inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #0 of 73: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 10 Aug 01 14:34
Our next guest, Pat Cadigan, is sometimes called The Queen of Cyberpunk,
although she says she never felt she was "at the heart of it," even though
she is often mentioned in the same breath as other cyberpunk writers such
as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and she was the only woman writer
included in the _Mirrorshades_ anthology.

Cadigan is the author of five novels.  Her first, _Mindplayers_, was
nominated for the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and her second and third
novels - _Synners_, and _Fools_ - both won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.  
Her work has also been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.  
She has written several short story collections, and some non-fiction
works, including _The Making of Lost in Space_.

When her work first gained attention, she was writing and editing for
Hallmark Cards in Kansas.  She now lives in London with her husband and

Cadigan's latest novel, _Dervish is Digital, brings back Detective
Lieutenant Doré Konstantin, who was introduced to us in _Tea from an Empty
Cup_.  Konstantin is in charge of Technocrime, Artificial Reality
Division.  These tales have been called the ultimate in cyberpunk noir
detective fiction.

She will be interviewed by Jennifer Powell, who has a long history with
communities, both as a political activist and community organizer. In the
past few years, she's been active in online communities as well, as
participant, host, and manager. Jennifer has worked for several prominent
online community sites, including, Petopia, and Netscape. Her
favorite online home is still The Well, where she's been a member and host
since 1993. She's also a part of the community management team at Utne
Communities, and acts as a board moderator at, a popular
site covering online games. Jennifer works as a freelance writer, covering
computers, technology, nature, and the environment. Her work has been
published in several commercial magazines as well as in scientific

Please join me in welcoming Pat and Jennifer to inkwell.vue!
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #1 of 73: tastefully minimal plug (jnfr) Fri 10 Aug 01 16:34
Thanks for the introduction, <castle>, and welcome Pat! I've had a lot of
fun looking into your background the past couple of weeks, and picking up a
few of your older books that I hadn't seen before. 

Since _Dervish is Digital_ is your most recent work, let's talk about this
book a little first. I have to admit that before I received this book I
didn't even realize that there was such a thing as "cyberpunk noir detective
fiction". And yet in some ways it seems like a natural combination, perhaps
because both genres have a darker side.

What brought you to write this kind of novel? Did you find that mixing the
genres created any special problems for you as an author?

For our readers here, I want to remind everyone that Pat is on London time,
and so our questions and answers will probably be posted with some time
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #2 of 73: Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Sat 11 Aug 01 02:12
Hi, there, and thanks for the warm welcome and nice introduction.

Yes, the timing on the Q&A may be a little drawn out since I'm on the
other side of the clock. I'll also be jockeying for position at the
computer with my 16 year old son Rob (The Artist Formerly Known As
Bobzilla, Scourge of the Midwest,now the epitome of London's Punk
Renaissance). So bear with me.:)

Let's see, cyberpunk noir detective fiction...

Well, I wish I could erupt with some profoundly erudite and insightful
pronouncement on literature in general and genre cross-pollination in
particular, but the truth is, I write the kind of thing that I like to
read, and afterwards, someone else tells me what it's called.

That's the short answer. The longer answer involves my love of
detective fiction and my belief that all the great stories are in fact
mystery stories first, as well as the fact that all of my stories
involve some kind of fantastic element. Why? Because I'm just that way.

Last month, I was in the south of France for a literary festival
called Soleil Noir--it's an annual event celebrating noir fiction, and
this year, they decided to focus on futuristic noir fiction (unquote).
The French have tons of the stuff, and very little, if any, has been
translated into English, so if you don't read French, you're missing
out. I read French a lot better than I speak it or understand it, but I
still have to have a dictionary handy and it's not easy for me, but
it's worth the effort! Anyway, the French find this a perfectly natural
combination, to the point where the designation is as unremarkable as
the fiction is terrific. Which is to say, exclaiming over the
combination of noir and science fiction--cyberpunk, if you will--is
like exclaiming over the idea of writing a story you made up in your

When I was much younger, I used to learn languages as a hobby; these
days, I'm going to take it up again because it's starting to dawn on me
that I'm missing a lot.
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #3 of 73: Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Sat 11 Aug 01 02:13

What do you have to do to get one of those witty headers on the post?
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #4 of 73: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sat 11 Aug 01 11:01
Pat, if you mean a "pseud", which is the tagline beside your login name, you
can change it by typing in a new one in the box at the top of the conference

I love the idea of the Soleil Noir, and I wish I could read fiction in
French. My husband is French-Canadian and his family is all French, and he's
always after me to learn the language. That would be a wonderful reason to
do so. Do you have any particular books or authors of futuristic noir that
you would recommend? 

