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nationalistic anxiety that surrounds the deterioration of the post-Cold War superpower identity and how its been superceded by a kind of new-ish version of this - a technocratic, post-national oligarchy that doesn't care about the old white Western identity, except in so far as the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.
AKA: “How Are You Gonna Treat the Police?”

Spent the better part of my being bugfuck anxious, where it felt like my heart wasn't necesarily beating faster just harder, somehow, creating a kind of constant background noise that didn't block anything out but simply made it more difficult to parse. Then there was too much of it - noise - anyhow. I have way too many cats. One of them's in heat - haven't been able to get her fixed - and she's been yowling for weeks. It has to stop sometime, but I don't even remember the last time she wasn't in heat.

Fucking awful. I haven't done shit in a few days, this being day two. God knows I keep trying to get into a writing head space. So, we'll see.

Brewed a pot of oolong tea. Ate some lunch. Re-brewed it with a teaspoon of lapsang. I didn't used to be a tea guy and now I am, at least after breakfast. I don't know my tea academically, I just drink a lot of it. A stimulant to calm the nerves like nicotine, which is a vice I can't afford to trade in.

Okay, so I started re-reading Gibson's "The Bridge" trilogy, which has me beginning with Virtual Light. I've gotten, oh, about 7/8s through it before I've been able to sit down and let my thoughts clear up. Kept thinking I wanted to start with chapter 2, not chapter-by-chapter, but in terms of the whole sub-narrative it creates for us. But space is precious and there's actually too much to write, so I just narrow my focus to Gibson's treatment of the police.

When I read this in college, I didn't give a shit one way or the other about cops, and now I don't like them at all. Full disclosure. I actually wish I could like the police, you know? Like, if there were any kind of way that they'd be like I used to see them in TV - basically good, generally there to protect people. As if you could call the cops and they'd help you. Even Gibson doesn't write it like that. Rydell and Sublett seem to be some kind of aberration in the fabric of the police-narrative. Rydell can't stop himself from reacting, which costs him literally every employed position he has at every possible turn, while Sublett is physically and socially liminal. Like, it's probably strange to see such a fragile security gaurd - allergic to basically everything, including the light - part of a television cult that he's not even in proper adherance of doctrine with. I'm thinking, honestly, Sublett's a surprisingly brave dude. Both Rydell and Sublett are treated by the narrative as figures of personal, if reflexive, integrity.

Head canon seems to lock Rydell in as a Bruce Willis figure, almost based on the speech pattern alone. Read it and tell me he doesn't sound like fuckin' John McClane. Fresh from watching Luke Cage, I want to cast Theo Rossi as Sublett, but that creates chronology issues for my conciousness. This is the 90's, so my head re-tunes its image to, like, maybe James Marsters. Seriously. Anyhow.

I guess you can kind of clock someone's unthinking ideology by their cop figures, and the 90's are just like... they're fucking thick with 'em. I don't know why, because we're fresh out of the anti-government 80's, but there's something about the military and the police that are given a pass. I feel like the reason this happens is that they're granted authority and then break rules, which honestly makes them the worst of both worlds and I'd probably suggest that this results in the kind of scum-sucking blue lives matter movement bullshit I've come to see so often. Turning people into symbols and ignoring structure and ideologies.

Gibson's treatment of the police was similar, I think, to my own unthinking ideology when I was younger, so I think it just kind of... missed me. I didn't think about it. Rydell was good because he was doing things that seemed pretty good, if surprisingly destructive, and he was operating in places where breaking a lot of shit was either not really his fault of fundamentally harmless. He's never really put into a position where he has to make a difficult decision because now he has cop training and "good" cop ideology, but no cop rules at all. This kind of reminds me of David Sirota's book on how our attitudes kind of flow naturally from 80's media and this is fresh from that decade, so it's really no surprise. Gibson's cop writing is basically just that - just a re-heating of media cop narratives overlaid into a 90's cyberpunk
milieu. I think it's a little weird, really. As insightful as Gibson can be on some stuff, there's shit he just doesn't seem to catch at all.

Because of the lack of a standard work schedule, I don't really internally mark the difference between a weekday and a weekend, or between one week and another - but it's still been a fairly difficult week. Castillo and Sterling's shootings spark the same justifiable outrage in others and in myself, and after that there's the calvalcade of posts to social media which, for me, only serves to exhaust. This time it's going to be different, says everyone. If you're not talking about this... well, there are the posts talking about taking care of yourself, and there are the posts suggesting that if you're not talking about it you're letting people down. There are the well intentioned posts about how to be a good ally to the black community, and less well intentioned posts. Then there's the news about everyone else who's been shot by cops - this year, last year, in recent memory, and who haven't been reported widely yet. And then, there are the police who've been shot in protests, news about protests...

