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)
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.
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.
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.”
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)