I'm a mystery fan myself, and one thing that is intriguing about the
combination of genres is how the question of identity can be blurred and
played with. Identity is pretty central to mystery fiction, and this
blurring of identity underlies much of _Dervish_. Seems like it would be fun
to write, but I wonder whether the fluidity of the futuristic setting made
it harder to plot than a story in a more mundane, and constrained, setting.

Hmm, I guess there's a couple of questions hiding in there. First, what
intrigues you about playing with this concept of identity? And also, do you
ever get the urge to write in a non-futuristic setting?
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #5 of 73: Une Si Douce Apocalypse (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 03:03
OK, I think I've got it.:)

Une Si Douce Apocalypse is the title of a short story collection I'm
working my way through, Roget's in hand; it's by Jerome Leroy. I'm also
working on reading a novel called Tekrock by Roland C. Wagner. You'd
have to ask someone a lot more knowledgeable than I to authoritatively
recommend books and/or writers. I'm just getting acquainted, which is
rather embarrassing to admit, as I've been published in French for as
long as I've been published in English. Almost all of my novels have
been published in France and are still in print. I've had great luck
with translation there as well, as they are very true in spirit.
Strangely enough, sometimes I come across parts I think make better
prose in French than in English.

This is really strange because I'm not French, although I had quite a
lot of it in school. I enjoyed it, and it was easy for me to learn, but
it wasn't one of my special interests. There was a large
French-Canadian population where I grew up in north-central
Massachusetts, so perhaps it was a case of cultural osmosis or

Finding out that learning another language was not merely substituting
strange new words for the old familiar ones but actually learning
another perspective--perception of reality, if you will *chuckle*--was
a major satori in my young life.

Anyway. The issue of identity seems to be central in most of my own
work, or at least the perception of identity--e.g., is it a case of you
are what you eat, or is it that you are what they think you eat, or if
you are what you eat, what are you if you find out you haven't been
eating what you thought you were eating?

As for the futuristic setting in terms of ease or difficulty in
writing--it's always difficult no matter where or when you set a story,
but you get to choose which difficulties you think are worth putting
up with. I simply like thinking about what's going to happen tomorrow,
or the day after, or next year. I have written quite a lot of stuff set
in the present, all of it at shorter lengths, and I've written two
stories set in alternative 1960s, both for anthologies edited by Mike
Resnick. Those stories were among the most difficult things I've ever
attempted, because I was working with actual historical people and
events, and in spite of the alternative setting, I had to get all the
real details right. But I think it was worth it, as I'm rather pleased
with the way the stories turned out (and now a word from our sponsor:
both stories, "Dispatches From the Revolution" and "No Prisoners", from
Alternate Presidents and Alternate Kennedys respectively, can be found
in my collection Dirty Work, Ziessing 1993).

But, uh, where was I?
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #6 of 73: Une Si Douce Apocalypse Redux (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 03:17
(Hey, it's good enough for Coppola.)

What intrigues me about the concept of identity...well, how many years
were you planning to run this interview?:) Identity would seem to be
My Personal Question. If I had ever settled it in therapy, I probably
wouldn't have anything to write about. If someone were to ask me to
describe the underlying premise of the story of my life, I'd call it a
case of mistaken identity meets I Love Lucy.

Talk about high concept. I've always been suspicious of the whole idea
of high concept and I've just realized why.:)
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #7 of 73: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 12 Aug 01 07:29
I found this interesting quote re. gender and identity in Sandy Stone's
think, with the concept of 'disembodied' identity in VR and cyberspace...

"As clinicians and transsexuals continue to face off across the diagnostic
battlefield which this scenario suggests, the transsexuals for whom gender
identity is something different from and perhaps irrelevant to physical
genitalia are occulted by those for whom the power of the
medical/psychological establishments, and their ability to act as
gatekeepers for cultural norms, is the final authority for what counts as
a culturally intelligible body.  This is a treacherous area, and were the
silenced groups to achieve voice we might well find, as feminist theorists
have claimed, that the identities of individual, embodied subjects were
far less implicated in physical norms, and far more diversely spread
across a rich and complex structuration of identity and desire, than it is
now possible to express."

inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #8 of 73: Um, what was the question again? (patcadigan) Sun 12 Aug 01 17:42
I saw Sandy Stone do this wild song-and-dance--and I mean *literal*
song-and-dance--at a conference in Maine back in 1999. It was called
"That's Why The Lady Is A Trans....sexual." Prior to that, she had
argued that we are all, in some way, transed. Or trans'd. I agree with
that. But I'm pretty sure that I don't think of my own physical aspect
in quite the same way that a transsexual does. I think--and this is
only a theory, as I do not have first-hand experience--that if you have
lived a number of years with the certainty that your true sex doesn't
match your biology, your day-to-day awareness of being embodied is
something quite different. Perhaps if you feel that if you are, for
example, a woman trapped in a man's body, then you could say there
exists a virtual woman. But once the biology is corrected to match the
truth, what does that mean for the virtual woman?