There's a bizarre sense of both urgency and an asynchronous reporting, as if all of this comes all at once, all the time - creating a sort of timeless, endless chamber of dead faces, still shots in videos I refuse to watch literally stained red with blood - where I know that with the ease of a button push I can see someone (now dead) die in what was real time.

Welcome to the real life cyberpunk dystopia. I won't say future - it's been here some time, now.

Pokemon Go is out, and I hear it's fun. I also hear that people are causing all kinds of weird accidents where a giant, memetic francise has finally tied itself in with its biggest digital partner so far - real life. We were all walking around looking at cell phones (me too, they're useful and I like them), and now we still are, but we're red, blue, or yellow team. Well, not me. I want to see the appeal, but I've never been big on Pokemon. Want to do me a favor and release one for Persona, anyone? Get that blocky city map from Persona 1 back... pick up herbal suppliments at Lush boutique or buy gear at, like, your local Pay Less. Really finally synergize your branding potential. Buy Accessories (not accessories) in the form of bejeweled keychains at Hot Topic and gain stat bonuses for your summoned demons - it's only a matter of time.

I'm pretty tired today and need the day off for yard work, house work, and personal writing.
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 16th, 2016 10:15 am)
This is just rambling - when I'm writing, I constantly have to re-clairify myself to myself. I'm feeling stymied this morning, so I'm going over some fundimentals. Obviously feel free to read if you want to - there's nothing of my mental state or day to day, but you might still be entertained if this is your bag. If it gets really long, I might put it under a cut.

Read more... )
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. 
I actually don't have all that long to type here, since we've got to get to a mechanic for Katie's car and then I gotta help with a food drive at a local convention. I'll have the evening free, but I'll probably forget by then, so I'm just going to post now, instead.

First, the link.

Second, why I'm posting the link.
That's the blog that I was working on a while ago and the resulting posts never materialized. There are good reasons for that, I assure you, but there's no ignoring the fact that I said I was gonna be doing a thing and then never actually got around to it. 

I'm extremely rusty on anything approaching academic writing, so once I had started, I had to go back and keep coming back to it, trying to figure out why what I had written wasn't quite right. Even now, I'm not really sure it's where it needs to be - in my opinion, it's probably reached the point where I'd be comfortable calling it a rough draft, but it's also a post made to Blogger (and, incidentally, Tumblr) and nobody is really going to comment on it, though I imagine I'll get at least a few people who bothered to read it. 

The premise is that genre writing is rarely taken seriously, and I feel that one of the hurdles of cyberpunk as a genre is that it's somewhat pigeonholed as universally dystopian literature, and that reading with that label stuck on it kind of flattens the world and makes critical reading that much more difficult. 

It's obviously not the only thing I'm going to write, either about cyberpunk or on media as a whole, but at least now that's off my desk and I can go on to work on the next thing. 
atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 5th, 2012 12:43 pm)
I have made the dangerous assumption that the question of what I have been writing implies a sort of interest as to the inner workings of those particular mechanics. 

That said, here's a link to today's blog post, if notes for a future essay (also to be posted) are of any interest whatsoever.

I naturally assume I'll be getting a call from a publisher any moment now. 

atolnon: (Default)
( Jun. 4th, 2012 03:43 pm)
I have a stack of notebooks on my desk, one book, several uncounted note cards, and 9 tabs in my browser baring the name of one William Gibson as I look for a very specific quote that I never seem to have added to my every increasing list of notes on the man and the subject of dystopian cyberpunk. 

Having re-read old notes and accidently stumbled upon ever newer things that should have been there in the first place, I took a look at what was currently in progress vis a vis my blog and realized that the post is going to take longer then I thought it probably would. My state of affairs is bordering on the ridiculous, but it's a situation I take seriously, so it needs to be remedied. 

In the mean time, let me assure you that my presence here is not mandatory. I genuinely kind of want to talk to you. I am aware that I am freeloading, but there is also time for this kind of business - especially when this kind of business frames my struggles with an amusing feeling of purpose. 

Did you know I specifically cleaned my desk so that I could mess it up with literature notes? It's true. That is a long way of saying, "Obviously, I am a nerd."

The quote I was looking for was when Gibson said that his writings were not really intended to by dystopian, but what I did find came close. The interview was with Scientific American*, and he was asked, "Your fiction has depicted wide class gulfs in which "lowlifes" co-exist with the rich and feudallike corporations that concentrate mind-boggling amounts of wealth... do you think that this disparity will continue to greater extremes as they develop further, and could they potentially restructure the current social order somehow?"

