"Heatseeker" gathers together a selection of John Shirley's short works from 1975 to 1988. "Wolves of the Plateau" (originally published in the Cyberpunk issue of the "Mississippi Review") is included. Also, there are three previously published stories: "I Live in Elizabeth," "Equilibrium," and "Recurrent Dreams of Nuclear War Lead B.T. Quizenbaum into Moral Dissolution." Like his novels, the stories cover an enormous spectrum, from cyberpunk to fantasy, metaphysical horror to humorous SF. Included are less than a third of Shirley's total short fiction, but the nineteen stories are fine examples of the power and whimsy of Shirley's muse.
The five cyberpunk stories-- "Ticket to Heaven," "Six Kinds of Darkness," "Sleepwalkers," "Under the Generator" and "Wolves of the Plateau"--bring to it a street-level grittiness, told by someone who had been there. Shirley's stories, more than any other of the cyberpunks, deal with the punk atmosphere first. So, instead of reading like a crazed Heinlein or a Stapledon, Shirley writes like a demented H.P. Lovecraft. It was small wonder when Shirley quit writing science fiction to concentrate on his horror novels.
"Heatseeker," like Gibson's 1986 short fiction collection "Burning Chrome," is most notable for displaying the wide range of fiction types and styles written by the c-punks. (Of particular note is "Quill Tripstickler Eludes a Bride," the best science- fictional P.G. Wodehouse pastiche in print; even better than Bruce Sterling's "The Beautiful and the Sublime.") Although Shirley-- like Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, Cadigan, et al.--was an integral part of 80's cyberpunk, it was never the be-all or end-all of his writing. "Heatseeker" is definitive proof of this.
1988, 246 pgs, HB
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The old parasite had been in the hospital for three years, a record by two and a half years for being under the generator. He could smell death a long way away.
"All right, but so what?" Denton said impulsively. "So you're right. It's a girlfriend."
"She got pussy cancer?" Hollow laughter reverberated inside the
scoop. Lines of mirth on the old man's face meshed indistinguishably with lines of pain.
Denton wanted to smash the plastic of the scoop to get at the old politician's sour mouth with his fist. Instead, he said coolly: "No. She was knifed."
Jerome's scalp tightened. A systems link. A mini-Plateau. Sharing minds. Brutal intimacy. Maybe some fallout from the Plateau. He wasn't ready for it.
If it went sour he could get time tacked onto his sentence for attempted jailbreak. And somebody might get dusted. They might have to kill a human guard. Jerome had once punched a dealer in the nose, and the spurt of blood had made him sick. He couldn't kill anyone. But...he had shit for alternatives. He knew he wouldn't make it through two years anyway, when they sent him up to the Big One. The Big One'd grind him up for sure. They'd find his chip and it'd piss them off. They'd let the bulls rape him and give him the New Virus; he'd flip out from being locked in and chipless and they'd put him in Aversion Rehab and burn him out totally.