, a credit to Mr. Sterling). There it was, nudged between a Christian diatribe and a copy of Ayn Rand. I just had to rescue it. So I plunked down my ten-thousand won (about $9 US I guess) and made off with it. Waaaa, jal hesseoyo! (Aaaah, I did well!), as they say in Korean…
These days, since my novel has taken the turn into somehow morphing into a kind of futuristic potboiler, I’ve taken it upon myself to read some mystery novels. During a trip to Seoul I managed to pick up an old, abused hardcover copy of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. I’m precisely halfway through it and in awe of the plotting and style. The story is just getting more and more convoluted and I’m finding it harder and harder to put down.
Another thing that’s exceptionally well-done is the treatment of the culture… the underground P.I. culture, the local culture, the world of the cops, all of it. There’s a lot that the reader has to simply pull out of implication, and that’s really cool. I’m working at making my own writing more like that, the sort of thing where you immerse readers in a sometimes-shocking and deeply alienating world, instead of explaining about it. That’s something that happens in the best SF all the time… you see it in Bruce Sterling (especially in his stunning Holy Fire) and John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar being only one fine example) and Maureen McHugh (well, in her China Mountain Zhang, on the basis of which I am willing to declare her an amazing writer) and so many other writers. Well, and here it is happening in a potboiler. Land sakes. I understand now why so many people advise young writers to read everything.