In my own experience, my sex has both nothing and everything to do
with who I am and what I do and why. Which is to say, of course I am
who I am in large part because I'm female, but when I think of myself,
"female" isn't the first thing I think about myself, or even the
second. I don't think about it, because I have had the luxury of being
able to take it for granted. Because I do take it for granted, I also
take it for granted that I'm female with or without my body. Without my
body, however, there seems to be little point in thinking in terms of
male or female, unless you start thinking of male and female in the
virtual realm in terms of something like flavor--i.e., some people are
chocolate, some are raspberry ripple, and some are vanilla. (All of the
foregoing probably reveals me as being about as vanilla as you can
get, but I like to think of it as a rich, deep vanilla.:))

Meanwhile, I've just had another idea and I'd better go scribble it
down before I forget it...
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #9 of 73: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Sun 12 Aug 01 21:31
Well, you don't seem vanilla to me, at least not in the sense of "plain

I love the idea of "mistaken identity meets I Love Lucy". Sounds like quite
an interesting life. And not really high concept exactly... more kind of
mixed concepts. 

The gender issues of identity are interesting in themselves, of course, but
also interesting since part of your notoriety, for better or worse, is
because you are a woman writing cyberpunk -- which is considered to be a
boy's game for the most part. Why do you think that is? Women are "supposed"
to write fantasy, I guess because that's the softer stuff. And while there
are some women who are dazzling writers of hard s.f., cyberpunk is sort of
the hardest of the hard. At least that's how it's classified (in my
admittedly limited experience).

How do you wrap your mind around this "role" you've been slotted into, and
is it a comfortable one for you?
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #10 of 73: How many women w/PMS does it take to change a lightbulb? (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:06
Oddly enough, I had another one of those moments of clarity or
realization regarding this very thing when I was at Soleil Noir. All of
us British writers did a panel with Maxim Jakubowski moderating and I
was, as is often the case, the only woman. All the questions for the
other panelists were directly concerned with their work. My question
was about how I reacted to being the only woman. As is also often the
case...and is, in fact, very seldom not the case. It's a lot like the
old days, at the dawn of feminism, when someone--was it Gloria
Steinem?--remarked that no one ever asked a man how he managed to have
both a family and a career.:)

I mentioned this to Maxim, but not to rag on him about it. We both
agreed that it was a legitimate question, and when you're conducting a
panel discussion in which you have to pause after every sentence so the
translator can tell the audience what you said, you have to go with
intriguing things that will keep the audience from deciding that
listening to it is more trouble than it's worth.

Still, I think it's worth pointing out that the major thing for me as
the rare woman in cyberpunk is that, after almost twenty years, I'm
still the only writer who ever gets asked how I feel about being who I
am...or maybe, who I'm not. To my knowledge, no one has ever asked
Bruce Sterling why there aren't more women in cyberpunk and how he
feels about that. (If I'm wrong, and someone has, I'll be interested to
know what his answer was.)

The truth is, of course, that no one should expect Bruce to account
for the dearth of women or provide a theory about it. Perhaps it's only
logical for people to think that I might have some insight into why
that is. But I don't.

I don't *know* why there aren't more women. I've thought about it a
lot and I still have no idea. One of the few things I *do* know is that
all my life, I've often found myself the only woman in the group. And
that can be tough.

Every Friday here in London, a bunch of us freelance writers get
together for lunch. I'm usually the only woman. We used to get one
other semi-regularly, but she moved to Paris, and the commute is a bit
long, even just once a week. Is this because the guys are sexist, or
because I am, or is it society's fault?

Well, you can call the guys sexist, but you'll have to answer to me if
you do. These are my closest friends; I love them fiercely and I
wouldn't feel that way about them if they were bigots. 

You can call me sexist, but I know I'm not.

