ORIGAMY: Synthetic Biology Fiction

September 6th, 2020 by admin

So I’m a bunch of the way through Rachel Armstrong’s ORIGAMY now, and here’s the thing:

There’s a field of rogue mutant hair transplants, and the hair field is grazed upon by a trip of transgenic goats, and there’s like five pages on the digestive processes of these goats, including shoals of microsquid that live in one of the four stomachs. And it’s brilliant.

If you’re not up for that: the book is about people who use chopsticks to tie knots in spacetime for travel purposes. And art.

Rachel is a synthetic biologist — I met her at a think-tank in Eindhoven a few years ago — and ORIGAMY is what happens when you let a synthetic biologist write a full work of speculative fiction. Possibly this practice will be banned after ORIGAMY is released.

It’s an incredibly dense piece of bizarre fantastika balanced artfully on a very simple structure, a journey of discovery, secrets and ancient threats. Parts feel like they’ve come from fable, or folk tales about strange circus people. In reading it, I’ve gotten through about ten pages at a time before having to stop and stare into space and process everything that’s just been dumped into my head. It’s like she freebased twelve novels into one intense concentrated rock.

ORIGAMY is a magnificent, glittering explosion of a book: a meditation on creation, the poetry of science and the insane beauty of everything. You’re going to need this.

It comes out on April 3 2018, and, afterwards, there will only be people who have read ORIGAMY and people who have not, and neither of them will be able to understand the other.

You can pre-order it direct from the publisher here, or through Amazon (UK) (US)

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State Of The Connection

August 6th, 2020 by admin

I neither like nor trust Facebook, but I’m using it again, partly to examine it once more, partly because I think they’ve probably won the current cycle of net-based communications. Most of my other messaging apps have become wastelands. Whether they call it a necessity or an addiction, 99% of people operate a FB account on some level. And now I do too.

Tried a new app the other day. It doesn’t work outside America, even if, like me, you have a US number that can receive the entry code as a text.

That US number I have, through an app called Holonumber, will stop working soon, as Holonumber is apparently no longer supported outside the US – can’t buy more credit.

Snapchat is irrelevant now, will be broken in a year and gone in three.

I’m back to using just one Slack channel, with six other people.

Signal has gone out of fashion (again), WhatsApp is basically the Facebook Phone Company, Instagram killed a bunch of things, Facebook is making a home videophone because that’s where we are again. Slack just went down, my local train service to London is going to stop working at 930pm every night til May and Joe Arpaio is running for US Senate.

Thanks for coming to my fucking TED talk

PS. Tinyletter is apparently going to be fine until 2019 earliest. And people are trying again to talk me into hosting a monthly event in London. I suspect I’m not quite in the mood in 2018.

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Recent Quotes 17feb18

February 17th, 2020 by admin

Xefirotarch makes vampire architecture. The reasons for this go beyond the now well-known series of incidents at the group’s recent SF MoMA show, during which, over consecutive days in the spring of 2006, several children were left bleeding and traumatized by their encounters with the installation. Each claimed to have been “bitten” by its forms, but more likely the children had fallen upon one of its dangerous, fang-like angles, and left punctured by the sharp contours. One boy was hospitalized for nearly a week because of his injuries. The linear gash in his abdomen is now healing, but he remains adamant that the work lunged at him and not the other way around.

Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution, Benjamin H. Bratton (UK) (US)

Cohen got up early and studied the market at home before being driven to the office by 8 A.M. by a bodyguard in a gray Maybach. He arrived to find a bowl of hot oatmeal wrapped in cellophane waiting on his desk. His station at the center of the trading floor resembled a cockpit, with twelve monitors mounted in front of him.

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street, Sheelah Kolhatkar (UK) (US)

‘We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth?’

– The ‘pagan’ author Symmachus

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey  (UK) (US)

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Reblog, Or: Little Radio Stations In The Night

January 6th, 2020 by admin

On my newsletter last weekend, I wrote this:

Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to go full-bore blog again, like in the old days. Twitter’s only real use is as a notification system, after all, so you’d just pump out post links to it from your blog.  You know, the way people used to, when having a place for your own voice and your own thoughts was a good thing.

