I want you to read Dydeetown World.
Mainly because I really, really like the novel. Authors are asked all the time which books are their favorites. I usually hedge because I like various books for various reasons. The Keep because it gave me an international audience, Sibs because it wrote itself so quickly, The Select because it made me so much money, The Haunted Air because I love the theme.
But Dydeetown World has a special place in my heart, though I haven’t the faintest idea why. So it bothers the hell out of me that no one’s reading it.
Maybe it’s the title. I’m the first to admit it’s a sucky title. Reminds people of diapers. I hadn’t thought of that when I named it. The Dydeetown of the title is the UN building which, in this future, has been turned into a whorehouse. (Some might say that’s truth in advertising at last, but let’s not get sidetracked.) When the new tenants moved in, the complex was renamed Aphrodite Town; over the years the name devolved to Dydeetown. On my future Earth, everything’s for sale, thus… Dydeetown World.
This story developed from an opening hook that had lain fallow in my notebook for years. The plot, characters, tone, milieu, just about everything in the story sprang from that one sentence:
I gathered from the medium-size Tyrannosaurus rex running loose in his yard that Yokomata discouraged drop-in company.
You have no idea how badly I wanted to open the story with that line, but it simply didn’t work. I’d need too much backfill. So it wound up opening section 4.
It started as a short story – five, maybe six thousand words tops. A quiet little SF tribute to Raymond Chandler whose work has given me such pleasure over the years. As part of my usual process, I took all the tropes of noir P-I fiction and gave them my own twist. I’ve got a down-and-out private investigator with an addiction, I’ve got the tired, seamy city, I’ve got the seedy club owner who’s the go-to guy for anything illegal, I’ve got a full crew of various underworld sociopaths. Only one person in the whole cast has any decency, and that’s a clone of Jean Harlow who’s a Dydeetown whore with (you guessed it) a heart of gold. She’s the “Dydeetown Girl” of the novella’s title.
But that wasn’t the title I started with. The working title was “Lies” because that’s mostly what the story is about. We all say we revere the truth, but sometimes a lie can be stronger than the truth, better than the truth. There are vital lies – the ones that can give you hope, can give you the strength to keep going when the truth would break you. And sometimes, under the right circumstances, a lie can become the truth
I set it in the far future I had developed for the LaNague Federation science fiction stories (four novels and a handful of shorts) written early in my career. But “Lies” was going to be different. Rather than bright and full of hope like its predecessors, this story was going to be set on the grimy, disillusioned underbelly of that world. I wanted to move through the LaNague future at ground level, take a hard look at the social fallout of the food shortages, the population-control measures, the wires into the pleasure centers of the brain – things I’d glossed over or mentioned only in passing. But despite the downbeat milieu, the story would be about freedom, friendship, and self esteem.
Beneath its hard-boiled voice, its seamy settings, and violent events (Cyber/p-i/sci-fi, as Forry Ackerman might have called it) were characters trying to maintain – or reestablish – a human connection. I disappeared into the story, and had a ball writing it. So much so that it came in at three times the projected length, with a new title: “Dydeetown Girl.”
A novella. One that none of the sf magazines wanted because it was too much like detective fiction; and which the detective mags rejected because it was “sci-fi.” I began to fear my ugly-duckling hybrid would be doomed to perpetual orphanhood. The wonderful Betsy Mitchell was editing for Baen Books then and bought it for one of their Far Frontiers anthologies. From there it went on to reach the Nebula Awards final ballot for best novella of the year. It didn’t win, but just seeing it listed was sweet vindication. The ugly duckling had become a swan.
Betsy prodded me for a sequel. I said I didn’t think there was any story left. She said, “What about those urchins?” (I won’t go into an explanation of that reference, but this is an example of what good editors do: They inspire as well as edit.) That triggered a second novella called “Wires” which Greg Benford said had one of the best opening lines he’d ever read. The second novella triggered a third, “Kids,” that resolved all the leftover issues from the first two. (I had a thing for plural nouns as titles.) Both were published in Baen’s New Destinies anthologies. I rewrote all three into a novel and called it Dydeetown World. Easton Press published a leatherbound signed first edition and Baen did the paperback with a marvelous cover by Gary Ruddell.
I recently reread it to spruce it up and got a little verklempt at the end. Not simply because I wrote it – I’m the first to admit I’ve written my share of flawed fiction – but I find Dydeetown World ultimately uplifting. Its future Earth is a dirty, mean world, but it can’t prevent the bond that can form between an adult and a child. And let me tell you, once that bond is formed, you’re risking all kinds of hell should you try to interfere.
Although written for adults, Dydeetown World wound up on the American Library Association’s list of “Best Books for Young Adults” and on the New York Public Library’s recommended list of “Books for the Teen Age.”
Remember that opening hook with a Tyrannosaurus rex used as a guard animal? Think about that: in a story written in 1985 I used a dinosaur cloned from reconstituted fossil DNA, but I tossed it off as background color.
If only I’d thought to stick a bunch of them in a park…
So that’s how Dydeetown World came to be. I want you to read this one, damn it.
13 thoughts on “Dydeetown World”
I have this one my shelf at home to read. Love the cover. Am currently reading Quick Fixes – need my Jack fix you know!
I came here looking for a RPJ fix (could not remember the next release date), found this instead. Its NOT JACK, but I’m intrigued–mostly by your charming determination to get this particular book read. So I paid the 99 cents and placed it on my Kindle. I’ve also added your blog to my blogger updates.
Thank you, Mary. Come back and tell me what you think. After all, Sig is miles apart from Jack, so I’m curious.
Paul— I don’t know how much of my thoughts you really wanted—but here they are. (I am often guilty of being concise without being brief).
Just finished Dydeetown World. To be honest, it took some time for me to get into it. Sig is difficult to like (as you intended) and the heavy use of futuristic slang was off-putting and distracting. However the plot was strong enough to pull me along in spite of my complaints. Also, Sig does grow on the reader (also as you intended), though it wasn’t really until the end of the first chapter that I warmed up to him as a reluctant hero.
While the over-all story was somewhat reminiscent of Blade Runner, it departed from it nicely when B.B. entered the picture and the story became about Sig setting out to solve a crime because of its victims and not because of what he expected to gain from it.
In brief, and without providing any spoilers, I loved the last third of the final chapter best and was late getting ready for church because I didn’t want to put it down. If I’m not mistaken, the last time that happened, I was reading a Repairman Jack novel. Sig is in good company.
Thanks for taking time to comment, Mary. Yes, I deliberately introduced Sig as hard to like. I also took some stylistic risks in his truncated prose and the slang of the future culture — initial barriers that I hoped would lead to immersion if you stuck with it. I’m glad you found it filamentous.
I know I have read this book, but with age I lose some of my memories(I think that there is only so much room in my brain and for every new thing I take in, I lose an old memory). Anyway, at this price, I think I will purchase it and reread it.
I think after all these years it will hold up to a reread. Enjoy.
I first read Dydeetown World as those three separate novellas published in Far Frontiers and New Destinies. I loved each of those novellas and was thrilled to see the sequels being published–each after what seemed like an eternity. Then, when Dydeetown World was published as a book, I read the whole thing again. And, of course, it is now on my kindle 🙂
So, yeah, I LOVE it too. The tyrannasaurous rex mention was one of my favorite items in the story.
Thanks for writing this essay. Nice to hear your views on it. It would have been great to chat with you over a beer when the stories were first published.
Keep on keepin’ on…
We’ll have that beer yet.
Doc, this is one of the 50 cent rt 70 flea market specials I read about 15 or so years ago.
Who knows where it is now. I’m going to read it again thanks for the cheep kindle price.
Gotta love a bargain
I’m catching up with your other books wile waiting for the next RJ. You’re right the title did put me off but after reading your article I bought it, I’ll read it after I finish Nightkill.
Just wanted to chime in and say that I love this one! I have the old paperback w/ the amazing “lips” artwork. Would love to read more from you like this!
Yeah, the Gary Ruddell cover – the lips and the T. rex. Glad you liked it.