2019 Has Fully Happened

I’d toyed around with maybe farting around on the internet a bit this year. Maybe dipping in and out of social media, rebuilding my online audience a bit, trying some digital experiments, perhaps even having and joining some conversations.

Oh, but 2019 has fully happened. When 2018 went Full Speed Life, I pushed and railed against it and got pissed off. This year? Fuck it. I accept it. I’m pulling out my fresh notebooks, assembling my pens, declining all public appearances, buying DVDs and spending thirty quid a day at Bandcamp. I’m done. I am accepting the life and accepting that this and the newsletter (and, I suppose, Status, and Longwave when I am so moved) will be my only contact with the outside.

Just before Xmas, my manager said to me about the moment, “it’s 1000mph or nothing at all.” The implication at the end being, “pick one.”

I’m 51 next month. Fuck it. Let’s pick 1000mph and see what happens. Writing this journal entry to myself is declaration. I accept.

So here’s a photo of one of my cats.

The Hope In Dystopia

A dystopia is a speculative situation where the absolute minority of people habitually experience hope and joy. Embedded in every piece of dystopian fiction is utopian thinking – the speculative condition where the absolute majority of people habitually experience hope and joy.

Commercial dramatic fiction requires tension between two poles. It requires stakes, change, a goal to advance towards. Conflict. Dystopian fiction is almost never actually about the dystopia itself (although writing dystopia is good, crunchy stuff with lots of detail to relish in the authorship). Dystopian fiction is almost always about the utopian reach that’s suppressed by the situation.

(*There are exceptions to every rule and statement do not @ me)

The request for more hopeful, optimistic and utopian thinking in popular drama comes around every few years. Utopias run up against the structures and strictures of popular drama. It’s hard to tell a conventional drama when, um, everything is awesome.

(Unhappily for everybody, a utopia, as a perfected human condition, is a static society, and static societies are dystopias)

Dystopia is one of those parts of speculative fiction that function as early-warning systems for bad sociocultural weather, a function I’ve talked about at length elsewhere. Dystopia is also about the fight for a better world. Every well-written dystopia is, unlike most other forms of drama, already always about hope.

(*I haven’t slept properly in, I dunno, probably two years, so don’t take this as a considered proclamation cut in stone, I’m just thinking out loud to myself.)

In a few days I will have NOCILLA LAB (UK) (US) to read and everything will be fine.

Please enjoy this cheerful image I accidentally took on the way into London on Monday.

Recent Quotes 11jan19

All stories are stories of disintegration, no doubt, but this disintegration is itself only an ordinary episode in the empire of rain.

  • Béla Tarr, the Time After, Jacques Rancière and Erik Beranek (UK) (US)

In nature he sees only cruelty and pain and states quite clearly that the reason for our existence might simply be to allow pain to exist.

  • The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett, John Calder
    (UK) (US)

Chayefsky found an ally for Altered States at the highest level of Columbia Pictures, where the former MGM executive Daniel Melnick had risen to the studio’s presidency. (Reviewing the screenplay a few weeks prior to his official appointment, Melnick had cheekily written to Chayefsky in a telegram, DEAR PADDY: STUNNING, BRILLIANT, BREATHTAKING—BUT WE CAN FIX IT.)

  • Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, Dave Itzkoff (UK) (US)

‘4′ 33″’ is not about silence at all, in fact, but the impossibility of it. This was something he discovered on visiting an anechoic chamber at Harvard University, supposedly a sensory deprivation experience, but during which he was aware of two droning sounds, high and low. These were, the duty engineer told him, the sounds of his nervous system and blood circulation respectively.

Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music, David Stubbs
(UK) (US)

Friends; always there when they need you.

Europe at Dawn (The Fractured Europe Sequence Book 4), Dave Hutchinson
(UK) (US)

Morning 2019

Today’s the day I take the auto-responder off my email. I shouldn’t, as I have a screenplay to finish in a week, and there’s a chunk right in the middle of it that continues to elude me and it hasn’t got any good jokes yet. But, today, I need to admit to the outside world that I’m still alive.

I am not ready for 2019 to begin. But it’s rare that I ever feel completely ready to do a thing before I do a thing.

For whatever reason, I’m always happiest when I just take a deep breath and wing it. And, in the end, it’s the right thing for me to have done.

