Schismatrix Tricks

Bruce Sterling Schismatrix composed in 1984 [Sterling writes in the preface dated 1995 that he wrote the stories eleven years ago] could be read through the lens of the contemporary concern over contagion and the exchange of bodily fluids. Look:

She slipped arms inside his loose kimono. "Shaper," she said, "I want your genetics. All over me."

Her warm hand caressed his groin. He did what she said.

Or see:

If it weren't for the roaches, the Red Consensus would eventually smother in a moldy detritus of cast-off skin and built-up layers of sweated and exhaled effluvia. Lysine, alanine, methionine, carbamino compounds, lactic acid, sex pheromones: a constant stream of organic vapors poured invisibly, day and night, from the human body. Roaches were a vital part of the spacecraft ecosystem, cleaning up crumbs of food, licking grease.

In this fictional universe, the body can be imagined as a processor just as language can be imagined as processed.

This is the first book that I wrote on a word processor. [...] Now I could do what I liked with words — bend them, break them, jam them together, pick them apart again.


Something fizzed loudly with a leaping of white-hot sparks. Startled, Lindsay braced to fight. Paolo was holding a short white stick with flame gnawing at one end. "A candle," he said.

"Kindle?" said Lindsay. "Yes, I see."

"We play with fire," Paolo said. "Fazil and I."


And so for day 255