May 6, 2008

Earth to the Dandy Warhols

Space makes me happy. Actually, anything that's somewhat related to science fiction tends to put me into a good mood. Thus, the new track from the Dandy Warhols (who are already somewhat a geek band in my mind after lending a song for the theme song for Veronica Mars), is good. What makes it even better though, is that they got Hard Sci-Fi writer Richard K. Morgan, who's penned a couple of my favorite books and who's a rising star in the field, to write their bio:

Special Investigative Bulletin 2137

Out there, orbiting, denting our data-space with their transmissions, The Dandy Warhols pose, if not an actual threat, then at least a series of pressing questions; Where do they come from? What drives them? And perhaps most of all, what do the Dandy Warhols want with us?
Detail, of course, is hard to come by, scarred as it is with star static, multiply censored dataflow and blasts of what our ancestors would doubtless have referred to as feedback. But this much is (probably) certain:

Sponsored more or less from birth by a host of cutting edge biotech firms anxious for product placement, it was perhaps inevitable that Courtney Taylor-Taylor would become the “acceptable face” of augmented humanity. His biocodes had been trimmed for upfront deployment and extreme-impact diplomacy, and his membership of the Rim States aristocracy provided him with ample opportunity to hone these enhancements to a monofilament edge. This he duly did, though not always showing a great deal of subtlety or concern for legality in the process. Response to his transgressions varied – the ordinary citizens of the Rim quickly adopted his image as one of iconic Everyman revolt and cool, while the elites despised and feared him in about equal measure and for much the same reason. Before long, he was at quiet but remorseless war with the oligarchy that had produced him, a state of affairs that could really only have one outcome: Taylor-Taylor shipped out for Mars, one small step ahead of massing suspicious circumstance, probable cause and society scandal that not even the ubiquitous influence of clan Taylor-Taylor itself could fully suppress. Though never officially confirmed, the dataflow rumour is that RimSec offered the aristo clan the option of exiling their wayward scion as the only alternative to immediate arrest and psycho-chemical “counselling”. Whatever the truth of this, Taylor-Taylor applied for the Mars Uplands HHD (Hazardous Human Dynamics) Control Team, and was immediately accepted for duty. Whether out of characteristic bravado or quite genuine boredom with life on Earth, he signed on for the full five year stint.

Brent DeBoer, the story goes, came out of the desert at Bradbury station on foot, bruised, sun-scarred, severely dehydrated and still jacked directly into the AI core that he’d been carrying on his back for the last three days. Until he appeared, everyone at Bradbury just assumed he’d burnt up in the atmosphere with the rest of his meteorite-riddled ship. After he appeared, what no-one could figure out was how, or more importantly, why he’d carried the fifty seven kilo core back to civilisation. At the MarsNet press conference a week later, it was a question that seemed to puzzle him. “You don’t leave your friends behind,” he’s reported to have said. “The AI got me down safely, least I could do was walk it out of there.” Like a growing number of young spacers, DeBoer’s empathy range appears to have increased exponentially with mission time as if to balance a similarly evolving enhanced capacity for complex problem-solving. “He’s talking to the machines at levels we simply can’t understand anymore,” an Agency neurochemical engineer who asked to remain anonymous told MarsNet Channel Five. “And it’s given him this, I dunno, this serenity. It’s like he’s reached this fundamental relationship with the underlying nature of reality that’s denied to ordinary humans.” In many ways the most mysterious of the Dandys, DeBoer has never confirmed or denied this report, but admits that “down at the quantum level, yeah, there’s a lot of weird shit going on, and it does tend to make you smile.”

It’s not known what covert operations purpose Peter Holmstrom was originally intended to serve, nor who funded the programme. What is an undisputed matter of record is that he was decanted early during a genetic policy crisis, nine years off the start of the new century and six or seven biomesh chemicals short of the mix RimSec guidelines generally consider “advisable for good citizenship.” Rumour (and careful data-feed extrapolation) puts Holmstrom on the streets of the Angeline Freeport not long after, exploiting this chemical imbalance to “unlicensed ends” and displaying what point-of-impact corporate enforcement sources would later term “a profoundly non-cooperative stance.” Such allegiances as he made at this time were limited to fringe groups like the Ground Out Crew, the Chemical Transformatives and (possibly, though unsubstantiated) Ishmael’s Little Watchers. Other detail is sparse, and amounts to little more than a general agreement among Angeline eye-witnesses that “you did not want to cross wires with that Holmstrom unit, man.” Given the state of social and political flux current in the Freeport at the time, it is perhaps no surprise that Holmstrom largely disappears from the official dataflow during this period and is next heard of as an HHD consultant in the Martian uplands beyond Wells Camp. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is where he first met Courtney Taylor Taylor, during a terra-forming functions collapse both men had been detailed to manage back to safe levels; in all probability it was this potentially lethal shared experience that caused the two men to begin laying the groundwork for the early Dandys protocols.

Demobbed relic of a Russo-British deep-reach mission whose heroic aspirations were never quite matched by its technical back-up or funding, Zia McCabe came back – to the extent anyone ever does – wired for rapid response and troubleshooting with limited tools to hand. “Out there,” she told the Rim States debriefing agent unsmilingly, “you can’t just order something from the machinery like it was home-delivered blinis. You don’t improvise quick and solid, don’t make that patch, then you’re frozen meat in a cometary. It’s a state of mind thing, not just training. Call it Vacuum Zen.” The Agency, it seems, took her at her word. Her Rim citizenship was expedited, the software patches she’d self-modified in-mission were re-licensed under the 2103 Hernandez Amendment, and within weeks she was back out at the edge of things with the Dandys. Attempts to glamorize this in local media feeds met with a stony response. “I’m here for the work I do. Go ask the rest of the crew what kind of lipstick they wear. Why do I get all the stupid questions?” To date, McCabe remains the youngest graduate of the Vladivostock Institute ever to hold a Saturn Haulage captain’s accreditation. She holds an A-rating from the Pilot Assessor’s Oversight Office and her prior deep-reach experience permits her to operate most types of hard-space rig; her matched software reputedly runs somewhere in the 90-150 terahertz range. Last year, she was ranked eleventh in Chronos magazine’s Hundred Most Influential Women in Space.

- filed by Richard K. Morgan
Reporting from a time and place in the dataflow where it still only takes one person to read the news.

Seriously, that's just damn cool. If you haven't done so, check out Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies (The Kovaks Trilogy), or Thirteen, by Morgan. And, of course, give this track a listen.

The World, The People Together (Come On) - The Dandy Worhols