The P.I. Poll

Down Those Mean Skies...
Sci-Fi P.I.'s





The theme of the May-June 1999 was Down Those Mean Skies: Sci-Fi P.I.'s.

Let's get one thing straight--I'm not a big sci-fi or fantasy or speculative fiction or whatever the hell you call it kinda guy. Hell, it's just too much fun laughing at basement-dwelling Trekkies and those losers in line for The Phantom Menace to give it all up.

But I'm not denying that the two genres, that of science fiction and detective fiction, sometimes do overlap and do produce some entertaining and even challenging entertainment, and so, in this issue, we'll be looking at some of those bi-genre hybrids.

You can read an updated version of the original Down Those Mean Skies, an article I did some years ago for WARP, a local Montreal sci-fi fanzine, on the merging of the two genres. It's a bit dated, now, but I've tried to move it along a bit. It serves as a swell intro to this issue.

And the issue tied in nicely with my sci-fi pal Berny's big project, DIMENSION SF, the first-ever Montreal Science Fiction Film Festival, held June 4-20, 1999. It showcased a century of science fiction films, from spectacular classics to new releases, in the comfort of the magnificent Cinema Imperial, right in the heart of my hometown.

Also, in conjunction with this momentous occasion, the topic for The P.I. Poll , whose results are published below, zoomed in on Sci-Fi P.I.s.

As well, you can check out our Down Those Mean Skies List of Sci-Fi P.I.'s. And in the same church, different pew category, take a little peak at I Aint Afraid of No Ghosts, our listing of Fantasy and Occult Eyes, also on this site. If we've missed out on one of your faves, please don't hesitate to let us know.


From Karen Anderson in Seattle, WA
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.? Gil Hamilton
Worst Sci-Fi P.I.?
not sure--I instantly forget bad books.
P.I. Fiction? yes
Science fiction? yes
I'm a voracious reader of Simenon, Upfield, Nicholas Freeling, K.C. Constantine, and (Reginald) Hill. My husband is a voracious ready of science fiction. At first I was appalled by some of what I found on his shelves -- there was one particularly cute-ass series I refer to as "Cats in Space." But then I discovered Larry Niven's works. Oddly, I did not come across any of Niven's PI fiction until recently. I bought collection called "Supernatural Sleuths" and it had a Gil Hamilton story.
Future P.I. Poll? Animal PIs -- I nominate the out-of-print "Sam the Cat Detective"

From Paul Bergin in Sarasota, FL
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.:
Harry Angel
P.I. Fiction: yes
Science fiction: no
At least I think his name was Harry Angel. The book, which I read in Playboy installments, was Falling Angel, later made into a DeNiro vehicle called Angel Heart, which I understand was awful. The book itself was pretty damned silly, but well written enough for me to remember it, if imperfectly, after all this time. It was probably more occult/woo-woo than straight SF but what the hell. Another extremely well-written other-worldly if not outright SF detective novel was (perhaps we're on a theme, here) Angel by Gary D. Kilworth (the guy who gave us Highlander, at least the book). I can't remember the name of the protagonist (this is getting to be a habit with me), but he was an angel detailed to earth by The Big Guy to hunt down and deal with a couple of badass angels who are giving the whole harp & feathers gig a bad name. Accomplishing this requires that our hero become (pretty much) human, which leads to complications, surprise surprise. Silly stuff, really, and I didn't like the book well enough to keep it, but I do recall thinking that it was very skillfully executed and it had a bleak, noir feel to it that made it at least readable.
Future P.I. Poll: Most Annoying PI Besides Spenser.