When I was in the swing of it, way back when, it was like the world’s most minimalist radio station. A Station Ident post to start the day, a Night Music or Closedown post at the end of the day, littered with whatever strangeness and wonder passed my screen in between.

I miss that long moment when the web seemed full of people doing the same thing, or thinking in public.  It happens in the Republic Of Newsletters, now. But it was nice to have all those little radio stations broadcasting in the night.

Yesterday, Reza Negarestani emerged with a website called Toy Philosophy, whose first post was entitled Returning to the Age of Blogging.

Now, my RSS feeds never went quiet.  I linked to a friend’s blog post the other day and he told me half the reason he posted it was to see if anyone was still using RSS!

I’ve seen the idea circulating for a while: come off the streams, own your own platform for your own voice and your own complete statements.  It seems like a reactionary step, from some angles. But maybe that great river, The Conversation, was, like every river followed to its source, a dead end. The resurgence of the Republic Of Newsletters may be one aspect of a return to the ocean, dotted with little pirate radio stations broadcasting through the night again.

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REQUIREMENTS 18feb18

February 6th, 2019 by admin
  • Figuring out a way to make LinkedIn rebuild and expand my network and contacts list, i.e. the only thing it was ever good for
  • Learning how to see the future again
  • A Hunter satchel from Peg & Awl.  (I don’t require one, but they look awfully nice, and I don’t currently have a good day bag)
  • I need to get my schedule to land so that I can plan some travel. Europe is calling.
  • Batching my email, probably. I’m at Inbox 39, which, for me, is criminal. I need to get back on my shit with replying and dealing with stuff and setting reminders.  This year started so fast that I didn’t have the usual few weeks in January to review my habits, practise and mechanics.
  • Hammer a fucking earphone jack into this stupid fucking new iPhone I had to get because an audio device without an earphone jack is like a car without fucking doors
  • also maybe work on my blood pressure some more

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Fifty

February 22nd, 2018 by admin

Yeah, I turned fifty last week. Might as well memorialize it here in my journal. Below is the photo I took that day as I walked into town for a glass of wine and a stop at the food hall. Which, I guess, looks as bleak as most of the photos I take. But the air was crisp and clean, and the sky was nigh cloudless and the sun was bright and hard. Reminded of that line (and many others) from Cohen’s “Tower Of Song” – standing by the window, where the light is strong. It’s a song I identify with more and more as I age. Or, at least, understand more.

Fifty doesn’t feel too bad. Although I feel compelled to mention the extremely mild barely-there recurring headache I’ve had for a couple of weeks, to strike that doomy foreshadowing note if it turns out to be a brain tumour.

See? I can still make jokes. Not dead yet.

Or, as the other guy said “Well… yes, and here we go again.”

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BLACK EDGE

February 20th, 2018 by admin

BLACK EDGE, by Sheelah Kolhatkar, is the story of Steve Cohen, financial wizard and insider-trading pirate, his weird life and the strange, damaged people who fell into his wake because of the riches he brought with him.  And the fucked-up financial policing system in America.

Ever watch that show BILLIONS?  You know, the one which opened with Paul Giamatti being pissed on by his dominatrix?  This is the real story.  It is both less lurid – no obvious piss play — and more fucked up.  Yes, it’s fun to see Paul Giamatti looking for new things to shout at while Damien Lewis smiles his weird little smile, but there is nothing in that show like the howling human void that is trader Matthew Martoma, whose story becomes the centre stone of this carefully assembled liar’s house.

With clear explanations of the financial shenanigans for people like me who are all but mathematically bind, and exquisite pen-portraits of all the characters involved  – the brief sketch of the demented informant known as “Winnie The Pooh” was an especial favourite — BLACK EDGE manages to be entertaining as well as rich and, of course, quite chilling. Totally recommended.

BLACK EDGE, Sheelah Kolhatkar  (UK) (US)

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