Tagliterature

William Gibson Reads From His Next Novel, The Peripheral

Gibson recently made an appearance at the New York Public Library, and he also did a surprise reading of the first couple pages of his forthcoming science fiction novel The Peripheral. The reading begins about 80 minutes in.

The video and transcript can be downloaded here and The Awl has a good write-up of the rest of the talk.

For more Gibson, check out our dossier.

Cities Of The Future, Built By Drones, Bacteria, And 3-D Printers

generative architecture
Above: generative cities and architecture by Aranda & Lasch

Futurist Chris Arkenberg outlines a possible scenario for urban planning and architecture:

As complex ecosystems, cities are confronting tremendous pressures to seek optimum efficiency with minimal impact in a resource-constrained world. While architecture, urban planning, and sustainability attempt to address the massive resource requirements and outflow of cities, there are signs that a deeper current of biology is working its way into the urban framework.

Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.

Full Story: Fast Coexist: Cities Of The Future, Built By Drones, Bacteria, And 3-D Printers

This reminds me of the recent sci-fi short story “Crabapple by Lavie Tidhar:

Neighborhoods sprouted around Central Station like weeds. On the outskirts of the old neighborhood, along the Kibbutz Galuyot Road and Siren Road and Sderot Menachem Begin, the old abandoned highways of Tel Aviv, they grew, ringing the immense structure of the spaceport rising high into the sky. Houses sprouted like trees, blooming, adaptoplant weeds feeding on rain and sun, and digging roots into the sandy ground, breaking ancient asphalt. Adaptoplant neighborhoods, seasonal, unstable, sprouting walls and doors and windows, half-open sewers hanging in the air, exposed bamboo pipes, apartments growing over and into each other, growing without order or sense, creating pavements suspended in midair, houses at crazy angles, shacks and huts with half-formed doors, windows like eyes–

In autumn the neighborhoods shed, doors drying, windows shrinking slowly, pipes drooping. Houses fell like leaves to the ground below and the road cleaning machines murmured happily, eating up the shrunken leaves of former residencies. Above ground the tenants of those seasonal buoyant suburbs stepped cautiously, testing the ground with each step taken, to see if it would hold, migrating nervously across the skyline to other, fresher spurts of growth, new adaptoplant blooming delicately, windows opening like fruit–

For more of Arkenberg check out our interview with him. Want to learn to think like he does? Here’s his guest post listing his favorite books on systems thinking.

And for more big, mad ideas about architecture and cities check out:

Paul Laffoley

The Fab Tree Hab

Archigram

Conway’s Game of Life generates a city

Aranda & Lasch’s generative architecture

Distopian Literature: Marrying Up

“Marrying Up” by Diane Cook, a disturbing story with a surprising ending.

“What if someone needs help?” Did I mention he was also a very good-hearted man? He was.

“No one needs help,” I said, feeling like an awful person. “It’s a trap.”

He looked at me like he didn’t know who I had become. I was so ashamed I couldn’t look back, even though I knew I was right.

“Someone needs help,” he said resolutely, shrugging on his robe. I’m told he fought hard, scrappily, but was dragged to his knees, and then dragged down the street. Bits of his torn pajamas blew around the neighborhood for days afterward.

Eventually, I married a man more than twice my size. He terrified me. Making love felt like getting run over. I was pancaked like in cartoons. My ribs crunched if he was on top, and my hips were belted with bruises if he was behind. He twirled me until I puked.

Full Story: Guernica Magazine: “Marrying Up” by Diane Cook

Short Sci-Fi Story: Search Engine

“Search Engine” by Bram E. Gieben. This is what it feels like to be a professional blogger sometimes:

Half-heartedly, he scans his feeds for new information, walking his regular beats. The robot nurseries are quiet. The heliotronic mother-brains have just upgraded the consciousness models of sub-beta appliances to include the new FreeWill2.3 subroutines. The story will break next week, as people begin to argue sentient rights with their toasters and microwaves. For now, the nurseries’ PR departments are as dumb and empty as the newly-awakened machines. Besides, nobody wants to know about the nurseries. They don’t see the end of the curve the nurseries represent.

Humanity has built its own replacements. Here, at least, Vinnie is ahead of the curve. He knows what the AIs are planning, but nobody wants to listen: to get people to read his stories about the nurseries, he has to hashtag them as conspiracy theories, speculative memes. The truth is too unpalatable.

Over on the Worthing Media sites, he spawns a search daemon to whittle down stories about the honey-smuggling trade into something approaching a summary. He taps out a subdued Op-Ed about the latest attempts to clone a queen, and posts it to the mailbox of the Memesphere news page. It only takes three seconds for the automated e-rejection to ping his mailserver. He sighs his rattling, smoke-ravaged sigh again. If he is going to make any credit this week, he needs to tip the chemical balance back into his favour.

