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The bandwidth is good here, he realizes; and it's not just the bandwidth, it's the whole scene.Amsterdam is making him feel wanted already, even though he's fresh off the train from Schiphol: He's infected with the dynamic optimism of another time zone, another city.(If your name isn't on this list, blame my memory – my neural prostheses are off-line.) I mentioned several friendly editors earlier: I relied on the talented midwifery of Gardner Dozois, who edited Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine at the time, and Sheila Williams, who quietly and diligently kept the wheels rolling.

The square smells of water and dirt and hot metal and the fart-laden exhaust fumes of cold catalytic converters; the bells of trams ding in the background, and birds flock overhead.

He glances up and grabs a pigeon, crops the shot, and squirts it at his weblog to show he's arrived.

A camera winks at him from atop a streetlight; he waves, wondering idly if it's the KGB or the traffic police. "If survival is what you're after, you could post your state vector on one of the p2p nets: Then nobody could delete you –" "Nyet! " "Then we probably have nothing to talk about." Manfred punches the hang-up button and throws the mobile phone out into a canal.

He is waiting for directions to the party, which should arrive within the next half hour, and this Cold War retread Eliza-bot is bumming him out. " The artificial intelligence sounds as alarmed as it's possible to sound over a Voi P link. It hits the water, and there's a pop of deflagrating lithium cells.

This is getting weird enough to trip his weird-out meter, and that takes some doing.

Manfred's whole life is lived on the bleeding edge of strangeness, fifteen minutes into everyone else's future, and he's normally in complete control – but at times like this he gets a frisson of fear, a sense that he might just have missed the correct turn on reality's approach road. Let me get this straight, you claim to be some kind of AI, working for KGB dot RU, and you're afraid of a copyright infringement lawsuit over your translator semiotics?He leans against a shop front, massaging his forehead and eyeballing a display of antique brass doorknockers. "Well, if you hadn't shafted them during the late noughties ..." Manfred taps his left heel on the pavement, looking round for a way out of this conversation. They're all zero-sum cannibals." A thought occurs to him.Dijkstra Manfred's on the road again, making strangers rich.It's a hot summer Tuesday, and he's standing in the plaza in front of the Centraal Station with his eyeballs powered up and the sunlight jangling off the canal, motor scooters and kamikaze cyclists whizzing past and tourists chattering on every side.You are human, you must not worry cereal company repossess your small intestine because digest unlicensed food with it, right? Am wishing to defect." Manfred stops dead in the street. State Department is not help us." This is getting just too bizarre."Oh man, you've got the wrong free enterprise broker here. I'm strictly private." A rogue advertisement sneaks through his junkbuster proxy and spams glowing fifties kitsch across his navigation window – which is blinking – for a moment before a phage process kills it and spawns a new filter. Manfred's never been too clear on new-old old-new European metapolitics: Just dodging the crumbling bureaucracy of his old-old American heritage gives him headaches.If the mood holds, someone out there is going to become very rich indeed. * * * Manfred sits on a stool out in the car park at the Brouwerij 't IJ, watching the articulated buses go by and drinking a third of a liter of lip-curlingly sour .His channels are jabbering away in a corner of his head-up display, throwing compressed infobursts of filtered press releases at him.Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who e-mailed me to ask when the book was coming, or who voted for the stories that were shortlisted for awards.You did a great job of keeping me focused, even during the periods when the whole project was too daunting to contemplate.

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