From Dave from Rutgers Univerisity
I guess you could call him the Dave Robicheaux of PIs.... The character I'm thinking of is Harrison Ford's character from Blade Runner... Everything about him is PI... He's tough, he acts alone... He's dangerous and depressed... he does what he wants has low friends in lower places... but he's hired by the police... he's a future cop.. but it's the best I could come up with... the name of the novel it's based on is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

From Darwin from a small town on Earth
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.:
R. Daneel Olivaw, robot, & his human partner Lije Baley.
P.I. Fiction: yes
Science fiction: yes
For all of those who love both mysteries and SF, Asimov's The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun are among the best in both genres.
Future P.I. Polls: The Best Wise-Ass in PI Fiction

From Jim Doherty in Chicago, IL
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.:
Mike Danger in the recent Al Collins/Mickey Spillance collaboration
Worst Sci-Fi P.I.: Never read one I absolutely hated.
P.I. Fiction: yes
Science fiction: no
Your list of si-fi PIs includes Lije Baley and R. Danel Olivaw. Strictly speaking, they aren't PIs. They're cops.
Future P.I. Polls: Short stories. Best PI short stories. Best PIs appearing exclusively (or at least primarily) in short stories. Best PI movie adapted from a short story. Etc.

Strictly speaking, I agree with you about Baley and Olivaw. All is revealed in the entry which should be up soon.-- ed.

From Chris Mills in Florida
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.:
Mathew Swain by Mike McQuay
P.I. Fiction: yes
Science fiction: yes
It's been a while since I read these, but I remember liking them a great deal. Swain was a private detective in a future Texas that made Blade Runner's L.A. look like Disneyland (although I do recall he had one case that took him to the moon). The entire series was dedicated to Raymond Chandler, and there was definitely a Marlowe vibe to the character. I'm going to have to dig 'em out and read them again, I guess. Ah, and the similarity between the name of this eye and my own character truly is coincidental.
Future P.I. Polls: Best Private Eye story by Christopher Mills

Chris, in typically modest fashion, forgot to mention that his latest Matthew Dain story is now in our fiction section. (--ed.)

From Nathalie Mège in Paris, France
Fav Sci-Fi P.I.:
Tem (Temple sacré de l'aube radieuse) by Roland C.Wagner
Worst Sci-Fi P.I.: Elijah Bailey by Isacc Asimov (too bloody serious)
P.I. Fiction: yes
Science fiction: yes
Though French, Tem is a great hero. He is a mutant (transparent to other people's eyes) and has to wear a green hat to be noticed. He is good at solving mysteries with his brains and is a peaceful character.

From Neil Smith
Just a note to say I think the Sci-Fi 'Tec issue is great! Lot of good stuff in here, as usual. Like the subgenre exploration this time.  I've also noticed, as a side note, it seems the best form to tell cyberpunk sci-fi stories is the detective form, as seen in Blade Runner of course, but also Pat Cadigan, Neal Stephenson, and K.W. Jeter.    It's good to see my friend Victor Gischler has sent you some info.   We'll have a new issue of Plots With Guns ready to post the first week of August.  I'll send you an update when it's there.  Thanks for your support.

From Steven R. Harbin in Newnan, GA
My favorite Sci-Fi P.I. is Larry Niven's Gil "the ARM" Hamilton.
Worst Sci-Fi P.I.: I don't know, have any of those politcally correct pseudo feminist writers who are trying to mess up the PI genre written any sci-fi PIs yet?
P.I. Fiction: Yes, but not as much as I used to.
Science fiction: Yes, but not as much as I used to.
Actually I don't read as much in either genre as I used to. Here lately only Robert Crais and Ruth Birmingham in the PI arena (also old Raymond Chandler, Hammett, and some pulps oldies) in the PI area. In the Sci-Fi only some Larry Niven and occasionally some older stuff. If you
count some older Pulp Writers as either Mystery or Sci-Fi, then both Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame) and Seabury Quinn, both of whom wrote some PI/Weird Menace stuff in the 30's. Quinn's Jules de Grandin was more of a supernatural sleuth as opposed to true PI or Sci-Fi. Howard only wrote a few before his death. Two Sci Fi Mysteries I'm planning on getting around to are Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of
Electric Sheep?
(Blade Runner). Also there's an anthology out entitled Sci-Fi Private Eye that's sitting on the stack by the bed waiting to be read-if only there was more time. It has a story by Donald E. Westlake (among other "usual suspects" aka Niven, Asimov, et. al.) so it looks interesting.
Future P.I. Poll Topics: Best of the Ancient Detectives? or maybe best of the Decades? starting with the 20's or 30's and working up to present? Just a thought.



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