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)
We are the robots for future insects.
To redesign the city in response to the terrorist attack on to the city is to escalate the state of emergency into an endlessly vertiginous assignment. …
Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution, Benjamin H. Bratton (UK) (US)
Ships were more than merely transportation: in Scandinavian culture they carried a symbolic role greater even than that of Britain’s eighteenth-century ‘wooden walls’: they were named, famed, celebrated in song and verse as sea steeds riding the whale road.
Aelfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age, Max Adams (UK) (US)
“We live and die by the media. Every time we’re launching a book, I’ll build a battle map that literally breaks down by category every headline we’re going to place, every op-ed Peter’s going to publish. . . . Getting our message embedded in mainstream outlets is what gets us the biggest blast radius.”
Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the storming of the presidency, Joshua Green (UK) (US)
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.
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 get asked this. Presumably every writer does. How do you actually work? What’s the method? What’s the secret? Here’s the thing: everybody does it differently, and there’s often little to be learned. Let me tell you a couple of extreme examples.
Georges Simenon. He took three days to think about the book and the characters. Wrote the book in eight days, sometimes hitting eighty pages a day. Took a week off, then revised the book in three days and sent it out.
Michael Moorcock wrote some of his fantasy novels in the following way. On Monday he drew up the maps and lists. Wrote 20,000 words a day through Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Delivered the book and got his cheque on Friday. And on at least one occasion trundled over to Harrods and endorsed the cheque to them to pay his food, cigars and drinks bill.
If those were the only two stories about writers that you know, you’d never start. Find your own way.
Trust me. Never forget, I am an actual doctor now.
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.
Last completed book of 2017 AFTER THE FLARE by Deji Bryce Olukotun is a tense, eerie and beautifully written entertainment set in a Nigeria that becomes the seat of a new space programme, and a desperate rescue mission into Earth orbit, after a solar flare torches much of the world’s electrical infrastructure. Local intrigue, Boko Haram and deep history all vie to doom the rescue, end the future and kill dreams. Olukotun is excellent with detail and atmosphere and keeping the engine ticking over. It’s accessible, moves at a clip, is wonderfully immersive and generally a lot of fun when it isn’t being bone-chillingly sad. On the whole, though, it was a future-facing and optimistic way to end the year, and I think you’d enjoy it.
AFTER THE FLARE, Deji Bryce Olukotun (UK) (US)
Settling in. Last year was a rough ride. Professionally, it was largely good-but-weird, and harder work than I needed. Personally, it was mostly quiet, aside from another little visit from Miscellaneous Neurological Event. Today I am warming up all the machines in preparation for an even harder year’s work, with a tv series and a few graphic novels to write before the end of June. CASTLEVANIA Season 2 goes live in the summer, and we’re going to be working on that through the same time period. And I’m turning my internet connections back on in preparation for the public-facing nature of it all. Which is like sinking down in a dirty old chair that remembers my shape but is no longer comfortable.
2018, then. I’m glad it’s here. I like to turn the page. Buy a new notebook and write the new year’s number on the inside front cover. I hope it’s more comfortable than I’m expecting.
Here we go again.
Recently read and loved: AFTER THE FLARE, Deji Bryce Olukotun (UK) (US)
My abiding memory of a few days in Utrecht remains that the side of town I was on was under reconstruction, and that they hadn’t put the pavements back yet. And Google Maps hadn’t kept up. So I walked into tangles of roads, spaghetti junctions and random traffic a lot. Oh, but they like their bicycle lanes, like good Netherlanders. In fact, in Utrecht, the cyclists are mad with power. They want the bike lanes and the pavements now, and they will get really pissed off when you dare to walk on the pavement like a filthy primitive pedestrian. I almost got run over at one point by a guy with a very well trained moustache on a wooden bicycle. Do you know when the last time someone got killed by a guy on a wooden bicycle was? The seventeenth fucking century. It’s not right. They make Berliners look like the pure picture of politeness.
But it is really pretty on an autumn afternoon.
READING: THE STORM BEFORE THE STORM, Mike Duncan (UK) (US)
AUTONOMOUS, Annalee Newitz. Possibly the best introduction all year: a designer drug pirate in an invisible submarine. How fucking cool is that?
This book is a great pleasure. Newitz tosses out gorgeous imagery like it’s easy, while delivering a propulsive story about copyright gone mad, profiteering gone worse, insanely great drugs that are just great at driving people insane and an absolutely fascinating consideration of robot gender and AI “emotion.” And the law. A big part of this is about law, and about the questions we will need to ask ourselves as we move forward into the future of pharma, economics, and, speculatively, upscale machine-learning systems and consciousness emulation.
Paladin wondered if Eliasz was opposed to the system of indenture. There were entire text repositories that focused on eliminating the indenture of humans. Their pundits argued that humans should not be owned like bots because nobody paid to make them. Bots, who cost money, required a period of indenture to make their manufacture worthwhile. No such incentive was required for humans to make other humans.
This is a strong, speedy and energetic piece of social science fiction, and very deeply thought out. It’s a vivid rush of a book, smart as hell and laughing with very sharp teeth. I had a hell of a lot of fun with it. So will you.
AUTONOMOUS, Annalee Newitz (UK) (US)