Then the world changed forever.
Remember when I stopped posting and the world changed forever?
“The world changed forever” is an interesting journalistic cliché, in that it not so much describes or analyzes an event as enacts it. Three thousand people, or three hundred thousand, could die of malnutrition or some natural disaster in the span of five seconds, but it is the voice of the privileged interpreter of reality that decides whether this mass death will be a chapter in the history of the world, or a footnote.
It’s also telling, not showing, yet again. “Look, this is important because I say so!”
We felt it first, that sickening lurch of the cement under your feet that every Californian knows instinctively — earthquake.
But it’s not an earthquake: soon a black mushroom cloud rises in the sky, and the ghastly realization strikes us: Cory is going to make us suffocate on hamfisted 9/11 references.
Anyway, there’s a lot of yelling and running about, and somehow there are loudspeakers everywhere telling everyone to report to shelters immediately, and the chapter ends, and the next one “is dedicated to Borderlands Books, San Francisco’s magnificent independent science fiction bookstore”.
We passed a lot of people in the road on the way to the Powell Street BART. They were running or walking, white-faced and silent or shouting and panicked. Homeless people cowered in doorways and watched it all, while a tall black tranny hooker shouted at two mustached young men about something.
Yeah, he literally wrote “tranny hooker”.
I fervently wish there were horrible, hurtful, dehumanizing words to call Cory’s friends in retaliation, since he thinks nothing of being an utter dick to mine; I must resort to calling them “piece of shit nerds”, which is accurate, but perfectly harmless. (This is sometimes known as “privilege” and also “hegemony”, maybe you’ve heard of it).
People are crowding into the BART station, which I understand is fancy Bay Area talk for the metro, and—
“Screw you!” I heard Van yell behind me. “Pervert! Get your hands off of me!”
I strained around against the crowd and saw Van looking with disgust at an older guy in a nice suit who was kind of smirking at her. She was digging in her purse and I knew what she was digging for.
“Don’t mace him!” I shouted over the din. “You’ll get us all too.”
Yeah, God forbid she defend herself from sexual assault by any means necessary. Pronounced Winston knows better. It’s also another piece of Strong Female Characterization, that is to say, a lot of yelling and posturing and being tough, just so long as it’s understood that the boys are still in charge.
The crowd in the station is pretty brutal, people are falling down, and the Marcus Gang decides to go back up top.
We popped free like Champagne corks an eternity later, blinking in the grey smoky light. The air raid sirens were still blaring, and the sound of emergency vehicles’ sirens as they tore down Market Street was even louder. There was almost no one on the streets anymore — just the people trying hopelessly to get underground. A lot of them were crying. I spotted a bunch of empty benches usually staked out by skanky winos and pointed toward them.
“Skanky winos” now.
You know, I’m having a really big problem grasping why Marcus insists on being such a tremendous piss wizard to anyone who isn’t white, male, cisgendered and bourgeois as hell (I don’t think we’ve hit homophobia and the other cool prejudices yet, correct me if I’m wrong). Normally, after this many instances of it, I would have assumed this was good characterization: that we’re supposed to detest this smug, condescending prick and eagerly await some sort of comeuppance.
Option two is, of course, that this is how Cory always talks, or at least, how he imagines a teenage clone of himself in San Francisco would talk. Nothing deliberate, just regular old casual hate speech.
Option three is very implausible, but it keeps coming back to me: that Cory knows perfectly well what he’s doing. That he explicitly wants to construct a Nerdism in which everyone is included so long as they know their place — beneath him, being shat on 24/7.
It is of course not necessary for this to be deliberate, because that’s what the text ends up doing anyway, but the idea of Doctorow as not just clueless, but actively malicious is one I’m finding very hard to shake.
We moved for them, the sirens and the smoke making us duck and hunch our shoulders. We got as far as the benches before Darryl fell forward.
We all yelled and Vanessa grabbed him and turned him over. The side of his shirt was stained red, and the stain was spreading. She tugged his shirt up and revealed a long, deep cut in his pudgy side.
So I guess he got stabbed by one of the undesirables in the crowd. Possibly they mistook Darryl’s embarrassed silence in reaction to Marcus yelling racial slurs at strangers in the crowded station (this is what I imagine he was doing this entire time) as agreement.