"It’s not very hard for me to find fiction that’s ‘relatable’, that mirrors my own assumptions and experience of the world, because people like me write books and publish them. I find that fiction and I read it, often with pleasure and sometimes with admiration, but I look for books of all kinds that are not ‘relatable’ to me, books that are windows more than mirrors. If fiction has a moral purpose – it doesn’t have to have a moral purpose – it’s in letting us see our shared world from places other than our own and through eyes other than our own, giving us versions of human experience and history and geography that are not at all ‘relatable.’"
"In an interview excerpted in The Advance Guard of the Avant-garde, he says that ‘the randomness of the material was directly in conflict with the book as a technological object’. We hope that by using the randomness available to us in a new technological object, we have created a treatment of the work that Johnson would have felt does the material justice." IRFS on their version of _The Unfortunates_ for Alexa – an idea I have a tiny hand in prompting into existence. There's so much frustrating about developing creative content for smart speakers, but this feels like a strong fit between the source material – a radio play in fragments – and the technology – a speaker that is also a computer. Henry's writeup is strong.
Cor, this format’s a blast from the past, eh?
Matthew De Abaitua’s The Destructives is the third in the very loose trilogy that began with The Red Men and IF THEN. I loved The Red Men, and found IF THEN hard going (albeit somewhat intentionally. It was… a very sad book, and it conveyed that in all the ways one can.)
I think the third book is possibly my favourite of the three; it is not sad but it feels angry in a powerful, motivating way. It also made me laugh a lot, and like all of De Abaitua’s books, I loved the writing, the tangible feel of it. I read it in paperback meaning it had genuine dog-ears, which also meant I did not transcribe them for a very long while. And now, in a quiet moment, I have.
The book is much, much more than the sum of these quotations; it’s not hugely long but it’s big in all the good ways. You don’t need to read the previous two to read it, though The Red Men may be most similar and IF THEN will prove most illuminating about the Seizure itself.
Anyhow: some lines I underlined, sometimes for the writing, sometimes for the ideas contained. (And all the ideas I didn’t have space for: bloodrooms, more on Long Thoughts, more on emergence, more on ‘soshul’, just what weirdcore is.)
p.46: Theodore goes to visit a colleague.
Pook wore black-framed glasses, his dark hair was flat and neat, his muzzle and upper neck were invariably dark with the beginnings of a beard. He was younger than Theodore by two years, yet he was already a professor, due to this success of his long thought We Are Spent: Fifteen Reasons Why We Should Splice the Human Genome to Create New Consumers. The Moral Arguments Involved Will Surprise You.
p.52: Theodore explains the significant of a clock to Maconochie.
"The clock on the wall has roman numerals. The vases are tapered. It's a show home to evoke Pre-Seizure middle class codes concerning authenticity. Authenticity in the standard two categories: to evoke a usable past and to signify closeness to nature."
p.64: Theodore encounters an AR cat.
…the cat yawned, eyes closed, and the twitching of its ears resumed. But they did not loop. Not right away. The cat's data stream was ongoing, and it was a rich stream of data. For a quantified family, being able to slip on a sensesuit and experience what their cat had been up to that day was a selling point of the technology. The mother and daughter were hidden from him. But the cat – white whiskers, tiger-striping, green iris and sharp oval pupils – the cat was open source.
p.74: Thedore explains the past.
"The cat could be a user interface to guide us through the archive," suggested Theodore. Then, noticing their unfamiliarity with the Pre-Seizure term of user, he explained how people used to be thought of as users in regard to technology and not the other way around.
p.88: Theodore reminisces about Pre-Seizure advertising to women.
He loved the paradoxes of Pre-Seizure culture: on the one hand, building up an iconicity of self-control around images of thinness and athletic discipline, and on the other, unpicking that self-control to create necessary doubt and need. It must have been maddening to live through.
p.89: one such advert.
The two women – the one holding the mobile had blonde hair, her friend had brown hair – constituted a unit tagged as Caucasian Duo. The blonde, being the active one making the loop, was the leader. If there had been a third woman, Theodore knew from other artefacts of the period that it would have been her responsibility to be ethnically diverse.
p.164: the problems of branding.
"A small agency needs an aggressive name. I'm working on a short list: We Are Your Enemy, The Violators, Black Box."
"Lengthen your short list."
p.168: legacy "tech" culture.
"Repeat after me: 'We're all very excited to be working with you on this project.''"
"Excitement is the wrong word."
