machine cycle upgrade

“Expelled as commander to be integrated as connector, the human is transformed by its own works from a brain legislating life to a ligament binding machine cycles.” Brian Massumi, quoted by Pierre Joris in “Nomad Poetics” I stayed in a Mercure Hotel last night (the picture’s the view from my room), and was struck by […]

at play in infinity

  I spent Friday both talking and listening at the wildly enjoyable Playful 2011 Conference (that’s me on-stage above – pic @thisisplayful). This post is a very quick follow-on to that. I’ve had quite a few requests for both the talk itself and a list of the writers I mentioned. So, I’ve posted the talk […]

Friedman, Capitalism and Fantasy

Fantasy’s often condemned for ignoring reality; but much supposedly rational, descriptive writing can have a tenuous relationship with reality, and with the fundamental structures of reality, too. Stories of the fantastic at least have the virtue of being honest about their fictive nature. Take Milton Friedman, for example. I’ve just been reading ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ […]

On becoming an optimist

Well, I wasn’t going to blog tonight (sleeping being very preferable), but while reading in the bath I’ve just had a fascinating collision between three interesting writers, so I thought I’d do a quick post. So – I’d been planning to start on a novel, but couldn’t be bothered, so took Adorno’s ‘Minimalia Moralia’ in […]

What’s a person anyway?

So much narrative removes the possibility of change. Although faced by risk, the hero always win out, the quality and correctness of his or her original vision unchallenged. They’re superficially about progress, but in fact such narratives privilege stasis. The hero might develop new skills (whether practical or emotional) to allow them to achieve their […]

Martians kill Humanism

I finished off a collection of Leigh Brackett’s Martian romances over the weekend – ‘The Coming of the Terrans’. Some great stories in there, but there’s more going on than just pulp mayhem. Brackett’s Martian stories are set on an exotic, faded Mars. In her world, humans arrived there to find an aeon-shadowed (thanks, HPL) […]

Myths to a flame

In ‘Mythologies’, Barthes notes – ‘it is well known how often our ‘realistic’ literature is mythical (if only as a crude myth of realism) and how our ‘literature of the unreal’ has at least the merit of being only slightly so’. Elsewhere, M. John Harrison has pointed out that, as soon as you’ve got a […]

A mirror to shine in

Seeing a ghost is like experiencing a fragment of someone else’s memory; an insistent, present, repeated moment broken out of all context. Fiction takes such fragments and sets them in a reasoned and coherent narrative and emotional context. For example, there’s Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s novel ‘The Shining’. He’s trapped in the Overlook Hotel, […]

Norming, performing

Thomas More notes of the Utopians that ‘they believe that the dead mix freely with the living… the sense of their ancestors’ presence discourages any bad behaviour in private.’ Observation is control; bad behaviour here is deviance from social norms, rather than anything more fundamentally immoral – and the observing dead ensure that those social […]