Paul Di Filippo is the author of numerous science fiction books, including The Steampunk Trilogy, Ribofunk, and WikiWorld. His new novel Summer thieves is a picaresque adventure modeled on the work of Jack Vance.
“I always like to challenge myself with new arenas of fiction writing,” says Di Filippo in episode 480 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “I realized that I had never really done traditional space opera, so this is the mode I decided to try.”
Di Filippo likes classical space opera, but finds that he tends to fall into the rut. “In most space operas, you either have a very retro setup, like the famous Imperial setup from Star Wars, or the Star Trek setup, where modern liberalism spills over into the stars,” he says. “I understand why people stick with these, because they are sort of iconic and archetypal means of organization. But it seems to me that if you are going to speculate, you should try to innovate.
In Summer thieves, Di Filippo imagines a galaxy ruled by the Quinaries, a group of organizations that control five vital industries: information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, real estate and security. “Quinary is a word that exists, but I reused it,” he says. “It’s not quite a government, it’s not quite a series of NGOs, it’s not quite corporations. It’s a body that mixes it all up.
Di Filippo finds the Quinary quite credible, given the extent to which the modern world appears to be controlled by just five companies: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. But he says readers will have to judge for themselves his construction of the world. “I don’t have a degree in political science or economics or any of those wonderful and obscure disciplines,” he says. “I’m an unrepentant English student so this is all out of my reading and out of my own mind and experience. So we’ll see if people buy it as plausible.
Listen to the full interview with Paul Di Filppo in episode 480 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Paul Di Filippo on the Lampshade anthology:
“We were 11 or 12 in the Lampshade anthology, and a fellow student, Tom Maddox, dropped out. He no longer writes fiction and we have lost contact with him. But I had intermittent communications with my comrades, as the need arose. But then I said, “We don’t all converse anymore,” and we had this common past, and we achieved something. So I set up a CC list, and every once in a while I or someone else will see a relevant post and we will just distribute it to the 10 or 11 of us who are still on the right side of the floor. here. … We all still have some sort of career and we are still writing. John Shirley’s New Book Stormy land was excellent. Bruce Sterling just released a collection of stories this year. And William Gibson, of course, no one needs to be told about his accomplishments. So I think we’re all knitted together out of sheer wonder that we’ve survived the past 40 years and still be productive. “
Paul Di Filippo on “Ribofunk: The Manifesto”:
“I said, ‘Let me do this half-serious half-ironic controversial newspaper and pass it around, and see what people think about it.’ So I went to Kinko – after producing this on my dot matrix [printer], and literally cut and paste a few illustrations, then xeroxed 100 copies and mailed them to various people. It was reprinted at the time in a few sources, and it seemed to touch the instincts of a few people, as there was a little bloom of such fiction after this broadside. If you look in Wikipedia under ‘biopunk’– which is the name that dominates this sci-fi sub-genre – I think they have a line that says something like: “Paul Di Filippo tried to get everyone to call him” ribofunk », But no one did. So it was not a 100 percent successful revolution.
Paul Di Filippo on deforming:
“I’m not a fan of [deplatforming]. I am the old school ‘the cure for bad speech is more speech.’ It is a classic belief that has informed our country from the start. For me, a multiplicity of voices will be the best technique to drown out crazy or bad or destructive voices. Squelching never works. You try to silence something and drive it underground, and it gets stronger by the persecution. So for me, the kind of platform we are experiencing today is not a good thing. … There are backlash and fallout from such interventions, and we really need to use them sparingly and with a little more wisdom than in the past.
Paul Di Filippo on the Internet of things:
“In my story” The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon “, based on the famous nursery rhyme, I looked at the Internet of Things and how there might be hacking challenges related to this notion of getting a smart fridge talking to a smart washing machine, and what might happen under those circumstances. My thinking about this was inspired by the great Robert sheckley, a name that isn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, but Sheckley was a major writer in the 1950s and 1960s.… His fiction always included many devices that had become too smart for their own. well, kinda like Philip K. Dick, where the robotic taxi argues with you about where you want to go. So you can see that it’s that kind of line of ideas that persists. Here I am, 50 years after these guys, still trying to make sense of these ideas.