We could blame society, but this is usually only useful if you need a
subject for a doctoral dissertation.:)

Maybe we could come to the conclusion that sometimes statistics confer
false significance and the reason why there are so few women in
cyberpunk is that there just aren't many in the field. Cyberpunk is
something that seems to split along gender lines, but the circumstances
don't bear that out. No one is stopping women; no one is encouraging
men by telling them it's a great boys' club and they won't have to put
up with women.

Well, not to my knowledge anyway. If there's some conspiracy going on,
it's so extraordinarily efficient that I can only conclude it must be
extraterrestrial in origin, as human beings would have screwed up by
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #11 of 73: Yes, but what about the lightbulb? (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:16
So, how do I wrap my mind around this role I've been slotted into?
Same way I do everything else, actually. I've said this elsewhere, and
I'll keep saying it: I insist on living in a world in which the word
'feminist' is as quaint as the word 'suffragette.'

Which is to say, I just realized the other day that my famous 16 year
old son doesn't know that his grandmother was born the same year the US
Constitution was amended to allow women to vote. The idea of dividing
society along gender lines is alien to him. The concepts of 'girl
stuff' and 'guy stuff' are, to his mind, strictly for fashion design
and haute couture--lots of fun, but doesn't have much to do with what
you do for a living or what kind of person you choose to be. I love my
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #12 of 73: But the lightbulb... (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 02:22

Q. How many women with PMS does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. Oh, don't give me that already-heard-it crap. If anyone else around
here ever bothered to change a lightbulb once in a while instead of
always expecting *us* to do it, they wouldn't have time to be so goddam
critical. Do you even know where the lightbulbs are? Of course
not...etc., etc., etc.
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #13 of 73: sales ranking: 1,304,455 (wendyg) Mon 13 Aug 01 06:03
Hard to think of Pat as vanilla.  Last time I saw her was at some London
shindig -- Clarke awards, perhaps? -- something at the Science Museum,
anyway, and she had torrents of long, curly blo9nd hair and was dressed
sumptuously in dark red velvet.

Hi, Pat!

inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #14 of 73: David Calvarese (dhcalva) Mon 13 Aug 01 06:50
Sounds like French Vanilla with cherries or maybe red raspberries from that description, but I

Hopefully I'll get to read some of her work here shortly, got some on order from the local

inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #15 of 73: Now I'm a red-head... (patcadigan) Mon 13 Aug 01 08:44
Hi, Wendy.:)

Yeah, that sounds like the Clarke Awards. This year, we had a full
afternoon of readings and panel discussions before the evening
ceremony, and it was great. Lots of people came, and we managed to have
all the nominees present for the ceremony, and a good time was had by
all. This evening--which is not far off in this time zone--I'm doing a
gig at the Borders Books on Oxford Street. Once a month, I hold a sort
of discussion group-cum-talk show, interviewing two other writers about
their work, the universe, and life in general. This is our second one:
guests are Trisha Sullivan and Adam Roberts, and I'm hoping this
month's turn-out is as good as last month's.

David, I hope you enjoy whatever you can find.:)
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #16 of 73: sales ranking: 1,304,455 (wendyg) Mon 13 Aug 01 09:21
I was not invited to the Clarke awards this year, and never heard when they
were.  :(

Will try to come to the Oxford St. thing once the tennis evenings season is

inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #17 of 73: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 13 Aug 01 09:22
Well, dammit, now I wanna drag <bruces> over here and ask what he thinks
about gender and writing in cyberpunk!

But that's an excellent point you make about how simply being a woman means
you are somehow expected to answer for all women. I don't think that's
exclusive to science fiction writing. In many kinds of work, successful
women are rare, and I suspect lots of them end up having to "speak for their
gender" more often than they might like. 

Perhaps in this case it's because science fiction, as opposed to fantasy,
smacks of research and science which are both things too many women learn to
steer away from. Pure imagination seems less intimidating if you're not well
trained in science.

So, from that thought, how much research do you do for your books? Do you
draw on your own background? (I think you were a theatre major in school, is
that correct?) What are your sources, other than imagination, for your
vision of the future?
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #18 of 73: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 13 Aug 01 12:36

Also, I want to know more about this book, since I haven't read it, and it
really doesn't matter to me whether you are a woman or not. If it's a good
book, I wanna know about it!

And who is your famous 16-year-old son??

In the meantime, I will slink off and go see if Bruce will come and
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #19 of 73: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 13 Aug 01 14:32

*Well, I don't have to be dragged.