Full Story: Weaponizer: “Search Engine” by Bram E. Gieben

Transhumanist Fiction: The Performance Artist By Lettie Prell

“The Performance Artist” by Lettie Prell:

On the first day, she sits there wearing a black dress that is neither provocative nor sexless. Yet visitors who flock in from the cold January streets and ascend to the atrium on MoMA’s second floor are mesmerized, for the entire space is awash in a video installation depicting various interactions between machines and flesh. The footage flashes across the walls and sweeps over the woman sitting in the chair. Some images are recognizable: beams of light illuminating eyes during exams, prostheses being fitted to amputees, a dental hygienist cleaning teeth, a kitchen cook working a meat grinder. Other clips are strange: a small device crawling up a person’s spine, thumping sharply as it goes; people sprouting electrodes; a man strapped face-down and gripping handlebars while the lower half of the table slides back and forth, stretching his torso. The bizarre imagery quickly infects the ordinary scenes until everything “seems an invasion of humans by the things they have wrought.” Or so writes the Times critic in an article that splashes across the Sunday Arts & Leisure section. The performance artist is the talented Anna Pashkin Bearfoot, the critic raptures, who charged onto the scene last year with a week-long piece where, while nude, she built a robot amid a jungle of potted plants. The current installation is slated to last a full month.

The second day the crowd swells, despite a nasty frozen mix that pelts Manhattan. Today, a real machine squats eight feet from Anna, and to her right. What is that? and I don’t know are repeated many times before the crowd engages its collective intelligence:

“I think it’s one of those downloading machines.”

Full Story: Apex Magazine: The Performance Artist

William Gibson Stories in OMNI Available For Download

johnny mnemonic illustration

A while back someone put every issue of OMNI Magazine online for free download in PDF and other formats. Over at the William Gibson forums, Memetic Engineer rounded up all the issues of OMNI that are available for download and have stories by William Gibson in them:

May 1981, features “Johnny Mnemonic.” From the contributors page: “Gibson is a full-time writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. His work appears in two anthologies, Universe 11 and Shadows 4, both published this year by Doubleday. The issue also features a story by Ray Bradbury and an interview with David Cronenberg.

July 1982 features “Burning Chrome.” This is followed by a spread on the film Tron. Gibson wrote on Twitter: “So it’s July ’82, Tron not quite released, and I’m looking at that spread: steam engine time.” Gibson previously told the Paris Review: “When I came up with my cyberspace idea, I thought, I bet it’s steam-engine time for this one, because I can’t be the only person noticing these various things. And I wasn’t. I was just the first person who put it together in that particular way, and I had a logo for it, I had my neologism.”

July 1983 features “Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

July 1984 features “New Rose Hotel.” (Which was turned into the Gibson movie you never heard about: directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento)

July 1985 features “Dogfight” by Gibson and Michael Swanwick.

The October 1981 issue features “Hinterlands,” but it’s not available in the OMNI archives.

The text on these scans is readable but blurry. If you just want to read the stories, buy the Burning Chrome collection.

See also: William Gibson dossier

Fiction: Selkie Stories Are For Losers By Sofia Samatar

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar:

I hate selkie stories. They’re always about how you went up to the attic to look for a book, and you found a disgusting old coat and brought it downstairs between finger and thumb and said “What’s this?”, and you never saw your mom again.

I work at a restaurant called Le Pacha. I got the job after my mom left, to help with the bills. On my first night at work I got yelled at twice by the head server, burnt my fingers on a hot dish, spilled lentil-parsley soup all over my apron, and left my keys in the kitchen.

I didn’t realize at first I’d forgotten my keys. I stood in the parking lot, breathing slowly and letting the oil-smell lift away from my hair, and when all the other cars had started up and driven away I put my hand in my jacket pocket. Then I knew.

I ran back to the restaurant and banged on the door. Of course no one came. I smelled cigarette smoke an instant before I heard the voice.

“Hey.”

I turned, and Mona was standing there, smoke rising white from between her fingers.

“I left my keys inside,” I said.

Full Story: Strange Horizons: Selkie Stories Are for Losers by Sofia Samatar

Literary and Arts Dream Journal Seeking Submissions

One of my old Key 23 colleagues, Tait McKenzie Johnson, is editing a new literary journal and seeking submissions:

The Rapid Eye is a new literary and arts dream journal offering writers, artists, and other dreamers the freedom to create and share high quality fiction and art drawing on dreams and other states of non-rational consciousness.

We are currently in the process of getting the first issue of our magazine off the ground. If you’ve ever had a wild and compelling dream that you’ve been dying to share with the world, please consider submitting to The Rapid Eye.

For more information on dream fictions and art, check out this blog post: Why dream fictions? Why a literary and arts dream journal?

Check back soon for more updates, including  a series of essays on the role of dreams in fiction. And in the mean time please follow us @rapideyemag.

Rapid Eye Magazine

Best Of 2012/Technoccult Gift Guide

It’s the end of the year, which is a good time to reflect on what my favorite bits of media were for the year. I figure this list can also double as a guide for any last minute gifts.

