Rule 256: If you’re talking about it at work, an SF author thought of it already

I figure it has to be weird to work with me.  Maybe difficult, but I think that’s only for my managers.

For instance, we were sitting around after today’s business had been completed, congratulating one of our team who’d just won a prize for innovation. Somehow the conversation ended up in a place where I was able to say, “I’m reading this book, which is pretty old in Internet years, maybe a couple years old now…I’ve taken a few runs at it, but it’s in second-person and in Scottish so it’s a hard slog…but anyway, there’s a bit that’s EXACTLY what we’re talking about, where a guy downloads a model for 3D printing and the download site is virus-ridden and his printer starts spitting out small dildos that are direct marketing for a Chinese site.”

In my defense, we were talking about the liklihood that home 3D printing won’t take off until there’s an iTunes for models, because no one is going to want the malware.  Even so, my team was like “Where do you FIND these things?”

These things, in this case, is Charles Stross’ Rule 34.  I find Stross’ Laundry books extremely easy mind-candy reading and devour them like crazy.  I find his other books, like Halting State (also second person and Scottish) and Accelerando, have incredibly high barriers to entry.  For calibration, I have in fact read both the King James Bible and The Silmarillion.  I guess this is because Stross packs so many amazingly prescient and likely ideas into his books that he has to put a cognitive combination lock on them.

Whereas Neal Stephenson just goes for biometrics – if you can hold one of his books up for long enough to read it, you’re in.

The thing is, I’m not satisfied with hearing about a new innovation after it’s happened (and yes, I met last week with a client who air-quoted “this new 3D printing thing” so I know that even that would be ahead of the game).  I’m not satisfied with hearing about innovation a couple days, weeks, or months before it’s released into the world.  I want to hear about it years in advance, like hearing about Google Earth by reading Snow Crash when it came out.

I’ve noticed that the brilliant ideas, the ones that will come true, almost glow in my memory after I read the book.  I think this is because SF authors, unlike suits trapped in R&D basements of corporations, have a grueling and awful peer review process.  If you get the science wrong, your friends and peers will shred your draft.  If you can’t make a case for the speculation, your beta readers and editor will redline it out.  And to differentiate your stuff from all the other stuff vying for Great World SF Novel of ALL TIME, you have to create something.  Something new, something innovative, something plausible.  And I guess you could write your stories in phonetic Scottish second-person.

But my point, inasmuch as I have one, is that I embrace SF, and pop culture, and gaming, because I use them to help me make connections between ideas and project the course of innovation.  That can make working with me a little weird, but it’s way more fun than solely reading business books.

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