From Algis Budrys' BOOKS Column

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

August 1992

...So, I went to Neocon two weeks ago (as I write these immortal lines). Neocon is in Wichita, Kansas, and--aside from the fact that Wichita is one of the most important cities of the air age, whereas New York, for instance, is simply one of the busiest--is only three years old. Which means, among other things, that it hasn't yet developed an attitude. It's just a con, and it goes along, and everybody in it is a friend, more or less, of everybody else. I'm proud they asked me, and if at all possible I'll go back next year.

One of the features was a concert by Bill Simmons--who is known to you, if you read the first couple of lines of this column, as Wm. Mark Simmons. Simmons has a beautiful voice, and a mean twelve-string guitar, and he writes beautiful filk songs, some funny and some not. Now, I don't like the circle format of players and singers that has developed in filk*, and I don't like many filk renditions. Bill is different. Him I'll listen to, gladly, any time I can. And it turns out that he had a couple of books on the market, so I -- But the rest is obvious.

In In The Net of Dreams, which came out in 1990, the story is a science fiction premise -- virtual reality, with improvements-- given a fantasy twist, in that the "reality" into which the customers of this commercialized enterprise slip is a fantasy world, complete with gorgons, pegasi, warlocks, wood nymphs, and even the ex-wife of Robert Ripley, the master programmer who created it. Ripley is now the crippled survivor of an air car crash, and not particularly in the good graces of the company that runs the reality. But they have to send him into it


when it turns out that several people, including several important people from the American government and the Russian government are stuck in it and can't get out.

This book, by the way, is a LOCUS recommended book, so you don't have to take just my word for it that it's worth reading-- in part for the outrageous puns that crop up from time to time.

When Dreams Collide is out recently. Once again Ripley has to go into the Matrix to extract somebody. Only this time it's somebody he thought he got the first time, and certainly somebody who's out and about -- running for president of the U.S., as a matter of fact -- at the same time he's still in the Matrix. This one also involves several Ripleys, as it turns out.

I think the second book is even more outrageous, and more fun, than the first. I'm really glad I went to Neocon...

copyright 1992 Algis Budrys

*Somebody once typoed folk singing when writing about science fiction fannish folk singing, and it has stuck. Filking is (now) the overformal presentation of original or borrowed material with an SF theme. You will find the filkers gathered in their own room at conventions, and every huckster (dealers) room at every convention carries tapes of filkers.

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