Created by George Alec Effinger
When George Alec Effinger dropped When Gravity Fails in 1987, nobody was expecting a ballsy cyberpunk mash-up of Raymond Chandler and 1001 Arabian Nights–or that it would work as well as it did.
Although, come to think of it, cyberpunk already owed a good deal of its grittiness and jaded cynicism to the hard-boiled private eyes of the pulps and film noir, a prime example being William Gibson’s 1984 sci-fi classic Neuromancer which boasted some of the best Chandleresque prose I’d seen in years.
But I digress…
It’s the late 22nd century, and pill-popping street hustler and sometime “private strongarm” MARÎD AUDRAN scratches out a living in a crowded, noisy unnamed Arab city, in the Budayeen district, “a polycultural…underworld so grim, stark and sleazy that,” according to Spider Robinson, “it makes Blade Runner’s Los Angeles look like Sunnybrook Farm.”
It’s a world where folks can jack a new personality module directly into their brain when real life isn’t enough. In When Gravity Fails, a psychopath who can’t decide if he’s James Bond or Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the Budayeen and Friedlander Bey, local crime lord, decides serial killers are bad for business. So he hires Marîd to make the streets safe for crime again. Soon enough, our hero’s much valued independence, not to mention his life, are at stake. Especially when he decides to get his own brain wired, in an effort to catch the killer.
In the sequel, A Fire in the Sun (1990), Marîd finds himself reluctantly working more or less full-time for Bey, and by 1990’s The Exile Kiss (1990), he’s risen through the ranks to become one of Bey’s most trusted “enforcers.”
Literate, and provocative, Effinger got bonus points from me for using both Chandler and Bob Dylan quotes in the epigraphs, and the series looked like it was really going places. Unfortunately, Effinger passed away in 2002. His widow, fellow sci-fi writer Barbara Hambly, edited and wrote a foreword for Budayeen Nights, a 2003 collection of various short stories and other bits and pieces, all featuring or somehow connected to Audran and Budayen–including an excerpt from the uncompleted fourth novel, Word of Night.
- “A breakthrough novel…This is what cyberpunk will be when it grows up.”
— Orson Scott Card on When Gravity Fails
- “Like a dive into the eye of a storm…”
— The Washington Post Book World on When Gravity Fails
- “This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve been asked to give a public comment on an Effinger book; and each time I’ve done it; and each time I’ve said you people are cheating yourselves if you don’t forego food and rent to pick up on Effinger’s work. Now, *this* time, will you for pete’s sake listen to me and buy When Gravity Fails? It’s as crazy as a spider on ice skates, plain old terrific; and if you don’t pay attention I’ll have to get tough with you! We have your childen and your dog. Buy, read and marvel…or else.”
— Harlan Ellison on When Gravity Fails
- “A Fire In the Sun proves beyond any doubt that Effinger is a master.”
— Mike Resnick
- “I miss George. He made me laugh a lot. The best writer writing in New Orleans for a long time.”
— O’Neil De Noux
- When Gravity Fails (1987) | Buy this book | KIndle it!
- A Fire in the Sun (1990) | Buy this book | KIndle it!
- The Exile Kiss (1990) | Buy this book | KIndle it!
- “Marid Changes His Mind” (May 1989, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine)
- “The World As We Know It” (1992, Futurecrime)
- “Marid and the Trail of Blood” (1995, Sisters of the Night)
- “Marid Throws a Party” (2003, Budayeen Nights)
The projected opening of Word of Night, the uncompleted fourth Budayeen novel
- Budayeen Nights (2003) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Foreword by Barbara Hambly. Includes all the Marid stories, plus several other stories, most set in Budayeen.
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- Down Those Mean Skies
An ever-expanding list of Sci-Fi P.I.’s.