atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 27th, 2016 05:23 pm)
Major chunk of writing done today, putting me at 35 pages complete. Clearly not gonna get done by the end of October. I guess it could, if I let things get really desperate. Like, if I absolutely needed two more sections done, it could probably get done. Or like, "done," definitely in quotes. I'm pushing things as hard as I reasonably can, and there's a lot of effort on the wrong side of the reasonable curve to tap into that I don't really have to do, but notwithstanding, I'm probably going to start pushing even further in that direction. I'm not doing further planning tonight because I've got a Marvel game session, though. Tomorrow's probably an all day planning on the next section's structure, getting my probably notes together, going over theory - section two is the heart of the essay, and the thing I've been trying to get to this entire time.

Chapter one is kind of... it has to me more than describing the history of science fiction, and it has to be more than determine William Gibson's probable intentions. It's the chapter where I have to make the case that there's a real perception in the science-fiction community of a "white, Western, male" core demographic that's what science-fiction is. Note that I said "perception." Also consider that I said "a." "A perception." That doesn't mean it's a consensus or that it's accurate, but that enough people share it to influence writing and culture, and not just that it's a perception in the body literate, but that it's kind of a major perception in the general public. So, I mean, I tapped the Hugo Awards nomination fiasco of the last few years, some solid academics, and Gibson's interviews themselves for the sci-fi angle.

There's more to it, but that's the gist. My overall thesis is that Gibson's Blue Ant trilogy - if it's not about the anxiety specifically - contains symptoms of a white, Western, nationalistic anxiety that surrounds the deterioration of the post-Cold War superpower identity and how its been superceded by a kind of new-ish version of this - a technocratic, post-national oligarchy that doesn't care about the old white Western identity, except in so far as the oligarchs are willing to auction off or aquire elements of these establishments to create the foundations of their empires. I say "white" and "Western" fears because if you're not white, not Western, and generally speaking, not male (though that's surprisingly not the major theme, though I'd argue it's still present), you've already experienced this. You're not a central or generic narrative focus, you're diasporic, borderless or post-border, living in the past and future simultaniously, colonialized and post-colonial, already existing withing a dual conciousness, and so on. The fears that we see now have already come to pass - in many ways, white people are living in the past, while people of color, people of non-Western origins (and these are cultural constructions, mind you, but functionally exist), they live in the present. They've experienced the things white dudes are anxious about having happen to them. So, chapter two is examining how these things are present in the text and how Gibson treats them.
I get the urge to write - which is good, because of my current gig. Deadlines help that, but they're not solely responsible for the need to write; they're a part of a gestalt impulse, combined with a kind of... bubbling up, a simmer coming toa boil, maybe, of research and reading. Ideas that I knew, somehow, connected to each other slowly making their connections tacit where they had been explicit. It sounds like I'm a passive actor, here, but this is only part of the process, understand. This is my brain making connections and turning my work, which looked (and occasionally felt) like drudgery, makework, solipsistic copying and recopying of the same ideas in slightly different permutations which could, in many circumstances, simply be understood as a kind of cognitive degredation - the fuzz around the edges of a copied copied image in purple ink.

If  you're of a certain age, you probably get what I'm getting at.


I have these borrowed books sitting around, that I've read. Having unreturned books languishing in my house bothers me in a specific kind of way - it's not a problem in itself, but it's the irritation of a task almost complete. Hakim Bey's Millennium and T.A.Z - which give every indication of being at least observed by Gibson in the interum between The Bridge trilogy and Blue Ant. Bey himself, aka, Peter L. Wilson, previously of Columbia University, overtly had read Gibson and others... so, a feedback loop. Cohen and Rutsky's Consumption in an Age of Information, Barolovich and Lazarus's Marxism, Modernity and Postcolonial Studies (again), and Grebovich & Merrick's Beyond the Cyborg on the subject of the great Donna Haraway, who I clearly need to read more of... there's no shortage of people to read, ever. The firehose never stops flowing, now.

I read something, then I have to process it - which often comes in the form of re-reading. I rarely take notes the first time, so mentally processing it often looks suspiciously like physically processing. I don't like the mental image of extracting passages from the text, because that doesn't feel like what I'm doing. I read it and re-read it to provide context for it - the passage itself and the subsequent notes are a kind of filling in. You can't really take from a text, though you can say it and mean it colloquially. But, like data piracy, nothing is ever removed. Only something gained - often created in as close to a pure form as our technology allows for at this juncture - thought-forms and magnetic 1's and 0's. 
We tend to use the terms 'games' in the colloquial. Generally speaking, we know what this means, but it's still pretty dependant on context. Like, you'll hear people draw distinctions between games and sports, for example. Or, we kind of intuit the difference between a game that children make up to entertain themselves in the moment and, say, a board game. We're oddly less specific about how we name video games, though. What I didn't really know, actually, was how finicky academics have tried to get with game definitions and catagories - here, the problem seems to be one of nomenclature. Basically, we use the word "game" as a catchall for a certain type of behavior within organized parameters, but not all games function the same way.