The printed answer, "I depict those socioeconomic gulfs because they exist and because most of the imagined futures I grew up with tended not to depict them. Migration to cities is now so powerful, so universal, that people will create cities, of sorts, simply through migration—cities that literally consist mainly of the people who inhabit them on a given day." is similar to what I assumed the reason had been, or what I remember saying, I forget which is which. Basically that this wide gulf already exists, and when you write it, it looks like a dystopia. 

What I'm writing doesn't hinge on that, but it's certainly part of it. There are lots of times, because Gibson repeats himself, where he says that most fiction, and especially his fiction, is about when it was written. 1984 is about 1948, The Sprawl trilogy is about the 80's, and The Bridge trilogy is about the 90's - regardless of original intentions. This is all in the writing, by the way, so you'll see it again with proper sourcing. If you want to ask about the relevance of cyberpunk, the thing to remember is that it almost can't help being social commentary no matter what the tropes are. Perhaps especially because of the tropes, but probably not.

I really had to take a break and write on this because my writing of this isn't done yet and I wanted to have something up, at the very least. We're still fucking around trying to get a 'yes' or 'no' out of the insurance company about the crawlspace, and when one's as good as another, it's time to fuck off and just find another way of dealing with it since there's very little chance that it's going to be over the deductible in the first place. I also know that I slipped the whole 'I'm getting married.' in kind of under the radar, like some kind of shitty test to see if you're paying attention. There's so much ridiculous shit going around at the moment that something simultaneously good and fun a year away seems akin to fiction and, even if it's on the level, is probably happening either to or for somebody else. 

Like I said before, I'm not sure on the details, so I guess you're likely to know whenever we do for sure if you're the type of person to whom these details are or become relevant and generally speaking, you know who you are.
I've been banging my head against the wall trying to get a good update from work. I've been working on other stuff when I'm home and by the time I get in, I'm hamstrung by actually having to, well, work. Alternately, there's been some difficulty in translating what I'm actually up to into something that can be reasonable posted. The other week, I went to the library a few times. By the time I was done, I'd walked out with about eight or nine books; some of these I've already read and others are brand new tacks on a subject I felt I was well grounded in. I felt that my premise was too narrow - can cyberpunk still exist as a living genre? Initially I thought that it couldn't, but after some reading and thinking, I realized that it can and does - it simply looks different then it used to.

It's an argument that can be convincingly made in five pages, but it lacks breadth and depth. Cyberpunk is nomenclature that was accidentally but convincingly assigned. It's appropriate, in that like 'gothic', it was never intentional but spread memetically.*

In any case, looking too hard at the name of the genre can be misleading. As early as 1985, Bruce Stirling was comfortable with publishing an anthology of cyberpunk work in Mirrorshades, and when you're doing that, you're usually able to put your finger on distinct themes that are present in a literary movement but the borders of any literary group are fuzzy at best. Despite that warning, the name does give a clue as to how the movement started - the 1980's were a time of strong anti-government sentiment in the US, even within the government. The connections, for example, between the radical conservative anti-government sentiments and the direction the Republican party was making at the time have been demonstrated by others recently. David Sirota also lays out a case for the same from the voices of our popular culture in Back to Our Future.

If popular culture was a hotbed of anti-government (if strangely pro-military) sentiment, then the counter-culture eschewed respect for the military but retained its anti-government bent, while adding a certain amount of disdain for the culture at large. The direction towards willing privatization, the Gorden Gecko 'greed is good' mantra, and a growing conservative bent plus militarization lent a nihilistic air to counter-cultural groups like punks or goths. Meanwhile, research in computing was progressing at an astounding rate. This is pretty much the gestalt that a movement like cyberpunk requires, because much of the themes revolve around the volatile combination of technology that's cheap enough to reliably find its way to the streets while, simultaneously, featuring corporations as the most common symbol of authority. 

Interestingly, while some writers undoubtedly moved in the direction of the intentional dystopia, other writers like William Gibson have gone on the record as saying they were never intentionally aiming in that direction.* (If it seems like one, well, a combination of future shock and characters who are basically hired thugs or live in slums... well, that'll tend to do it.) Many of the settings, intentional or not, infer a world that many readers would consider a dystopia.

That's the tack the 80's started to take. It took a disregard for the direction the established order was taking and smashed it up with a near future where electronics were cheap and not just in the hands of some of the West's poorest citizens, but required for daily life. A world where corporations are our chief authority and all but own the process of governing, and where our world footprint rests casually but firmly on the throat of the environment. A world, basically, that none of us could imagine happening today.