You can arrange post-it notes and cards all you like, graph and plot and plan it. I’ll be the one standing on his own, looking at his watch and squinting at the horizon.

Here we go again. Deep breath.

Rustle And Groan

Because I’m way too tired for the hustle and flow. Not to go all hustle-porn on you, but 2019 is looking like it could be the busiest year of my life. 2018 was bad enough. January is usually slow. Everything kind of exploded around Jan 5. I have a feeling it could be Jan 2 in 2019.

So I’m taking the gap between Xmas and New Year to just kind of breathe, organise things in my head, and work out how to get through 2019 without ending it in a box.

We do what we have to, to tell the stories we want to, in the spaces that opportunity provides. Sometimes you only get one shot to tell one particular story or do one particular thing. And, after you do this a while, that becomes okay, because you know there will be other spaces for other stories. But, for me, 2019 is full of those one-time spaces, so I need to show up and give all of them their best shot at happening.

No public appearances from me in 2019. Just life and writing (and producing) and probably spending thousands on new music to get me through the year.

Just enjoying these peaceful, quiet days and attending to my recovery from the damage of 2018 before the engines re-light and I have to do it all over again.

Deep breath before we go down the dip.

I put all the love and beauty
In the spirit of the night
And I’m holding my ticket tight.

Reading and loving the NOMA GUIDE TO FERMENTATION (UK) (US)

MERRY CLICKMASS EVERYBODY

Oh good, WordPress updated its back end and now I can’t see how to do anything.

I was typing to an acquaintance the other day and accidentally invented the term “human clickmass.”  It still amuses me.

Possibly I am easily amused. Or I lost some brain function after stress and overload got to me and, according to my wristband, my heart rate hit 177.

So the email auto-responder is finally on, notifications are being switched off, and, since my presence is not required anywhere else, I’m going to make another cup of espresso and put on some music and think about next year.

I hope you get a little bit of space to yourself over the next week or two, reader.

That Shingy Life

One of the things that’s come to bother me over the last year is seeing people falling into constantly being on the road and giving talks, pausing only to dump a tweetstorm before going somewhere else and doing talks, week after week, month after month.  Not least because I worry they’re going to turn into Shingy.

You remember Shingy.  David Shing. “Digital prophet” for Oath, bats around the world as a brand ambassador, talking, talking, talking, making little sense and making no cultural mark.

During a half-awake session of link-surfing while full of flu meds the other week, I happened across the blog of one of those guys who was always doing talks and camps and streams and conferences and all the fucking rest of it.  He’s in his fifties now.  On his blog, he notes that he has tiny savings and even after downsizing he and his wife both need full-time income streams to keep the lights on and the kids fed.

Put another way — even a year ago, before his business hit some self-inflicted disasters, he would have had jack shit to show for that Shingy life.

(Because Shingy, you know, has been on a six-figure salary for years.)

Now, said guy has always been a braying idiot who was wrong about everything.  But I worry for the other people.

A thought for the new year: try to stay home for a bit and make some things that might last, please?

And yes, yes, I know, precarity, cobbled-together career skeins, gets harder all the time, freedom versus drowning in platform capitalism, I know.

But a privileged white man from Silicon Valley with an address list fatter than Ron Jeremy’s phone book did it all century and has fuck all to show for it, so how do you think that’s going to work out for you?

 

READING: REPUBLIC OF LIES, Anna Merlan, which is fucking brilliant (PREORDER UK) (PREORDER US)

 

Tumbl Down

I’m a syndicator.  I stopped wanting to silo original collections of words in other people’s systems a long time ago.  I send things from here and Longwave and Status to social networks, but they don’t originate there, and twice a year I wipe them anyway.  I have been using Tumblr since the outset, but long ago grabbed all my stuff out of there and set up a system to save anything new on my Tumblr to an offsite location.  For some considerable time, I’ve only been using it to find material – when I reblog, it triggers an IFTTT recipe that copies the material to my personal logging site.

All of which is to say, I’ve been on the internet since the dawn of the graphical web, I don’t care about public community networking, and I have a complex fee-paying system of doing things.

The people still using Tumblr do not, and neither would the next generation that came to the web and found an easy networked way to start expressing themselves in the digital space.

