Anticipating The Unknown

I’m speaking at this thing in London called “Anticipating The Unknown” on July 18  – eventbrite link – part of the Virtual Futures programme.

“Anticipating The Unknown” is something I find myself having to talk about in public, for some reason.  Did a whole talk around it at How The Lights Get In a couple of years ago, thought that would be the last of it, and then had to resurrect it several times afterwards.

There’s a thing I say: as writers of fiction, we speculate on the available information and test out futures from the broad weatherfront of possibilities in front of us, acting as early warning stations for the culture.

Of course, we can’t make anyone listen to us.  And, in the famous phrase, there are always unknown unknowns that nobody sees coming.

There are some points in time where that all sounds a little too hopeful and a little too weak – when things feel like they’re accelerating and everything’s just a little bit nuts, events a little too unexpected.  It feels a little bit reactionary to hold on to that aphorism above when everything feels like it’s going bugfuck.

If you follow that all the way down, of course, you end up believing that you’re living in a set of special circumstances and the Great Attractor at the end of history is spinning up to enact the Singularity.

Keep checking your weather vane and your barometer. Always be questioning the method and testing the air.  But always remember that sometimes it’s just a weird patch, and not the final acceleration into a zone where physics stop working.


Reading: 300 ARGUMENTS, Sarah Manguso (UK) (US)


Requirements 7jul17

  • Never be afraid to throw away a want.  Wants change, goalposts move, and resolutions and ambitions are not binding contracts
  • Good bluetooth earbuds with a decent battery life, because I will have to upgrade my phone this year which means I’ll have to give up the headphone jack because phone makers are fucking stupid greedy monsters
  • I need to get on a plane soon.  I need to junp off this angry, defeated little rock and wake up somewhere strange.
  • A leather bracelet, I think. I have a watch on my left wrist and my right wrist looks empty.  I’m presuming that this thought, all on its own, is a sign that I’m due another stroke-like episode.  Who looks at their wrists and thinks, hmm, that looks unbalanced?  Someone unbalanced, that’s who.
  • Four days in an undisclosed and secret location where I can just turn everything off and sit outside with a notebook and listen to music and think and ignore everything but the weather and the sun falling down and the stars lighting up and the things that minds can do.
  • Lunch.


The Sydarthur Festival 2

Got the below programme in the mail.  Came as a complete surprise.  Last year, the Cope family – Dorian, Avalon and Julian – put up a month of songs and writing surrounding the confluence of Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee, who died 28 days apart.  “This is – in the psychedelic spirit of its two major players – a mind-manifesting festival. No pricey tickets, no camping like sardines in some infernal swamp.” I’m not the world’s greatest psychedelia aficionado, but last year I found something beautiful and information on every day.

Additionally, they write: “Between the pillars of Arthur and Syd lies a rich fertile land inhabited by a multitude of psychedelic events and of artists, authors and practitioners whose births and deaths fall within this 28-day period.”  And so the Copes occupy an entire continuum on these 28 days.

You can even buy the rather lovely programme that Dorian so kindly sent me, complete with CD and commentary from the magisterial Julian Cope, creator of some of my favourite musics.  (Everybody should own ODIN, as far as I’m concerned.)

On July 7, begin at


Extelligence And Minimum Viable Internetting

From this piece here:

Connection is inevitable: Most of these experts argued that humans crave connectivity, and they will seek more of it due to its convenience and out of necessity because it will simply be embedded in more and more things. One thoughtful framing of this idea came from Dan McGarry, media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post. “Connection is inevitable,” he wrote. “It’s what [Terry] Pratchett, [Ian] Stewart and [Jack] Cohen call extelligence. So much of human experience is based outside of the human being these days, you can’t be a functioning adult and remain unconnected.” An anonymous respondent put it this way: “The stickiness and value of a connected life will be far too strong for a significant number of people to have the will or means to disconnect.”

A lot to unpack in that piece, relevant to many recent thoughts.  “Extelligence” is unavoidably a consumer purchase, of course.  What is Minimum Viable Connection, at this point?  Just heard a story about a writer who’s going email-free for twelve months – to contact them, one has to email their assistant, who will presumably speak to them. Outsourced connective function.  Interesting power statement, too.  Like being rich enough to drink all the wine and then pay someone to have your hangover for you.

Currently finishing: ESSAYISM,  Brian Dillon (UK) (US)


And Balance

Everyone tells me I’m working too much, and everything is fully insane from the moment my eyes can focus to about three and a half minutes before I go to bed.  And, while I am sorely in need of a day off, and face-to-face conversations with other humans, and occasionally have trouble waking all the way up before 3pm… it feels good.  I feel good.  Bursts of extended travel, loads of interesting email and messaging, turning the volume of it all down for protracted writing sessions and then stepping back into the tide of material to process and approve and discuss and tweak… It’s mad, and there is literally 3.5 minutes between me getting up from the keyboard and me being in bed.  But it’s in balance.  I have the outside world filtered out.  It’s just me, my comrades and fellow travellers, the news and the music, and the work.