* Please bare with me. I do have a citation for that, but I'd have to find it, and I really don't want to at the moment.
atolnon: (Default)
( Mar. 23rd, 2011 12:52 pm)
I've been spending a lot of time reading on a decrepit red couch in a dusty room situated in an apartment complex which can best be described as a series of rickety, identical boxes with some of the most technologically complicated marvels ever created by humans.

Incidentally, what I've been reading are cyberpunk novels.

If there's a weak link in Gibson's newer Blue Ant trilogy, then Zero History ain't it. It's a lot snappier then Spook Country, and ties in more smoothly to Pattern Recognition then Spook did. Gibson's a much more sophisticated writer now then he was over twenty years ago, and it's hard not to take that into account, so instead I'll just mention John Clute's note that Gibson has more or less stopped writing something that can be called traditional science fiction because traditional science fiction is no longer possible "in a world lacking coherent 'nows' to continue from..."*

I think it's probably stretching it to say that it's impossible. It's definitely more difficult.

Sci-fi, in any environment, is a reference to a future, though. That's different then cyberpunk which is more of a movement then it ever was a genre. And when you've got Stephenson writing something like Snow Crash in 1993, where he's pretty much lampooning the movement (at the same time he tells a pretty compelling story), well, I feel like the writing was already on the wall.** It's hard to write with the tropes we're familiar with being attached to cyberpunk in the modern age, because we've currently subsumed those very same tropes into our daily life.

We're a smart phone grafted to our skull away, and really, we've already got bluetooth, so fuck it. We generally don't like those guys anyhow, so I guess the question isn't 'how' but 'how much do we want it'? Followed shortly by 'and how much are you willing to pay?'

This cyberpunk shit is pretty much not what we envision it being anyhow. Seriously, it's not. We think chrome and mirrorshades and I guess whatever Lady Deathstrike crap the Molly Millions crammed into her fingernails, but on reading up, a lot of it was just sci-fi in a near future environment populated by people with poor personal skills. So, actually, the critical part of cyberpunk is probably the -punk suffix; something that we haven't been able to culturally nail since we sold it to Hot Topic for mass distribution, followed by sound mocking.

*^ Clute, John. "The Case of the World". Excessive Candour. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14. Shameless stolen from Wikipedia.

** This is honestly a little disingenuous, because the lampooning seems to be rooted in how seriously some of the cyberpunk movement took the grimdark of their prospective 80's settings at a time when we were coming into the Clinton 90's. As a younger guy, I remember reading a Wired article speculating how the tech bubble might never burst, so how's that for your ridiculous optimism?
I've been almost unreasonably irritated with my journal writing lately. There's nothing quite like sitting down for half an hour, banging out a few pretty well considered paragraphs and then coming back and thinking, "Well, this is all a bit shit, isn't it?" It's just short of enraging. I've lost count of the entries I've tried and failed to produce.

Man, whatever.

I'm actually up to kind of a lot, but I don't really know what to say about it. Video games. Role-playing. There's really nothing new going on here and I don't have an opinion that hasn't been voiced by maybe everyone who's engaged in these activities ever. That's not a lot of incentive.

As I've posted then deleted two things in as many hours, though, I feel like I need to have something up.
"Jesus, man. Think! These fine people deserve content!"

There's got to be something. Of course there is.

I'm what you might call a genre writer. At least I am some of the time. And while my fiction could use a little beefing up, I've spent a lot of time actually researching it. Cyberpunk, I mean. To me, it feels like a dead genre - the nails in the coffin being, perhaps, William Gibson's latest novels. He retains much of the inherent sensibilities and tendencies of his previous novels, but things like VR, cybernetic implants, and first-world war zones seem to have lost their edge. Not for the reasons some would guess though, but because they're basically already here, and they've arrived without much fanfare at all.

Yeah. Well. It kind of seems strange to make a big fuss about it these days. To write a cyberpunk novel now is simply to write a thriller that's up to date on technological trends. Say hello to Gibson's new trilogy.

The problem with cyberpunk isn't that you can't write a story with a combination of near future technology coupled with social commentary, but that the ascetic which is the other half of the story doesn't resonate in the same way anymore. The future is here, and as it always is for those that live it, it's surprisingly banal. We've had a long time to come to terms with our corporate overlords.

I mean, I think you can still write something and call it cyberpunk, but it's a send up to a previous time. I'm open to recanting this opinion. I'm in the middle of researching it.


atolnon: (Default)


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