Friday, February 09, 2007

KILL JOY: Richard Clarke offs famous vi editor

Readers will remember I dissed the idea of Richard Clarke's new technothriller about a month ago here.

This was a hasty decision, one it is time to partially retract.

For El Reg, DD produced a detailed review of Breakpoint.
Richard Clarke, the world's most famous security expert, has a new book entitled Breakpoint. A techno-thriller, it takes its place among its equivalents, romance fictions for American men, a genre for combining combat action porn with loving trademarked descriptions of weapons. The men in this story get hard over firearms, scotch and a chardonnay named Kistler.

However, it's as silly to condemn the genre as it is to disrespect hotdogs as not proper food. Techno-thrillers have made up a necessary part of the book rack in supermarkets for the last few decades and many Americans probably wouldn't buy anything with print in it if they didn't see it near the checkout stand.

Read here if you want to see the rest but be advised, it's loaded with spoilers.

What makes Breakpoint a bit of an eyebrow-raiser is Clarke's inclusion of Bill Joy, a famous computer programmer who invented the vi editor. You probably don't remember it but vi was an editor that made writing doable in cyberspace at connection speeds of 1200-2400 baud. This may seem quaint in today's world of high speed and buggy bloatware but DD can assure you it was anything but.

In Breakpoint, Joy is portrayed slightly unflatteringly as a central character named William Gaudium. Get it? If not, look here.

Teamed with Joy in Clarke's novel is Jerry Boykin, of all people. Boykin, to refresh your memory is America's top commando and an evangelizing religious fanatic who got into trouble mixing his beliefs with his role in the war on terror. See here among other places.

Now don't you want to know how it ends?

Clarke installs the standard slight legal wave-off in the author's preamble on all the characters being works of fiction and if one recognizes them one is surely mistaken. Ha-ha, nice try.


Anonymous James Aach said...

I'd note that both editorial decision-making, and the marketplace, have driven techno-thrillers toward "a genre for combining combat action porn with loving trademarked descriptions of weapons." Not quite all of them are like that, but unfortunately miliary technology is the only type that citizens (and literary agents and editors) as a whole seem to feel very comfortable with. This is a shame, since we humans learn well via story-telling, and we certainly need to understand our technology better.

See my brief essay on the topic at .

Forgive the brief promo, but you can also find an example in my own nuclear power techno-thriller "Rad Decision", available online at no cost to readers at They seem to like it judging from the homepage comments. I've worked in the US nuke industry over two decades. It's also now in paperback at online retailers.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, founder of "The Whole Earth Catalog" and noted futurist.

5:38 PM  
Blogger George Smith said...

Related, on a segment of the Dale Brown franchise.

The game based on the combat porn techno-thriller.

As you've seen, being famous writes the ticket. As far as being knowledgeable about science -- rather than being someone informed by a supermarket mag -- Richard Clarke strikes out although readers of Breakpoint would be unlikely to know it.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous James Aach said...

"Being famous writes the ticket" rather than being knowledgeable about science....

Yep. That's why I've turned to the internet to get the word out. My other choice was to become famous first, but that wasn't working out so well.

1:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home