“What’s Up, Tiger Lily” by Paul Di Filippo: A “Rewired” Review

Copyright © 2007 by Tachyon Publications.

My reviews of Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology continue with “What’s Up, Tiger Lily,” a story by Paul Di Filippo that was originally published in The Silver Gryphon in 2003.

Bash Applebrook is a young billionaire who made his fortune off the invention of a new “smart” form of paper called “proteopape.”  However, while he has all the money he could ever want, he lacks in relationships. Fortunately, a sudden reunion with a former MIT graduate, Dagny Winsome, brings him to the art world and shows him new uses for his invention.  It also shows him how it can be abused, as Dagny leads a one-woman quest for pranks and revenge, which Bash has to stop before she crashes the global economy that’s grown dependent on his creation.

The first great element about this story is its appreciation for the concept of ubiquitous computing.  The creation of proteopape (shorthand for “protean paper”) acts as a universal material that can be used to project images, data, and run programs on virtually any surface it covers.  People can make suits and even windows out of it.  As noted in the story, it breaks down traditional media and gives an individual a lot of power and creativity (sort of like what Apple is always going for with its products).

The other important element is its awareness of media.  Besides all the constant pop culture references to classic works like Duck Soup and Gone With The Wind, one of the new artistic movements displayed in the story is the creation of new dialogue for old movies, essentially drafting a script that matches the original mouth movements of the film without reediting it.  The title itself references this real-life practice as pioneered by Woody Allen’s film, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?  It also brings to mind the current trend of fandubs in anime and films, especially with the “abridged series” genre made popular by creators like Little Kuriboh and Team Four Star.

There’s a lot to be said about creativity in this story, whether it’s completely original like Bash’s smart paper or reinterpreting someone else’s creation like Dagny and her fellow artists.  It reminds me of the copyright debates and the way some authors get upset over people who write fan fiction based on their original stories.  But such is the way of art and innovation, and Paul Di Filippo sure understands that in his own dark comedic way.

Bibliography: Di Filippo, Paul.  “What’s Up, Tiger Lily.”  Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology.  Ed. James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel.  San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2007.

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