Friday, January 02, 2004

Open book

It's amazing quite how much gets revealed in inadvertent moments on-line (as opposed to deliberate things like blogs). Not just addresses for spammers to harvest, but in things that are conveniences as well. Amazon.com/.co.uk/etc. traces, for example - everyone leaving their marks, so their system can say "if you bought that, then you might like this" based on everyone else who's done similar things. Having over the last year gotten my Amazon book recommendations down to a neat list of hard/philosophical SF, purging all the spaceship fiction crap like David Drake, or David Weber, or Bujold that kept on creeping on each time I looked [It's not true to say the only sort of SF I like is stuff that concerns itself first and foremost with the Fermi Paradox or related topics like Transcendence or Singularity, but it's a very good first approximation. I certainly don't care for stuff that's effectively historical adventure rebadged - I'll read the straight historical stuff instead, thank you - or is in the style of the US Marines Conquer the Galaxy.] I'd just about got it stabilised - until I put the 3rd Dirty Pair Flash DVD onto my wish-list, and admitted to owning the first two and liking them.

And the list filled up with all sorts or anime/manga stuff. And I thought, well, why not have a look at some of the things that they suggest - it worked with the various CDs that I bought having followed up recommendations after admitting to liking Godspeed you! Black Emperor and Dirty Three. And one thing led to another.

So currently I'm part-way through the Chobits manga [and the book recommendations list is now full of other Japanese romance manga, which have to go the way of Messrs Drake and Weber]. On one level, Chobits is a sappy, but very sweet, geek romance story. On another it's the Pygmalion myth meets the Stepford Wives. On another, it's actually touched on issues that are surfacing in the real world - not just the Japanese gimmicks like the Virtual Girlfriend and whatever, but the whole field of affective computing - the sort of thing that was recently described on the SL4 mailing list as "Chocolate chip cookies for the soul". I know that there are only two ways that the story can end - yes or no - (well, four actually, if you also consider the orthogonal happy/sad axis), but the journey looks to be interesting, and I'm not hurrying it (endings being a problem, as I noted in the review of Absolution Gap, at the end of last month).

There are a couple of things that have bubbled to the surface that are truly geeky to comment on. First, it's clear that the translators are not British, or at least not British and a certain age - Little Plum is a Red Indian brave from the pages of the Beano (or maybe the Dandy). Second, the specs given for a laptop personal computer (6GHz processor, 1.28Gb RAM) will be commonplace about 2007 - somewhat earlier than the 2026 internal date of the story - another reason why you should never quote a hardware spec, especially not in conjunction with a date.

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