Pat is the Old-Skool Queen o' Cyberpunk, but I often
wonder if there's anybody *but* women writing cyberpunk,
nowadays.  You got Melissa Scott,  Ann Harris, Shari Lewitt, Lisa Mason,
Tricia Sullivan, et alia, and if you stretch it some more, even Joan Vinge
and wow, Poppy Brite with that gay Cajun hacker book she did...
I could likely find more  midlist, female writers doing
sci-fiberpunk right now, than there were ever men in MIRRORSHADES.
So "why aren't there more women" isn't even an issue.  "Why aren't they
any damn good," that would be a considerably more provocative query.

And then in this crowd of females, there's, I dunno,  there's Charles
Stross.   He's like the Prince-Pretender of Latter-Day Cyberpunk, when all
these aging graying 80s cyberguys are writing artsy pomo technothrillers
with their fountain pens.

If you were a sensible woman writer deeply interested in
cyber issues, would you want to be writing sci-fi for ASIMOV'S?
Why even go there and do that? Wouldn't you rather be Sadie Plant or Donna
Haraway, or at least Joan Gordon or Veronica Hollinger?  Prof. Donna Haraway
probably sits there next to the dean's office reading old tattered-cover
copies of Tiptree, and just chuckling.

I tend to imagine this imaginary woman-famine is just a Pat Cadigan thing.
She overshadows the others so thoroughly it's as if they don't exist.
Like, how come Pat Cadigan is the only American woman who gets top billing
*in British SF*? She wins more Clarke awards than anybody else, and she's
considered a muse and linchpin of the "New British Renaissance."  That's
like M John Harrison, and China Mieville, and Ken MacLeod, and Jon Courtenay
Grimwood, and Jon Newsinger, and a bunch of other men you've never heard of,
and there, turning up like a bad penny just as content as you please, *Pat
Cadigan.*  Two decades later and another damn continent.  Explain *that one*
away, if you can.  Ha!
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #20 of 73: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 13 Aug 01 19:02
Aha, she's a member of the sci-fi jet set!
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #21 of 73: Pat Cadigan (patcadigan) Tue 14 Aug 01 08:26
Wendy, I'm shocked, and sorry. I'll tell Paul Kincaid, and you will be
invited hereafter.

The afternoon event is now going to be an annual affair, with nominees
and previous winners and VIPs. I tried to get Ken Livingstone to
present the award, but I guess he was booked that night. You don't need
an invitation for that--you just show up at the museum. This year, it
cost everyone something like 7 pounds to get in, but after next month,
I think the Science Museum is either going to be free to get into, or
at least ridiculously inexpensive. So I'm hoping for an even bigger
crowd next year.

The Oxford Street Borders event is, in theory, supposed to happen on
the second Monday of every month, but we sometimes have to work around
conflicting schedules. September's event happens on the 24th, so I've
moved October back to the 15th rather than the 8th, just so they won't
be so close together. With any luck, November will return us to our
regularly scheduled Monday. December's event will be something more
interactive than usual.:)

Last night's event went very well. I had Tricia Sullivan and Adam
Roberts, and then brought up their editors, Tim Holman and Simon
Spanton (respectively) and grilled them for a while. Everyone seemed to
have a really good time, and once again, there were more people than
chairs. I love it when that happens.
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #22 of 73: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 14 Aug 01 10:49
What fun!
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #23 of 73: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 14 Aug 01 18:52
Pat emailed me that she's having some trouble accessing her account. I let
helpdesk know, so with any luck we'll be back at this tomorrow.
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #24 of 73: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 14 Aug 01 18:58

Thanks, Jennifer!!  Anxiously waiting for Pat to reappear...
inkwell.vue.120 : Pat Cadigan: Dervish is Digital
permalink #25 of 73: Hi, I'm Not Dead Yet-- (patcadigan) Wed 15 Aug 01 02:01
OK, I have reappeared successfully.:) Where was I...

Jennifer's question about research: yes, I was a theatre major when I
waw at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. But then I transferred
to the University of Kansas after I got married (my then-husband was
getting his doctorate in theatre there), and about a semester's worth
of credits got lost in the translation. So I ended up getting a
Bachelors of General Studies.

I started graduate school at KU in the English department, but after
one summer and one full semester, I had to face the fact that I really
did not want to remain in academia. I'm not really sure why, because I
love studying and learning, but I guess I just don't have the
temperament for structured postgraduate education.

Anyway, although I have to study like mad for the scientific content
of my work, this is tempered by the fact that I pretty much write about
things I want to know more about in the first place, so I end up
writing about things I'm intensely interested in. A theatrical
background is useful, but I've found that my decade of experience in a
large corporation is often even more useful.:)


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