"It's part of the ritual. The Magnussons are old-fashioned tech entrepreneurs. We have to express excitement. Unless you have a preferred synonym. Would you prefer to be passionate about working on this project?"
p.174: types of silence available to the modern execuitve:
Patricia responded with Pretend Concern, one of the seven types of silence available to the modern executive. Procurement would have expected Pretend Annoyance or even Pretend Contempt in reaction to her own miserly pantomime.
p.184: without too many spoilers, an algorithm:
In the early 2020s, the small port of Newhaven had been acquired by an investment fund with an algorithm as a board member. Putting the algorithm on the board had been a publicity stunt, a way of advertising the fund's dedication to the algorithm as the mover and shaker of the age. But over time, the junior staff created a name for the algorithm, a birth certificate, a national insurance number, a university degree, a passport from the dark net, soshul dashed out by bot, and from that forged documentation, were able to reverse engineer a citizenship recognised by the broken government bureaucracy. The algorithm became a citizen.
p.191: a memory of one of Pook's lectures
Pook invariably started chuckling to himself at this juncture, taking the opportunity to make a joke he made every year during the seminar on Novio Magus: "The emergences sought to solve man's existential crisis by combining two questions underlying all soshul: am I going insane and if so, what should I wear?"
p.208: Dr. Easy and Theodore go to a pub.
Pubs were old-fashioned to normalise the consumption of alcohol. By surrounding drinkers with evidence that people had always drunk, the pub reassured its customers that their alcoholism was a timeless quirk.
p.217: Dr. Easy acquires a car.
"I did not steal it," said Dr. Easy. "I merely exploited the car's emotional simplicity. This model hankers after danger and adventure, and I promised it both."
p.292: on life and language on Europa.
The blue ice of the lakebed ruckled into a chasm. Through this fissure lay Oceanus, the largest ocean in the solar system. Largest, ocean, solar system – words were too human and too meagre. Off-Earth, language, like biological life, did not take. Only mathematics and emergence seemed native to strange moons, gas giants, and space.
p.319: Theodore is somewhat damaged by his exposure to weirdcore:
"I'm sorry that what you said doesn't upset me. Or offend me. I'm not indifferent to you. It's just…" he tapped at his scars again… "Everything you say makes sense but no one gives a shit."
p.364: Patricia's "executive armour" deploys:
Her armour was designed to contain angry shareholders and break-up employee uprisings: the fishers had knives, but Patricia had riot control.
p.378: Reckon is angry:
The lesson her father learned in the Seizure was that power will conceal its true intent for as long as possible so that its victims remain passive and even compliant in their own destruction. Rarely are we granted the mercy of a confrontation.
p.385: on artificial intelligences and kindness.
[Reckon] could not imagine an immortal species like the emergences knowing kindness. The emergences had the wiring for consciousness but they were immune to time. Love is made out of time; that is, love is experiential and our emotions the connection to that experience. It followed that if the emergences were immune to time, they were also immune to love.
It is a very good book.
George Saunders on writing, and the creative process. Brilliant, both as I'd expected, and in ways I hadn't.
Wonderful short fiction from Saxey.
Wonderful little story from Saxey about language, gender, and singular-they, although as with the best stories, it's all in the telling. Lots of good brain-tickles in here.
Oh, awesome: a Pinboard Share extension for iOS 8.
New Danny Macaskill video: off-road (off ALL the roads) in Skye. Remarkable. Also: so much dronecam in biking videos now. (Nicely shot, thoguh).
Really, really useful: a tool from @mnot to test headers, caching, and responses to webpages. Will be using this a lot in future, am sure.
"The water that falls on you from nowhere when you lie is perfectly ordinary, but perfectly pure. True fact. I tested it myself when the water started falling a few weeks ago. Everyone on Earth did. Everyone with any sense of lab safety anyway. Never assume any liquid is just water. When you say “I always document my experiments as I go along,” enough water falls to test, but not so much that you have to mop up the lab. Which lie doesn’t matter. The liquid tests as distilled water every time." A truly lovely short story from John Chu.
The most useful tips in here: set the right headers; set the body of the response to an enumerator and it'll iterate over it, streaming it.
Some great Chess writing from Slate.
"‘If all that survives of our fatally flawed civilization is the humble paper clip, archaeologists from some galaxy far, far away may give us more credit than we deserve,’ the design critic Owen Edwards argues in his book Elegant Solutions." An excerpt from a Joe Moran essay on the paperclip.
"pup is a command line tool for processing HTML. It reads from stdin, prints to stdout, and allows the user to filter parts of the page using CSS selectors.
Inspired by jq, pup aims to be a fast and flexible way of exploring HTML from the terminal." That looks great.
