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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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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