The removal of “adult” content on Tumblr – the guidelines for which have been stated remarkably poorly — appears to be a fairly desperate attempt to get back in the puritanical good books of the Apple App Store without at all curing the issue that got them kicked off, which was distribution of child porn imagery. The guidelines cite “female-presenting nipples” as a deletion flag, which fairly obviously surrounds a lot more than child porn.  And get that phrasing, just in case you thought they weren’t going to be screening trans and nb persons.

And I just noticed that a thing I reblogged to collect – a piece of old art entitled “The Satanic Trinity” — got flagged during the rollout of Tumblr’s new filters.  So I guess we know what’s next for them.

It’s probably too early right now to wave goodbye to this weird site that started out as a way to monetise the tumblelog style started by other people, something that was maybe a tiiiiny bit skeevy but hey not everyone’s a coder. I remember looking at tumblelogs with envy, and, frankly, no Tumblr theme ever really looked as good as the original tumblelogs.

But, for those who still watch what the internet does, this is probably the flag for Tumblr’s last lap.

 

The Consuming Fire

THE CONSUMING FIRE by John Scalzi sees John pretty much perfect his frictionless high-speed platinum-pulp science fiction storytelling.  I read it in two sittings. John’s stripped his style down to what people are saying and what people are thinking, with the bare minimum of staging, and the thing flies along magnetic rails.  If John was a straight crime writer, he’d have five hundred million in the bank and Lee Child would be bending the knee.  If you want to study how commercial fiction writing works, take a look at this.

This is the second in his Interdependency sequence, and if you’re missing Game Of Thrones or The Expanse, this is both.  Also, if you ever liked the Mission Impossible or Leverage tv series, you will fucking love this.  It’s court intrigue, spaceships, and a lovely long con.

He also finds time to complexify the setting, which in future books will slide it out of the science-fantasy trappings into a harder science fiction with some deep history to it.

Anyway, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and if you want to drop out of the world for a couple of days, this is a great choice.

THE CONSUMING FIRE (UK) (US)

 

The Void Witch Trilogy

June 2017:

Tell me you don’t want to read a book about a space witch.  Go on.  Space witch.

KILLING GRAVITY by Corey J White is as modern a piece of genre pop space opera as you’ll find this summer, with a nicely diverse cast, a cute space ferret of death and a female protagonist most often referred to as a void-damned space witch.

I feel like you don’t need to know much else.  It’s a short book, with clear and snappy prose, very propulsive and cramming a lot into a small space.  It’s distilled, like Corey’s been waiting a while to tell the story and cooked it down into the strongest possible dose. With everything else going on in the world. you might want to lose a day to a politically-inflected yet light-footed yarn of surgical authoritarianism, non-binary space captains, cold vacuum and, I mention again, a space witch.  Go on.  It’s fun.

KILLING GRAVITY  (UK) (US)

18 March:

VOID BLACK SHADOW by Corey J White is the sequel to KILLING GRAVITY, being the continuing science fiction tale of Mars Xi, an actual no-shit SPACE WITCH.  That probably sold the books to some of you all on its own.  (Space witch, complete with a cat-like gengineered-weirdo familiar that, in my head, always looks more like a ferret for some reason.)

VOID BLACK SHADOW was, for me, a really fast read.  It just clatters along, and it packs a lot in – a lot more than I originally expected.  Every time you think it’s going to settle into “Oh, so this is where the rest of the book is set,” White just blasts through it and throws a bunch of new stuff at you. White is due to be discovered as a John Scalzi-like crowdpleaser with sharper teeth and a real flair for the Big Stuff.

VOID BLACK SHADOW is a wild, explosive ride through the deep dark.  You’ll like it.

VOID BLACK SHADOW  (UK) (US)

Last week:

STATIC RUIN by Corey J White, the concluding part of the Void Witch Trilogy.  It’s quieter than the full widescreen apocalypse of the middle part.  It’s melancholy and twisty and poisonous.  At this point, I, the reader, feel fairly sure that Mars Xi is unkillable.  But that doesn’t mean she can’t be harmed, and it doesn’t mean the sparse but affecting supporting cast can’t be murdered — we know that, the trilogy has amassed quite the body count.  But the book still has speed, and stakes, and threat, smartly winding in plot threads and materials from the other books while introducing new characters who fit well into the work’s concluding themes. He even gets away with the liiiitle bit of deus ex machina towards the end, because it’s handled so lightly and it makes you smile.

STATIC RUIN  (UK) (US)