I’m absent from the world in a lot of ways that I never used to be, and I have some fine-tuning to do, but, generally, I’m present in a way that works for me.  Nothing’s perfect — but nothing’s ever perfect.  And I realised earlier this week that I have, for some while, been at peace.  It’s all insane and overwhelming and exhausting and it takes everything I’ve got, every day.  But.  I’m at peace.

What’s next?


My newsletter goes out on Sundays.  Maybe you’d like to subscribe.



Coming up on my next extended retreat from the public internet.  CASTLEVANIA goes live on July 7, and I will do my bit, as writer and co-producer, to cross-promote it.  On July 8 I pull the plug.  I will keep most of my bots running, because they circulate arts and information and I still believe that all good things should flow into the boulevard.  In Craig Mod’s new newsletter, which everyone should be subscribed to, he notes:

I have thoughts swirling around on: media and network disconnection, the Detox Period, hyper-presence

As do I, but I have found that I don’t have the time to develop them, these days.  Despite what – and this still tickles me – what Greg Borenstein called my “freakish parallel processing habits.”   Which he suspects are an “adaptive mutation.”  (Sorry, Greg, but it cracks me up every time I think of it.)

I don’t digitally-detox, not until such time as the notifications are deafening.  I recently noted that, in one moment, my phone received so many simultaneous notifications that the stress of trying to play all the different alert sounds at once sent my phone into a seizure it took a reboot to recover from.  Work went fully supersonic mad this year, and that’s what my days sound like now.  And even on those moment, I just turn the volume down, really, and go to very selective filters.

But actually engaging and talking on the public internet?  That does pull focus, and it does eat braincycles.  I am a thousand ears and a million eyes, but I’ve only got the one voice.  I will connect and speak in private, and all people will see are the product of my labour and the strange little rocks I pull from the streams.

Drop me a note or a DM.  What can I do for you?


(I did, however, amuse myself on an unwell and insomniac night by reconstituting my LinkedIn page, of all things, so, you know, I’m full of shit and need to go away just to think about what I’ve done.)

Just bought: THE FORCE, Don Winslow (UK) (US)






Little Coffin Of Me

After all the travel I had in February – April, and all the people who asked for them, I had business cards made. And then I barely left the house except for meetings with people who already had all my contact details and didn’t need business cards.

I felt weird even having them made, but I had a space of several weeks where I was being asked for one several times a day. And here I thought business cards had gone away. I assumed it was all NFC vCards now, or just texting people your details, or maybe tapping in a Twitter @ or something, or maybe people really were using LinkedIn., or something The Youngs had invented that I was unaware of because I am An Old and considering profferring thin slices of tree to people like a fucking Neanderthal. No, out in the world, it turns out business cards are somehow still a thing.  How was that even possible?

So now I have a box of them, and nobody to give them to, because the world turned and now I’m just doing meetings on extant projects.  Look at it. Little coffin.


Recently read and recommended: THAT OPTION NO LONGER EXISTS: BRITAIN 1974-76, John Medhurst (UK) (US)


Not My Teaching, But My Study

…Montaigne, who writes in his essay ‘Of Practice’:

What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is not a lesson for others, but for me. And yet it should not be held against me if I publish what I write. What is useful to me may also by accident be useful to another. Moreover, I am not spoiling anything, I am only using what is mine. And if I play the fool, it is at my expense and without harm to anyone. For it is a folly that will die with me, and will have no consequences.

Those odd moments when you find in history the perfect description of the things you do today. Like this journal.  It should be the standing header.

Found in ESSAYISM, by Brian Dillon, which is rather a good book. (UK) (US).  Also:

But the desire of the essay is not to seek and filter the eternal out of the transitory; it wants, rather, to make the transitory eternal.

Also relevant to my interests and list of jobs on my whiteboard right now.  Wisdoms.


Star Ships: Myth Is The Carrier Wave

I ended a talk in Manchester a couple of years ago with this:

Magic is our language and our story, and we can’t ride the ghost train into a future of haunted machines without them.

I can add something new to that thought.  Myth is the carrier wave of civilisation. Put simpler: astrology leads to astronomy leads to navigation.  Imbedded in the former are the conditions for the latter. This comes to me from STAR SHIPS by Gordon White, a book I read a couple months ago and is still haunting me to the point where I think I’m going to have to re-read it next month.

He speculatively reconstructs ancient belief systems and applies them to a broader-scale investigation of the emergence of humans from Africa. His background is in data analysis, I believe, and he combines being wild-eyed with being clear-eyed in a remarkable, entertaining and thought-provoking way.

I seem to recall saying to Fraction, “I just want to read something that will freak my shit out,” and mythemes from the Laurasian landmass informing intellectually advanced pockets in Micronesia were really just the top of this slide. White is careful about his own solves, scathing about the woolly-mindedness of others, almost completely skates around ancient-alien bullshit, and builds his speculations as clearly and solidly as he can. I want to re-read it and talk more about it.  It’s a marvellous piece of work – it delights, informs, provokes and freaks your shit out.

STAR SHIPS, Gordon White (UK) (US)


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