I drew most of my direct knowledge from the academic treatment of games from the broad strokes laid down in Nielsen, Smith, Tosca's Understanding Video Games. The book itself was helpful, but I'm not impressed with scholarship's treatment of videogames in general, yet.

For me, it seems more foolish to treat all videogames as part of a single, unified category than it would be to treat all movies or televised media in the same way. You can, insofar as it's broadly the same kind of media format, but aside from the broadest strokes, it doesn't make too much sense to try to discuss something like the JRPG game genre in the same way as you'd attempt to address football-based sports games. Discussion like this seems to be designed as something of a time-saving device, anyhow.

Additionally, there are quite frequently games that aren't actually games - or games that are only games depending on why you play them. I think of Minecraft, here. Initially, there was some discussion as to if Minecraft was really a game at all - you could certainly 'play' it or, more appropriately, you could play in it, but it didn't have any specific goal or any organized opposition. It was more like an environment or a simulation. (Though, referring to it as a simulation gets troublesome - a simulation of what, exactly?) Today, Minecraft does, actually, have an end-game, a boss, a way of completing the session, even though executing it only drops you back into the same core session. I don't play Minecraft with any real intention of ever reaching the end boss and defeating it, though I do want to investigate and build in every realm of the game. By most definitions, that would make me bad at the game, or at least playing it incorrectly, but I don't feel that's the case. There's an issue of intent, I think, then.

That also raises a question of games like Dungeons & Dragons, or World of Darkness products, or many other tabletop role-playing games, or games in which there is a story mode, but no real particular emphesis on that kind of organized, linear play like, maybe, the famous Grand Theft Auto series.

To my mind, then, "game" is increasingly an ineffective term of analysis, as there's too much play in the term. Or, maybe what would be better would be for we academics to accept a certain amount of ambiguity that's inherant in the act of play - not that rigor is bad, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
In a few hours, I have to go to the vet to pick up one of our rescue cats. I mean, he's fine or, like, fine-ish, since there's a reason he's at the vet, but we had a scare. I guess it was 1 AM. I was dead fucking tired, since I'd been up doing last minute grade submissions, and had something of a plagirism concern I simply can't verify - all the grades are in and I'm finishing off a hard cider, and Kay's like... doing litter, I guess, and our cat was peeing somewhere he really wasn't supposed to and, second, peeing blood. I was going to say, "an uncomfortable amount of blood," but doesn't that go without saying? You never see blood in your pee and go, "Oh, okay, cool. That's not too much blood."

If you do, that's bad.

At the risk of being overly obvious, there's never really a good clock-time for this, but Kay determines that he has to go to the vet, and we both determine that this is not plausible at this time of the evening, so I'm up again at 6:15 AM to take him to the vet. All told, I'm not jazzed about the time between yesterday and today, but it's whatever. I'm fuckin' tired. I'm not really getting any good sleep, lately.

Technically grade are due today - well, were due today - at noon, so I'm done with all that. I've done literally everything I could think to do that would help, but I still ended up failing students who just couldn't seem to get some critical work in. Overall, though, I would say that things generally went well. Maybe too well, in some cases, as I ended up handing out more A's than I actually wanted to, but it's a product of how I structured the class and assignments, coupled with the fact that many of my students genuinely showed impressive progress in their writing. Students who came in and didn't think much of their ability to write came out doing markedly better while students who figured they were going to do well and started out by blowing the class off ended up sweating for their A's and B's (or C's). I put an astounding amount of energy and time into the class, which the students seemed to notice, but the emotional labor was equally taxing to me.

I've taken a few days "off" in order to get my shit in order - cut the grass, sweep the house, do laundry, take care of myself, and do research reading. It looks like my thesis is narrowing to an analysis that's rooted in a kind of post-colonial marxist reading that analyses how William Gibson constructs the identity of culture and communities in his Blue Ant trilogy - especially focused around his internalized socio-political and cultural views. It's really not a particularly negative reading, nor one that I really think he'd disagree with himself - just an acknowledgement that the white, technocratic West that's situated around the former Soviet and US powers isn't the world default, even though it ('it' as a kind of universalized gestalt idea of "the West" which, The Soviet Union railed against but mirrors - I understand that this is dangerously broad, here) constructs itself as such. I mean, the dissonance in that is something I'm looking to write on. I don't have it fully parsed yet.
atolnon: (Default)
( Oct. 29th, 2014 12:56 pm)
The work situation wasn't getting any better and, past the midway point in the semester, I know that final papers are going to be a real issue if I'm tight on time, so I went on 'seasonal' work designation so I can walk away for a while with no real ramifications. Put my scant PTO in and walked. If I want extra money when I'm on break, I can come back. If I can't stand the place, I never have to go back. Most of the dock has already walked and they're having something of a desperate time - serves them right.

