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Bewildering Stories

The Critics’ Corner

Literary Influences in “Rusted Chrome”

by Bill Bowler and Karlos Allen

Bill Bowler: Simple, straightforward, unadorned narration. Good opening scene with action and plot hook. Huge conceptual debt to William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Snow Crash. Lukyanenko has also explored the cyberpunk template in a very interesting way, and I wonder whether Karlos has read him.

I’ve recently been reading Hammett, and novel after novel by Chandler, and have been fully immersed in hardboiled-detective land. The first word in Rusted Chrome is “Detective” and the protagonist is labeled as such. What other elements of characterization establish O’Leary as a detective aside from authorial fiat? How persuasive is police procedure, and does it matter?

Bill Bowler

Karlos Allen: To be entirely honest, I’ve never read William Gibson’s Burning Chrome — nor have I seen any of the Matrix movies. The title was suggested by a friend mine after he read the story. He had read Burning Chrome and felt that it would fit.

As far as I know I haven’t read any actual “cyber-punk” at all, though the concepts are all through SF — Keith Laumer’s short story “Cocoon” for instance.

The genesis of this story is kind of an odd one. I happened to walk into an office supply store and see, of all things, an electric typewriter (an IBM Selectric, I think.) I didn’t know they still made them!

This got me to thinking about the old Hardy Boys mystery stories where one of the common ways they could catch crooks was by identifying the typewriter the ransom note or whatever was written on, because every typewriter has its own unique fingerprint — and of course the crook always used one from a public library (thoughtful, that.)

At any rate, that put me onto the idea of the old film noir mysteries and the mental image that followed me was one of Alan Ladd looking up from a desk wearing a fedora. Most of the tone came from some of Keith Laumer’s stories, which used that same sarcastic voice.

Beyond that, I made point to write what I know. All of the places in the story are real. The grove of redwoods is real, and it really was planted by the great-grandparents of the current farmer. Manning, Tangent, Tanasbourne, the Pearl Distrct and that view of Mt. Hood from the upper floor of the VA Hospital all exist, though changed a little.

Many of the conversations have happened, and of course the “cap” technology is being developed by various computer companies. In fact for a while I was afraid reality would get ahead of the story before I finished it!

Karlos Allen

Copyright © 2010 by:
Bill Bowler and Karlos Allen

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