Friday, May 28, 2010

Greg Egan - Janeen Webb

From the MUP Encyclopedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Paul Collins.

"writes extrapolative fiction that is focused on a cluster of ideas central to the philosophy of science, particularly as it relates to quantum mechanics, biotechnology and the post-human condition.
Egan has published one fantasy novel and three science fiction novels. Quarantine (1992) and Permutation City (1994) won Ditmar awards for best Australian science fiction novel in 1993 and 1995; Distress (1995) won an Aurealis Award. Egan has also won Ditmar awards for best Australian short science fiction for 'Closer' (1992) in 1993 and 'Cocoon' (1994) in 1995.
Egan's early genre work includes An Unusual Angle (1983), a slightly stream-of-consciousness fantasy concerned with the moral and social responsibilities of film and television. This theme is evident in short stories such as 'Tangled Up' (1985), 'Mind Vampires' (1986). `Scatter My Ashes' (1988),'Neighbourhood Watch' (1986) and 'Beyond the Whistle Test' (1969).
Egan's background in computer programming for medical research is reflected in works concerned with interaction between the biological human and the computer. His post-human Australian futures feature the 'downloading' of the self, or its augmentation through 'neural modifications'. Short stories such. as 'Learning to be Me' (1990), 'Transition Dreams' (1993) and 'Chaff' (1993) explore these themes, which are extended in the novel Quarantine (1992), where bioengineering allows people to modify their mindsas they wish, through software 'mods'. Egan uses the common science fiction plot device of the private detective protagonist to explore this fictional sociery and to provide a platform for examination of the ethical implications of biomodific trion.
The title refers to the Bubble enclosure of our solar system by alien forces seeking to protect other life forms from human choice-based logic, which depletes the universe of its infinite possibilities.
In Pertuntation City (1994), which derives partly from the 1992 story 'Dust', Egan further extrapolates the post-human condition, exploring human consciousness, questioning the distinctions between self-transformation and death and postulating non-human evolution. The novel's thesis is that human minds can be downloaded into virtual environments where the resultant copies can exist forever as virtual people, provided the world's computer networks remain stable.
Permutation City is deliberately clever, with chapter headings that are anagrams of the title and of each other, and an opening poem constructed of anagrammatical permutations.Virtual characters in the Sanctuary act out endless permutations of their meta-lives until the virtual construct begins to collapse. The Lam,bertians, a non-human biological race created in a meta-construct, the Autoverse, evolve towards a different concept of reality that threatens their creators.
Distress (1995), which continues Egan's theme of human logic as contagion, is centred on Theories of Everything, further extending Egan's philosophical exploration of current scientific thought. The investigator protagonist, science journalist Andre'' Worth, provides the narrative links. Set in 2055, Distress portrays a future where questions of gender arc obsolete: available sexual options range from. gendered augmentation to complete physical and mental neutrality as 'neural asex'."

4 out of 5

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