The movement to only school, all the time has been good for my productivity, and it comes at just the right time.

There's a lot that I love about being in an academic setting, but being back also reminds me of all the things that frustrated me when I was there in undergrad. The teaching is generally fine, the community isn't my issue, but the infrastructure is clearly rotting at a national level. The division between the business end of universities and the academic end is wide, the treatment of education as a commodity instead of as a right, or at least a public good is as distressing as everyone says.

At first, I wasn't really sure that I belonged back. I felt that the gulf between myself and my peers would already be noticeably large and difficult to overcome. The problem really wasn't that I was behind in knowledge, which makes sense if you consider that we're working at the same collective general level. The issue is that, on top of become more acquainted with the idea of the systhesis of knowledge and helping build a greater understanding of literature (or other media, really, since the lines are beginning to blur), Masters/PhD programs are designed to train and acculturate new academics.

I don't have any real illusion that there's going to be a change to this in the near future - at least, not one that I'd have a part in. The best of my understanding has always been that this is a bad system that needs to change, but it mirrors the overall cultural system that has been built by people with the power to create new or insinuate themselves into existing institutions that govern our perception of what is normal and allowed. That means that the education I'm involved with is tied into a problematic system, and it's not a system that I like, and the education itself could be acquired by myself, but this problematic system both facilitates (in a crude, damaged way) my entrance into a field I'm interested in and allows me the time and oppertunity to participate (albeit on terms I'm not entirely comfortable with and terms I don't really have much of a choice in).

So, like, all of this shit is kind of fucked up. I'm glad to be where I'm at, though, all things considered and at least I'm doing well. 
atolnon: (Default)
( Mar. 5th, 2014 02:58 pm)
Doing any work besides what needs to be done around here is still difficult, but I was checking my notes against my reading of Pattern Recognition and started to compile some writing that demonstrated something I'd suspected but hadn't really gotten around to putting my finger on yet. I was reading an interview from the Paris Review, I think, and Gibson stated that he doesn't really plan his novels out in advance. He's also a guy who gets asked a lot of the same questions, over and over again, and has done a good number of interviews - especially in the last ten or fifteen years. He never really seems to get tired of answering the same questions, but over time, his answers change in subtle ways; I think that because he's asked the same questions so often, he's had a lot of time to think about them. So, when I see an interview with a similar question answered with a similar answer, it's easy to conflate it was a previous interview he's done. Specifically, he ends up talking a lot about the nature of the cyberpunk designation, marketing, the future, dystopian fiction and the nature of dystopia, and the nature of technology and its uses.

What I see in his writing - especially in the Blue Ant novels - is that the stuff he says in the interviews personally is often mirrored in what his characters say. He'll quote characters and characters will occasionally come dangerously close to simply quoting him. While I'm a firm believer in the concept of death of the author, in terms of overt themes, I think the stuff that Gibson says specifically are good indicators of themes in his books, and that those themes are intentional. I mean, intentional in that Gibson is often writing a book about dealing with certain themes where the plot is just an overt mechanism to display those themes at its most realized and almost something of an afterthought in others. 
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 7th, 2010 03:02 pm)
I've gotten through the majority of the notes I feel like I want to take. I'm trying to puzzle out a 'so what'. I started based on a few concepts. Gibson is primarily known for writing the Sprawl trilogy, then writing the Bridge trilogy, which wrapped up roughly a decade ago. Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are both novels, though, written in the modern age. The themes that we frequently allocate to cyber-punk carry over well; both of these novels feel like their spiritual successors, but if you're not willing to call something post-cyberpunk*, then they're just thrillers.

Ugh. Just thrillers. That's not what I meant. What I  mean is that divorced from the trope that we associate with cyberpunk, you've got a recognizable existing genre, albeit one that's rarely accorded much respect.  Gibson has the saving grace of accidentally creating a subgenre along with Bruce Sterling and, possible, being known for writing some truly excellent similes.

Gibson isn't just cranking out thrillers, though. He's a type of meta-geek. He's deeply interested in what people are deeply interested in, and it shows. That kind of filter is what allows him to basically take a paper thin plot and really make it about a series of things that exist and are fascinating to him, often in the lines of material culture and technology. It's just that in Pattern Recognition, for all his obsession about mechanical calculators, jetting around the world, and memes, he can't avoid making some kind of comment on the kind of community that's created on message boards and the ramifications of a digital life.

