Since I just discovered MPorcius Fiction Log and he just did a review of some early Norman Spinrad stories, I thought I’d get out some Spinrad material.
“Bug Man” Spinrad, as a friend who hates his work calls him, is somebody I’ve liked enough to hope to read more of. I also like the long review essays he does for Asimov’s.
Unfortunately, I never wrote a real review of a Spinrad work.
Yes, I know I don’t really have a plot synopsis here. You can find Gerald Jonas New York Times review here.
Raw Feed (1988): Little Heroes, Norman Spinrad, 1987.
A fun book that causes me to respect Spinrad’s writing greatly.
The sex may have been tedious at times and the segment dealing with Cyborg Sally and her perverse influence on Paco Monaco dragged on a bit too long but those are the only quibbles I have.
The concerns of Spinrad’s review columns (especially his columns on the themes of the cyberpunks and Neuromantics) on cyborg themes, rebellion, the technosphere, romanticism through technology, and characterization are all here.
Spinrad’s major theme is computer technology cyborged onto humans to produce new insights (the Shunt) and to make up for biological shortcomings (the VoxBox and the Image Organ) in artistic expression.
In fact, a central theme is the nature of reality like Philip K. Dick’s works or Aldiss’ Barefoot in the Head (which Spinrad is a fan of). The Shunt seems to be an ideal psychedelic which opens up “doors of perception” and potentialities of a personality. It makes more of people.
Yet, as with his revolutionary anarchism, Spinrad sees the good and bad of the technology. It helps Paco and Bobby Rubin mature and realize hidden potentialities. However, Sally Genaro is trapped in virtual psychosis with Cyborg Sally.
The masses of “street meat” are manipulated via the Shunt much like Larry Coopersmith feared they would. The Shunt is celebrated with Red Jack, but a riot is avoided only by “jacking” people out.
The death of real rock n’ roll is mourned in Gloriana O’Toole (a great character) and Lord Jimmy but the new tech of rock n’ roll allows others with artistic vision like Sally Genaro to realize their potential as they never could in the old days. The politics are credible.
Spinrad seems to see the dark side of revolutionary fervor: violence, selfishness, delusion. Nor is Spinrad willing to project a vision of naïve class warfare. Everyone suffers in Spinrad’s future and revolts together.
Spinrad seems to say there is a time to dream and hallucinate and cyborg and a time to accept reality in sex and politics and art.
The dialogue was witty. (I liked the snatches of song lyrics being incorporated.) I liked everyone operating out of enlightened self-interest, but the ending with not one of the little heroes suffering ill consequences seemed a bit pat as did how the revolution was to be achieved (presumably by causing such chaos that society has to make new rules).
I wish the song lyrics would be made into songs by someone. [I haven’t actually checked Spinrad’s YouTube Channel, but he has done some music recordings.]
The ending was actually inspirational with everyone maturing and developing caring for the inner soul (the bedroom scene with Rubin and O’Toole was poignant) of others and a social conscience. The characters were never simply simplistic and described but rarely (except for the Muzik execs) judged. I liked Dojo too.
The cultural icons of Hell’s Angels and psychedelic drugs may be dated, but Spinrad’s novel was a pleasure to read and had some worthy things to say about our relations with each other, dreams, and the technosphere here.