Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1960- ) US Videogame writer and author who began publishing work of genre interest with "A Hiss of Dragon" with Gregory Benford for Omni in December 1978. He published solo stories with some frequency in the 1980s, including "400 Boys" (November 1983 Omni), whose inclusion in Bruce Sterling's Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (anth 1986) elected him to the influential Cyberpunk cohort. But his best-known short work from this period is perhaps the Delbert and Zeb sequence of Mathematically oriented tales written with Rudy Rucker, beginning with "Probability Pipeline" (in Synergy: New Science Fiction #2, anth 1988, edited by George Zebrowski) and including "Chaos Surfari" (March/April 1989 Interzone); late contributions to the series include the novella "Surfers at the End of Time" (November 2019 Asimov's).
Laidlaw's first novel, Dad's Nuke (1985), is a Satire of suburban life and Christian fundamentalism set in a Near-Future community, effectively a Keep sealed off from the rest of the disintegrating America; ritual technological fixes for anxiety include having a personal nuclear power plant and a baby adapted (see Genetic Engineering) to recycle the wastes into her lead-lined diapers. Laidlaw's second novel, the amusing Neon Lotus (1988), follows the consequences of the Reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist sage as a young girl in a highly technologized America. Kalifornia (1993) is a further satire, focusing on the Media Landscape in Near Future California. The Orchid Eater (1994) is associational. The 37th Mandala (1996), closer to Horror than sf, is a scathing satire on the worldview underlying much "New Age" thought, each of the mandalas being a separate Monster. The Third Force (1996) is a tie-in to a CD-ROM computer game, and pointed to Laidlaw's next move, as a full-time games designer. Working for Valve software, he provided much of the narrative spine that made Half-Life so much more gripping an experience than many of its contemporary competitors. He also worked on the various expansion packs to Half-Life, as well as on Half-Life 2, and all of these games exhibit the same bracing cynicism as his fiction.
During this period Laidlaw has continued to publish short speculative fiction, and a long continuation of his Gorlen Vizenfirth short-story sequence with Underneath the Oversea (2020), in which the ocean around the central cast's Island is lifted by Magic into the sky. Marvels unfold, as Fantastic Voyages become necessary in order to discover the drift of things. [GS/JC]
born Laguna Beach, California: 3 August 1960
- Underneath the Oversea (no place given: Freestyle, 2020) [ebook: Gorlen Vizenfirth: na/Sylvia Ritter]
- Dad's Nuke (New York: Donald I Fine, 1986) [hb/Loretta Trezzo]
- Neon Lotus (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1988) [pb/Nicky McGinty]
- Kalifornia (New York: St Martin's Press, 1993) [hb/Jill Bauman]
- The Orchid Eater (New York: St Martin's Press, 1994) [hb/John Weiman]
- The 37th Mandala (New York: St Martin's Press, 1996) [hb/Ron Walotsky]
- The Third Force: A Novel of Gadget (New York: Scribner's, 1996) [pb/Haruhiko Shono]
- White Spawn (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2015) [novella: chap: hb/Francois Thisdale]
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