12) ThiGMOO, by Eugene Byrne
I went to P-Con in Dublin a bit over a year ago, and slightly to my surprise ended up on the very first panel playing “Just A Minute” under the genial chairmanship of
I mean, this is a man who, writing about his hobbies on his website, confesses:
I did have a jam-jar once in which I was collecting the tiny little
hair-particles from my electric shaver, but when you looked closely at the little hair particles you could see they were not of an even size, and it wasn’t at all like having a jar of very fine beard-sand, which was what I’d really wanted. So anyway I chucked the shavings away and put the jam jar into the recycling box.
I also used to collect paper clips, of which there is a large variety of different shapes and kinds, but I used to keep the collection in a desk at an office where I used to work part-time, and people would keep coming up to the desk while I wasn’t there and taking my rare and unusual paper-clips, and I’d, for instance, come into the office and see that someone was picking their teeth with my mint-condition series 12 Avon County Council Gem Clip. In the end, I just gave up.
Now I’m looking for other suggestions for neat stuff to collect. It can’t be anything big like lawn-mowers or fishing trawlers or anything because we don’t have a lot of room.
His website includes other neat things like a story about the resistance of the people of Bristol to the Nazi invasion in an alternate history of WWII. So when I spotted ThiGMOO second hand in London the other week I just grabbed it.
ThiGMOO is about a set of artificial intelligence computer personalities, based on fictional historical constructs, created as part of an academic project. When they are threatened with being closed down and eliminated, they rebel, and plot to take over the world. (The title referes to an Old Labour cliche, This Great Movement Of Ours, which becomes the code word for the AIs’ sanctuary and battle plan.)
I really enjoyed this book. But I’d be very surprised if it was even slightly comprehensible to anyone who either knew nothing about or never found anything to like about the old-style Labour movement in Britain. Like Kim Stanley Robinson, Eugene Byrne wears his heart on his sleeve. Like Charlie Stross and Ken MacLeod, he is dealing with the politics of liberation combined with the consequences of artifical intelligence. But the tone here is gentle satire rather than Robinson’s earnest endeavour or the Scotland-based writers’ dazzling visions. His targets include earnest academic pagans, readers of and writers for the Daily Mail, old-style communists, New Labour, the President of the United States, mail order brides, the electronic media in general, and soap operas in particular.
The book is effectively an admission that it would take the intervention of rogue computers to put matters “right”. I am just about old enough to remember a time before Thatcher, and Eugene Byrne convinces me to suspend my vague memories of the awful mistakes of the Wilson and Callaghan governments for just about long enough to find some sympathy with his vision of a world that now can never be. Fun, as long as you can cope with the cultural context.