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Notes on "Real Life"

By Lewis Shiner

For a while in the early 90s I was hot. I made the San Francisco Chronicle's "Hipper Than Thou Reading List," I got name-checked in Jim Harrison's column in Esquire, and I got writing assignments from magazines of the moment like Spin.

But I wasn't really cut out for this sort of journalism, which seemed to be as much ironic attitude as reportage. This turned into one of the low points of my career, where I was collecting more in kill fees than in actual sales.

One of the corpses from this time is "Real Life," a piece ostensibly about Phil Dick, but also about the zeitgeist of the 90s, written before the 90s had really gotten started. It was the brainchild of a guy named Roger Trilling, an important and influential editor at Details magazine, who had excellent taste in fiction and pop music, and wanted to help my career. I remember driving around with him in East LA as he tried to explain his concept to me--part criticism, part fiction--and I have to admit I never really got it. I sent him a draft anyway, and we tried a couple of rewrites, but it never really satisfied either of us.

Rereading it now, what I like best are the parts that are most mine--the appreciation of Dick's work, the global political concerns. It's also as quaint and dated as Tron, one of the movies it references.


© 2007 by Lewis Shiner. First published in Fiction Liberation Front, October 2007. Some rights reserved.

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