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

"I've seen the future, brother/It is murder."

-- Leonard Cohen, "The Future"

"I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Brylls ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Brylls shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn't enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn't enough. He was right."

"They pay brisk money for this crap?"

-- Raymond Chandler on sci-fi, in a 1953 letter to his agent
from
Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler
(it should be noted he also wrote the passage which he's lampooning)

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-this-week kinda guy. Hell, it's just too much fun laughing at Trekkies in their styrofoam Spock ears, and anyone over twelve years of age carrying a light sabre on a day other than October 31 is basically wearing a cosmic "Kick Me" sign.

But, surprise, surprise, there are more than a few sci-fi/P.I.'s that don't totally suck. And more than a few writers over the years have tried -- with varying degrees of success -- to merge the sci-fi and detective genres. Sure, there are plenty of cut-and-paste mash-ups that betray the writer's total lack of understanding of either genre, or the lack of imagination that reduces a genre to cliches and over-used tropes.

But any twist on a genre that doesn't kill it only makes it stronger. Or, as Dylan put it, "He not busy being born is busy dying."

Therefore, may I submit, for your consideration, the following:

RELATED LINKS

The results of the May-June 1999 P.I. Poll.

Freely adapted from the original article, from way back in 1990 that I did for WARP, a local sci-fi newsletter in Montreal. It was my first attempt to deal with the Vulcan mind-meld of the science fiction and P.I. genres, and also my first published piece of writing. I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now...

This site's listing of Fantasy and Occult Eyes. Who ya gonna call?

Preliminary list respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Additions and comments are welcome.


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