Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Moscow Rules

I am an unabashed William Gibson enthusiast. I was first made aware of him over a decade ago, when some documentary on TV that discussed computers and cyberpunk happened to mention him. Suitably intrigued, since I both loved Science Fiction and was contemplating pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics, it was with some amount of glee that I discovered that my first University girlfriend (Vanessa, all pink hair and piercings) had a copy of "Neuromancer" on her apartment's coffee table.

I still remember sitting cross-legged on Vanessa's apartment floor, devouring the novel as I waited for her to return from meeting a friend, when there was a knock at the door. I was slightly surprised, upon opening it, to find an older woman carrying what appeared to be a load of washing. A fellow resident of Vanessa's apartment block, maybe?

"Who are you?" were the first words out of this woman's mouth. Strange.

"Vanessa's boyfriend," I replied. "Who are you?"

"Vanessa's mum."

Oh, right. And that's the first time I ever met the mother of a girlfriend of mine.

Anyhow, "Neuromancer" fired my imagination like few other books have, and remains one of my all time favourite novels. I read "Count Zero" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive", rounding out his "first trilogy", along with the short story collection "Burning Chrome" (notable for including "Johnny Mnemonic", which was adapted into a failed Keanu Reeves vehicle). I also picked up his "second trilogy", "Virtual Light", "Idoru", and "All Tomorrow's Parties". But nothing really touched "Neuromancer", not for me.

"Pattern Recognition", released in 2003, was a bit of a departure, set as it was in the current day as opposed to some future dystopia. I read that during my travels around Ireland and London, which prefaced my move to the US. In a lot of ways I appreciated his latest effort more than any other since his debut, and not just because the heroine of "Pattern" (Cayce) mirrored the protagonist of "Neuromancer" (Case).

This month saw the release of Gibson's most recent novel, "Spook Country", which appears to be a sequel to "Pattern Recognition". I must say "appears", because as with his previous trilogies the books do not follow each other in clear succession, but rather contain linked settings, characters, and themes. I literally just put down the book, and urge anyone who has enjoyed his previous efforts to pick up this one.

I have also trawled through some of Gibson's interviews (here is one from Salon.com). One item that he has mentioned repeatedly, and something that I find quite interesting, is how the internet, and Google and Wikipedia in particular, have affected both the writing and the reading process. He mentions how there are projects on the web already (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS) detailing Google links and pictures of items that appear in the novel, which closely mirror paths he found himself following when researching for the novel. I find this fascinating from both perspectives, not only to have a deeper appreciation for elements he touches upon in the novel itself, but as how I use these same tools as a writer. In fact, in my last minute preparations for National Novel Writing Month last November I printed out several Wikipedia articles on alcoholism and addiction (yes, my novel was an artifact of sweetness and light) to get myself kick-started.

While going through some of these collections of links and articles inspired by "Spook Country", I came across a reference to "The Moscow Rules". "The Moscow Rules", for those of you who are not Cold-War-Heads, "is the name for rules of engagement said to have been developed by the CIA during the Cold War to be used by spies and others working in Moscow". While reviewing the list I couldn't help but think that here was a great little list to have in mind while you played poker, be it cash or tournament, legal, or not-so-much. I'm not saying that these are Poker Gospel (I can nitpick with more than one or two of these) I just regard it as a nice set of guidelines to keep close at hand.

Wikipedia lists two sets of rules, and I have decided to repeat the set that is displayed at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. I may have to print these out and keep them by my side during every session.
  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Never go against your gut.
  3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  4. Don't look back; you are never completely alone.
  5. Go with the flow, blend in.
  6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  7. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  8. Don't harass the opposition.
  9. Pick the time and place for action.
  10. Keep your options open.
There is another "rule" that is not part of this particular set, but which I'd like to add to the previous ten: "Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action."

Words to live by.

1 Comments:

  • I've been on the fence about getting the new Gibson book now or waiting a billion years until the library has a copy. I think the decision is made.

    I too will be printing out the rules...but at the rate i misplace pieces of paper I'd be best to tattoo 'em somewhere.

    By Blogger Kat, at 11:30 PM  

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