But while those observances feel true, a piece of genre fiction, however well-researched, is not a source to be referred to as fact outside of the ramification to either the reader or literature in general. I can't point to Patten Recognition and say, 'this is online community', and besides, there's enough observance of that elsewhere anyhow.

I guess what is compelling is that I don't see it a lot. We've got businesses and celebrates scrambling to take advantage of twitter. My grandmother's on Facebook. Shit, almost everyone I know is on Facebook. I've got like, one holdout friend who refuses and life has already become more difficult for him, as he refuses to schedule invites and communicate on what's become ubiquitous for the rest of us. Literature, which is ostensibly a kind of communication and which is often about communication, communities, ect, et al, but I'm not seeing a lot of this in text. I don't know if we can get away from this, though. And the implications of it are pretty complicated.

Cayce, the protagonist of Pattern Recognition, is a member of an online forum community which finds itself compromised both by media and business interests. Issues of identity, security, and personal space surface. In one chapter, we find that the flat she is staying in has been broken into, but rather then the physical space being the indicator, it's a site left at the top of her browser history on her computer. Her virtual space. And, I mean, I feel like this is pretty good stuff. Gibson is writing about communities and the problems they're facing, even if it's not front and center to the plot. She communicates with her best friend by email and the bulk of her direct assistance comes from a web forum.

And I'm stuck trying to explain why this matters. Maybe I can do it just in the context of the novel. Digital community - the subtext we can't escape from. Geeze, I dunno.

* And cyberpunk is dead on the vine, anyhow.
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 6th, 2010 02:42 pm)
I'd talked to my adviser who recommended a 10 page short story to go along with my submission to become a grad student for my MA in English & American Literature. His supposition and my reading was wrong; it's a 10 page academic paper, which is actually just fine with me. I spent about 5 hours researching on and off on Tuesday using source links from Wikipedia re: Pattern Recognition and Spook Country.  Today I brought Pattern Recognition and Discipline and Punish. I'm writing on Gibson's use of isolation and community as it works with the themes of these two newer works; close enough in theme to cyberpunk without the trappings that we'd now regard as hokey, works with the focus away from 'genre literature' that the department is keeping away from on the graduate level while retaining modern sensibilities. Themes of isolation, dealing with a modern world where it's possible to retain a sense of community to a group of people you've never met in person from anywhere in the world.

yada yada yada. I really feel like Gibson's works captures these themes excellently. For all that he's writing a thriller or a piece about post-cyberpunk technofetishism, it's really about community.

I think. I will absolutely be yammering on about this.

It was busy earlier today, so instead of working, I just surfed the net for horror stories. is/was on a Zalgo kick. He comes, ect, et cetra. Zalgo interests me only slightly. It suffers from a case of trying way to hard, like when someone tries to use slang but doesn't understand emphasis or context. I'm not going to crowd this post with text and links today, but I was thinking about it a bit. Sometimes I get a call with dead air. I imagine, just for a moment, that the silence will be broken with anything - sobbing, screaming, anything that shouldn't be there. Hanging up the phone, there's no little recourse.

If you were living your life, and something demonstrates some uncanny reality, it's still there to deal with. The hungry dead, voices on the line, images on your set, disjointed reflections in the mirror. No matter how terrible, the rest of life never goes away. Much horror ends with death after revelation. This prevents having to reconcile the new world with the old one.

atolnon: (Default)
( Nov. 1st, 2009 04:42 pm)
I had intended, for the last few days, to opine about societies stress on the idea of a positive attitude and have twice pulled a short essay when I decided it wasn't very well done. This is a bit of an issue for me, because I think the idea that we should be happy and positive all the time is a toxic one. Being cross about our situation is a bit like pain's role for our bodies; it's a state that tells us that something may be wrong with that situation. Being able to be cross in the workplace, I believe, is critical. Not being able to do so inhibits worker's rights in a subtle but pervasive way. I'd like to get into that a little more when my concept is worked out more cohesively. 

Today, I'd like to come back to a subject where my understanding is not complete but, I believe, I am capable of discussing it a little anyhow. That is, I have read some about the concept known as 'the death of the author', and I see a disturbing amount of uncritical opinions engaged against it.

I guess the problem is, when I try to write something about the death of the author, I feel like I'm stating the obvious. It's a problem any student of literature runs into at some point and has to come to terms with. In addition, we all know that people are unreliable, so just asking the author (providing that they indulge us with a response) isn't really always helpful. How do you, by way of example, get a reliable answer from a question like 'does this have racist elements' or 'isn't this actually hateful towards women'? So we have Death of the Author. You obviously can't just assign any old reading to a text, but people keep saying that you can, and that's disingenuous. The only people saying that are people who are opposed to the concept in general. I have never seen a serious post-modern reading critic argue that you can assign any damn reading at all to a text. So, I guess I'm looking into that as well.


atolnon: (Default)


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