Study Questions for Mozart in Mirrorshades [1985 in Omni] by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner
Sterling and Shiner immerse us in a near future science fiction without explanation, requiring us to piece together the context as we read. This, then, is classic sf, situating us in an alien environment and asking us to react and re-orient ourselves to the imagined world. Theirs is an immediately post-Vietnam story enacting a cultural critique that turns the practices of colonial imperialism against the colonizers. That is, the very cultures that historically have sustained themselves through exploitative imperialist actions in our reality are similarly exploited in "Mozart in Mirrorshades." Consider the following issues as your read the story:
Exactly how do the authors alter the conventional sf time travel tradition here? That is, how does time work in the story?
Can you connect the situation of this story to the American experience in Vietnam?
How do the historical figures represented in the story [Thomas Jefferson, Marie Antoinette, Jebe Noyan, Mozart, etc...] develop the political critique that drives the story?
Midway through the story, Rice, while expressing his love for Marie Antoinette, is described as "drunk on history out of control, careening under him like some black motorcycle of the imagination" . How does this image to some extent capture the tone and mood of the entire story? How does it function as an implicit critique of the prideful protagonist, whose hubris clearly is setting him up for a fall?
Finally, how does Rice's comment near the end of the story--"You can't just use people like that!" --ironically encapsulate the story's broad point?