One area of extrapolation that has been thoroughly mapped out by Gibson, Shirley, Kadrey, Dick, and Burroughs is the crime-ridden streets of future mega-cities. "When Gravity Fails" finds George Alec Effinger traveling down a similar speculative highway. This enjoyable (albeit derivative) c-punk novel takes place in the Budayeen, an Arab urban jungle brimming with wild life and easy death. What unfolds in front of this grim backdrop is a type of detective thriller that has been called a "gotta" book (as in, "I'll be there soon, I gotta finish this chapter").
While most of "Gravity's" landscape has already been surveyed by the aforementioned authors, one interesting exploration of Effinger's is "gender blending". Sex change operations have become so thorough and commonplace that it is next to impossible to know what sex a person may have started out life as - and, to most people, it doesn't matter. There is no longer a stigma attached to sexual origin. Red-blooded heterosexuals think nothing of marrying someone of the opposite sex who didn't start out that way. There is also a grey zone of transvestitism and hermaphrodism that is still stigmatized, but even so, gender issues are much more relaxed than in our current society. Effinger is also fascinated with moddie chips which figure very heavily in "Gravity's" plot.
"When Gravity Fails" is the first in a trilogy of books that explore the world of the Budayeen. It is followed by "A Fire in the Sun" and "The Exile Kiss."
When Gravity Fails
George Alec Effinger
Arbor House, 1986
Graphic: Inset of cover art for Cyberspace (game).
Here is the TEXT POPUP for When Gravity Fails:
As the hologram faded, another women's voice over-dubbed the details of manufacturer and cost. "Haven't you tried modular marital aids? Are you still using holoporn? Look, if using a rubber is like kissing your sister, then holoporn is like kissing a "picture" of your sister! Why stare at a holo of Honey Pilar, when with her new moddy you can jam the livin' daylights out of her again and again, whenever you want! Come on! Give your girlfriend or boyfriend a new Honey Pilar moddy today! Modular marital aids as novelty items only."
Saied the Half-Hajj was tall and well-built, rich, and strictly homosexual; he wouldn't be seen in the company of a women, real, renovated, or reconverted. He was called the Half-Hajj because he was so scatterbrained that he could never start one project without getting distracted in the middle by two or three others. Hajj is the title one gets after completing the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the other Pillars of Islam. Saied had actually begun the journey several years ago, made about five hundred miles, and then turned back because he'd had a magnificent money-making idea that he forgot before he reached home again.