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nationalistic anxiety that surrounds the deterioration of the post-Cold War superpower identity and how its been superceded by a kind of new-ish version of this - a technocratic, post-national oligarchy that doesn't care about the old white Western identity, except in so far as the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.
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... )
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)
( 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)
( Apr. 22nd, 2009 04:22 pm)
I'm still hung up on these minimalist products.

William Gibson writes about the intersection of information and people in a more mature way then he did with the Sprawl trilogy. I didn't make the connection before, when Brent sent me the link to the Muji store (now posted to a Facebook near you), but it turns out that when Gibson wrote Pattern Recognition, he mentioned that the minimalist can't-look-at-logos protagonist bought clothing, she bought them at Muji.

Me, I'm hung up on Gibson's Spook Country, which continues a narrative that is structurally similar to that of the Sprawl trilogy. I became interested in his writing about information, but it may be that I'm specifically interested in memes and identification.

Muji was just short for a Japanese term that indicated high-quality, no-brand goods. It opened up a chain of stores (or something) and now Muji has branches internationally, including a website, ect, et al. The confusion of recognizing and approving of a chain that sells items with no particular logo scrambles us, because it's a contradiction that the most cynical of us attribute to trying to hijack a counterculture, or an approximation thereof.

Postmodernism has signs and signifiers. When we look for signs, a lack of obvious signs stands out. By standing out, it makes itself a sign. When something says 'no sign', that denial is a sign. Rationally, we can only say that when it says 'no brand', it is not saying 'no sign' but that you can't depend on a brand for quality. Not that it can't be recognized.

Gibson had a protagonist who recognized brands but was adorned in none, specifically.* Someone without this kind of identification is a cypher, especially when you realize just how concerened with brands and identification that Gibson's writing is.

This is what I do in my free time.
* Except a Rickson's jacket, which is important.
This is more of a geek blog for me, on the average, but there's always the divergence that I expect and plan for. In this case, posting on here was a narrow decision over my xanga. I don't know that it matter much.

I bought "Spook Country" from the half-price bookstore not too long ago and took my sweet time in getting down to read it, partially because I'd been spending a lot of time re-watching Stand Alone Complex. I have a kind of incidental love of cyber-punk as a genre that I believe is 1) dead and 2) never really makes it into my gaming. Cyberpunk is an interesting genre because, as the name suggests, it is somewhat tied to a socio-political movement. I don't know that I want to say that it's a dead movement, but it's changed, and so has 'cyberpunk'.

Spook Country has a throwaway line in the first hundred pages to a character in Pattern Recognition, the book published right before it which informs me that the two books are in the same world. Unlike the Sprawl trilogy, these two more recent novels are published in a contemporary setting instead of the future, and the contemporary setting of now is still the future to when the Sprawl trilogy was actually published. While I doubt anyone seriously believed our present would occur in the toxic landscape of the Sprawl trilogy, it's certainly different then what actually hit the pages.

William Gibson writes about information, people, and the exchange that occurs between them. Geeks love him because he played on a lot of tropes we loved or came to love, but I believe that the deep and abiding love that he has inspired is partially because of the core themes of the nature of information. In his earlier works, the writing on the nature of information was a little more immature, because our understanding of these memes and of the way we'd begin to process information was a little immature. As he continued to work, he moved from ninja, space stations, and loa AI  to archaeologists, advertisers, and journalists.  If the pacing is similar, I imagine that's on purpose; the roles the characters play are similar, only their names are changed.

I'm not entirely finished with Spook Country, but the above thoughts occurred to me last night.


atolnon: (Default)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags