Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod, whose new book The Execution Channel is now out from Tor Books, was interviewed by Andrew Leonard for Salon back in 1999.

Here's the introduction to the interview:

Ken MacLeod is the greatest living Trotskyist libertarian cyberpunk science-fiction humorist. It's a safe claim to make, because he is undoubtedly the only such creature. The 44-year-old Scot and former computer programmer imagines futures full of both socialist unions and libertarian enclaves, warring with each other and within themselves. You don't often find communist mercenaries working for capitalist insurance companies in science fiction. In Ken MacLeod's future, such political incongruities are a joyous fact of life. Add your regular cyberpunk ingredients -- machine consciousness, post-human trickery, cool gadgets and lots of good drugs and rock 'n' roll -- and you have a heady, rollicking brew.

MacLeod's political fiction is no pose. He's a former Communist Party member who has won two Prometheus awards for best libertarian science fiction novel. After his American editor told me that MacLeod was a regular "trenchant" contributor to Internet-based discussion groups, I decided to do some cyberspace stalking. Where does he hang out? The bulk of his contributions are in the Usenet newsgroup "rec.arts.sf.written." No surprise there -- r.a.s.w. is one of the oldest watering holes on the Net -- quite a few authors congregate there with their fans, critics and peers. But his next most favored spot is "alt.politics.socialism.trotsky" -- and after that, a little down the list, "talk.politics.libertarianism." One of MacLeod's hobbies, it seems, when he's between books, is plunging into the Internet fray to argue about what Marx and Engels really intended, and to engage in the endless hair-splitting dear to libertarians.

Working out a left-wing theory of libertarianism might strike some observers as a headlong dive into a thicket of ultra-thorny contradictions. Can't be done, you might think. And certainly, there are no ultimate answers contained in the four-book arc -- "The Star Fraction," "The Stone Canal," "The Cassini Division" and "The Sky Road" -- that MacLeod has constructed since 1995. But MacLeod's keen intelligence and sharp sense of humor make the journey more than worthwhile -- and definitely beg the question: Who is this guy? Where did these politics come from? MacLeod agreed to answer some of these questions via e-mail.
Read the interview.

Discover more about The Execution Channel.

--Marshal Zeringue