I’m sure there’s stuff I’m forgetting in each category, so I may update this again later. Feel free to recommend stuff I might’ve missed!

Comics:

This was a big year for artist/writer Brandon Graham. Three of his releases were favorites of mine this year:

King City cover by Brandon Graham

King City, which was the subject of my interview with Graham.

Prophet: Remission cover

Prophet, a book written by Graham with a rotating cast of artists.

Escalator by Brandon Graham cover

Escalator a collection of short stories written and drawn by Graham. I think this is actually my favorite of the three.

Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia

Besides all the Graham stuff, I really liked Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

I haven’t finished Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Fraction and David Aja yet, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Also, I haven’t read Glory Volume 1: The Once and Future Destroyer by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

I don’t buy very many single issues, but here are some that I bought and liked:

COPRA issue 1

COPRA # 1 by Michel Fiffe. This was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard of Fiffe before I saw it promoted by Floating World Comics. It reminds me a bit of Graham’s Prophet in that it’s an indie artists’ take on super hero comics of the past. I haven’t read the second issue yet but plan to pick it up soon. There’s a preview of issue 1 here and issue 2 here.

The Secret Voice

Secret Voice # 1 by Zack Soto. If you don’t feel like paying, you can check this one out online, along side The Yankee and other great stuff at Study Group Comics.

The Secret Life of DB Cooper

The Secret History of DB Cooper # 1. Really dug the first issue, still waiting for the trade paperback.

Music

Bruxa victimeyez cover

Bruxa: Victimzeyez, a free digital album that I’ve mentioned before. Elements of dubstep and chopped and screwed hip hop with a trace of witch house.

Monolake: Ghosts cover

Monoloake: Ghosts. Minimal techno with a hint of dubstep.

Filastine: Loot cover

Filistine: Loot. I’m not sure how to explain this one — a fusion of lots of different styles of electronic music from all over the world.

The Seer album cover

The Swans: The Seer. New album from an old school no wave band.

Tweaker: Call The Time Eternity cover

Tweaker: Call the Time Eternity. Long awaited third solo album from Trent Reznor’s former right-hand man.

I bough X-TG’s DESERTSHORE / THE FINAL REPORT, but because I’ve been working on my own album I haven’t listened to it yet.

Movies

I didn’t see many movies this year, and I liked even fewer. Here are the ones I liked:

Looper

Looper

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods. Technically I guess this came out in 2011, but I think most of us saw it this year.

I haven’t seen The Master yet but want to.

Books

I didn’t read many new books this year, but I did read and like:

Non-fiction:

Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson

American Vampire in Juarez

An American Vampire in Juarez: Getting My Teeth Pulled In Mexico’s Most Notorious Border Town

Fiction:

Cover of Psychopomp by Amanda Sledz

Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate by Amanda Sledz. My interview with her is here and an excerpt from the book is here.

The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya. Science fiction that reads more like design fiction — this is all about the ideas, not the characters. Already a little dated since Apple has announced that it’s bringing some of its manufacturing back to the U.S.

Technology And The Novel, From Blake To Ballard

Novelist Tom McCarthy on writers’ relationship to the haunting sounds of technology:

The telephone, it turns out, owes its invention to more than simply hearing-aid experiments. Alexander Bell, who grew up playing with mechanical speech devices (his father ran a school for deaf children), lost a brother in adolescence. As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave – if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone. He probably would have invented it anyway, and in fact remained a sceptic and a rationalist throughout his life – but only because his brothers never called: the desire was there, wired right into the handset, which makes the phone itself a haunted apparatus. [...]

The pinnacle of literary modernism, its most sophisticated and extreme achievement, is Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, published 17 years after Ulysses as the world stood on the brink of a new orgy of technology and death. Impossible to summarise in a sentence, the Wake has been variously interpreted as the babble running through a dreamer’s head, a disquisition on the history of the world, ditto that of literature, a prophetic set of runes for our age, and a scatological tract so obscene that it had to be written in code to escape the censorship that had befallen Joyce’s previous novel. But whichever way you read it, two things are certain: first, that (as the word “Wake” would suggest) it’s a Book of the Dead, dotted with tombs and rites of mourning; and second, that the technological media people it at every level – telephones and gramophones, films and television and, above all, radio. We have “loftly marconimasts from Clifden” beaming “open tireless secrets . . . to Nova Scotia’s listing sisterwands”; we have a “contact bridge of . . . sixty radiolumin lines . . . where GPO is zentrum” (the post office was the site of Radio Eireann); we have “that lionroar in the air again, the zoohoohoom of Felin make Call”; we even have disembodied voices shouting to each other to “get off my air!” According to the Joyce scholar and poet Jane Lewty, co-editor of Broadcasting Modernism, “the Wake can best be understood as a long radio-séance, with the hero tuning into voices of the dead via a radio set at his bedside, or, perhaps, inside his head.” Perhaps, she concedes when I push the point with her, the “hero” might even be the radio set itself.

Full Story: The Guardian: Technology and the novel, from Blake to Ballard

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