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I enjoy reading science fiction, particularly since I write it. I happened to re-read a couple of classics published thirty years apart - "Fondly Fahrenheit" by Alfred Bester (1954) and "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson (1984). It was interesting to consider what was going on when these two stories appeared in print.

"Fondly Fahrenheit" was written and published in the era of the post-WW2 recovery and the Korean War from 1950-53. Science and technology were advancing in leaps and bounds. The cold war against communism was in full swing and Joe McCarthy was performing his version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" in the Senate.

Bester's story took aim at Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics by introducing an android that killed and destroyed property under particular conditions. It blended commentary on the insanity of war, the role of technology in the age of "duck and cover" being practiced in schools, and how things can get sidetracked (intentionally or not) by a human with fundamental issues in their own wiring.

The odd thing that threw me the first time I ever read the story was the constantly shifting viewpoint character. One minute it was the android, next it was the owner -- sometimes in the adjacent sentence. I initially thought it was an alien who could jump between bodies until Bester brought out a logical reason for the havoc. It also showed that Asimov's rules would work just fine as long as the android or robot was functioning properly.

It seems a little warm in here. All reet! All reet!

"Burning Chrome", from a great collection by the same name, came in the same year as Orwell's "1984". Personal computers were in many classrooms and homes, CompuServ and Bulletin Board Systems were tying up phone lines across the nation, and colleges were putting together computer curriculum as fast as they could. MTV was a huge hit, and they actually played music videos (starting with The Buggle's "Video Killed the Radio Star" in '81). Game systems evolved from Atari 2600's and the first video format wars found VHS killing off Sony's Betamax. Movies like "Bladerunner" evoked dark protagonists with flaws. 

This inundation of flashy color video and sound, combined with computers and sedentary gaming, began to distract the family units until they were islands of personality. If everyone gathered around something it was normally the television where the only talking came from the tinny speakers. Technology became a disruptive influence to the previous generation's ways, foreshadowing how it would impact the basis of what humanity would transition into in the near future. 

Gibson's writing voice is unique. He combines images in odd ways that can make sense if viewed from logical perspectives. "Chrome" is a fast-paced cyberpunk story that brings in all of the mish-mash of corporate mergers with a layer of technical worldbuilding that gives the children of the Computer Age something to hang on to. Heroes are antiheroes, technology is both ubiquitous and deadly dangerous, and underneath it all are down-and-out humans just trying to survive.

It seems that in the thirty years between these tales, technology is still a scary unknown. No matter how it advances, there's always the human element that can corrupt and pervert it. 

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