"Something that journalists sometimes do is publish a disclosure statement. It’s sort of like an About Me page except it’s a listing of all their conflicts of interest—all the areas of coverage where you might have good reason to think they should not be trusted. It’ll say things like I once worked at Google or I’m married to an employee of Microsoft. I have never written one of these but I have fantasies about doing a comprehensive one. It would be the length of a novel, I think. An endless and yet incomplete litany of all the blood, privilege, history, and compromise on my hands." I could have quoted lots of this, but I chose this. It's good. It encapsulates the beginnings but not ends of lots of thoughts, and reminds me why, right now, I'm afraid of assuming anything about anything, why stereotyping "big companies" as being identical isn't just inaccurate but also unhelpful, and why the point of boundaries is that they always exclude _somebody_.
"Hatoful Boyfriend is the Fifa of pigeon romance and you should buy it for that reason alone." I'm loving the attention Hatoful Boyfriend is getting in the media; this review by Grant Howitt is charming, informative, and on the Guardian website. Brilliant.
Cracking interview with George Saunders, from 2011 (so pre-Tenth of December). Lots about the craft of writing, and about what Just Turning Up looks like. Also, his imaginary writing class in which Hemingway punches everybody out made me laugh out loud.
"Of course this is pure anthropomorphization. Bits don’t have wills. But they do have tendencies." This piece by Kevin Kelly is great – though this line neatly explains my suggestion that 'things' sometimes have 'desires' better than I ever have before.
Good to know SES can just be integrated as an ActionMailer delivery method.
"Over time, working at the Branch Library, I came to think of all books as just misprinted editions of Moby-Dick. Carol told me she felt the same way." I enjoyed this.
"keep some parts of myself severely to myself, am thus able to maintain a deep fruitful disjunction between this real world & the real real world." (and: of _course_ the "Robin" commenting on MJH's blog is Robin Sloan)
"The lineage of luxury in art – from lapis lazuli, to bronze casting, gold plating or diamond encrusting – extends now to graphics cards, ray-tracing, skin rendering, reflection mapping and to processor speeds, hyperthreading, render farms and the complex world of outsourcing, government subsidies or mineral extraction. It’s important and interesting! Curators take note!" This is good / the Ed Atkins also sounds good.
Bookmarked for reference – Dan's lists are usually good.
Beautiful. (via Denise).
"King Lear would have killed it in Silicon Valley." More Maciej, and yes, it's great.
A Comprehensive and Totally Universal Listing of Every Problem a Story Has Ever Had | Andromeda Spaceways Inflight MagazineThese are also good. And funny.
Seems like a reasonable set of tools to help out with this.
"MailCatcher runs a super simple SMTP server which catches any message sent to it to display in a web interface. Run mailcatcher, set your favourite app to deliver to smtp://127.0.0.1:1025 instead of your default SMTP server, then check out http://127.0.0.1:1080 to see the mail that's arrived so far." Useful!
"The reason I am able to make Twitter bots is because I have been programming computers in a shitty, haphazard way for 15 years, followed by maybe 5 years of less-shitty programming. Every single sentence in the big preceding paragraph, every little atom of knowledge, represents hours of banging my head up against a series of technical walls, googling for magic words to get libraries to compile, scouring obscure documentation to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do, and re-learning stuff I’d forgotten because I hadn’t used it in a while." This paragraph also represents my experience of both programming and how I write my toys; a slightly round-about set of experience to get to where we are now, with lots of reading the manual and doing things in dumb ways occasionally. Programming!
Yep, this all seems like a very good list to me. Filed away for the next time I have to do anything with maps.
Enjoyed this a lot: Kim Stanley Robinson on California, SF, and the relationship between the two. For me, timely.
"In this film I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud’, to investigate what the infrastructures of the internet actually look like. It felt important to be able to see and hear the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them." Looks beautiful: Timo's customary look in enveloping, three-screen 4K. Gosh. Also: the uses of stills-as-film is really interesting to me at the moment.
"One-thousand dollars invested at a 20% discount with 5% interest (calculating interest every 3 turns, but simple, not compounding interest) means a player will have starting debt of $1000. After three turns the debt is $1050, 6 turns is $1100, 9 turns is $1150, etc. Totally manageable. The banker is your friend and wants you to succeed."
A lovely game – almost a poem, but definitely Enough Game – by Holly Gramazio, about being a blackbird in a city. It made me feel many things, which is what the best writing does. Also, I shall now probably play it again.
"We foresee an amazing future where not only can your household devices communicate with each other, they can also communicate with us over the same Internet lines. How cool would it be if your fridge could post a Medium here on Medium every time it needed you to buy more milk? And that’s just one idea." There are many more ideas in this post.
Sixty years earlier, a precursor to Warren Ellis' _Lich House_. The terrors of the future are not those we have – the Cold War still looming large. But the depiction of the future is, whilst regimented and picket-fence-utopian… also charming. The childrens' bedroom, in particular, made me smile and want to visit; not nod knowingly at the cleverness. When we write stories about the future, it's important they're still stories.