the doomtown gazette

I’m pretty horrible at promotion. I’m pretty happy or whatever passes for “happy” just scribbling in the corner. Ideally, I’d love to figure out a way to get paid for writing without ever being read. (Maybe academia?) In spite of all that, every once in a while, I sort of take a pass at promoting my work. Then I horrify myself and give up. Having said all that

THE DOOMTOWN GAZETTE

That’s right. I’ve gone and changed the named of my Patreon. I wanted to make it a little snappier and, well, I think this is a better name. I tried to punch up the presentation a little bit. Prices and all that are still the same and I couldn’t bring myself to add different tiers.

There is only one tier.

SUPER NUCLEAR LEVEL HYPER MEMBER!!! 

As a SUPER NUCLEAR LEVEL HYPER MEMBER!!! you receive bulletins from THE NOCTURNAL LIBRARY. THESE WILL APPEAR AS NEEDED. ADVISE CAUTIONS!!! You will learn what SECRETS are being held in THE MUSEUM OF A BILLION COSMIC OBJECTS!!! You will TRAVEL THE NEXUS OF MISERY and RETURN A CHANGED PRIMATE!!! COMMUNE WITH THE ANIMAL AND THE DEAD! JOIN NOW! SHOP NOW! JOIN AND SHOP NOW!!!

If that sounds like you’re sort of thing, it’s just $3.33 a month. My posting has been a little more erratic than I’d like lately but it’s still fairly steady and there’s already 86 doses up.

That should be more than enough to keep you busy for some time.

And, all in all, I’m pretty happy with this work. I understand that in some cases it’s probably unreadable and it’s often uneven and I don’t know what anyone would get out of reading any of it, but I dunno – I think it’s pretty solid sci-fi of a type I like. A plotless assault on decency, good taste, and rationality. Like, whatever its problems, being commercial is not one of them. It’s probably pretty fucked up! Some of it, I’m not even sure it’s legal.

So, if you’ve been a supporter, are one now, or if you’ve even just gone to the trouble of sharing a link to my book or The Doomtown Gazette, under whatever name, I’d just really like to say thank you. The little bit of money I make from this really does help. Aside from that, it’s nice to think that there might be some batshit niche for this stuff.

And like, if you ever want to use any of this stuff for your stuff, just let me know.

twin peaks the return

My first glimpse that something was deep wrong in America came while driving across it. It wasn’t the bullet holes in the door or blood covered sink in Kalamazoo. It wasn’t even the incredible parched surface of the drought stricken Midwest, where heavy machines ploughed useless dead wheat back into the dirt, and earth born again as an alien plant inhospitable to human life. Those things were real. And American reality has always been haunted, violent, and terrible. The problem was in the fantasy. In the fantastic America.

I’d always pictured driving across America in a certain way. Nothing so glamourous or exiting as a Beatnik road adventure but still a fantasy. I thought the food would be good. After all, America was built for the road. Without even trying to imagine it, I’d always believed there’d be an assortment of burger joints, hot dog stands, rib-spots, and strong coffee served at truck-stops. You can probably imagine the sort of places I pictured. Quirky little feats of architecture. Diners where the waitress calls you “hon.” Independent operators. Good grub. Big servings.

Those places do exist. Rarer every day but they are out there. I’ve been to them. But along the I-80? No. Along the I-80 it’s the same thing again and again and again. Fast food. Chain motel and meth-head parking lot. Corporate gas station. The same service center again. Again. Repeated on a loop from Michigan to California. Again and again. A constant return to the same place. Every time, more tired, more frayed and sketchy. More worn out from the same hamburgers. More tired from the same motels. More on edge from the same energy drinks. And here we are again. In the same place. Again and again. The skin wears off.

The American road fantasy was as parched as those wheat fields. Dead. Gone. Still there.

I hadn’t thought about this for a while. But thanks to the charity of a friend, I’ve been able to catch up on some TV. I’ve finally been able to see Twin Peaks, The Return.

It might be the best TV show I’ve ever seen. Even before I’d finished the series, I’d watched Episode 8 three times. If it were up to me, there would be whole channels of television that were like that episode. Just ambient dream channels. That would be most of TV.

I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds of why I liked the show so much or all the things I think it did so well. And, I should be clear, I’m not even a huge David Lynch fan. I like some of his stuff a great deal and other things I’ve just never been able to really get into. I love the original Twin Peaks, I like Blue Velvet, and The Elephant Man is pretty damn good too. That thing were he talks to the monkey on Netflix makes me laugh. I do think he has a really special set of skills. When it works for me, it works so well. There’s nothing like it.

The thing I want to talk a little bit about is the show’s sense of the American suburb. It’s not my favorite thing about the show (not sure I have one) or even what I think the show did best, but it’s one that resonates with me. That might be because it’s a sense of it that I tried to capture in some of the books I wrote while in California. You’ll never read these books. They’ll never be published. That might be for the best. I mean, my agent read them and then he fired me so, well, that’s the sort of thing that gives a person some pause. God knows, it sent me into a hot shed to drink a cold beer, listen to Johnny Cash, and think.

The sense is –and I’m not totally sure how he accomplishes this– is that the suburb feels both abandoned and fortified. It’s like a set. Unreal. Then sudden explosions of incredible violence. A neighbor you never see. Their house suddenly raided by police. A shootout. A weird Thomas Kinkade energy to the whole thing. Houses without humans. Stand outside on a hot Sacramento day and it’s bright and clear and hot and no one is there. Just the loud hum of air conditioners. It all feels inhuman. And it’s gone sinister.

I’d never lived in a suburb before California. I was raised in the country, then in a village, then at 18 I moved to the city. To me, the suburbs felt what I imagine living in Soviet bloc housing must have felt like a decade after the fall of communism. Like living in an abandoned monument to a dead dream. I’d heard that many of the houses made money by allowing porn shoots. Others were just called ‘ho-houses’ and others ‘dope houses.’ You can imagine what happened in there and in there was about every third house. Every time I raked my lawn, I’d find empty plastic drug bags. Never really saw where they came from. Come home, there might be a single high heel shoe and purse in my driveway. For some reason. It just remained a mystery.

Suburbs are often thought of as affluent places. Now, one I lived in wasn’t like that. It was blue collar. A sort of base level for the American Dream. Hollowed out by 2008. But I knew people who lived in more moneyed suburbs. And while their neighborhoods felt less like occupied territories and more like fortified management zones, they were under lockdown due to GUNMAN ON THE LOOSE just as often as we were. Maybe more.

There’s a sort of longstanding narrative trope about the suburbs They’re places where there’s a sort of oppressive conformity on the surface and a deep yet materialistic perversion below the appearance. Ballard did a lot of stuff like that, I think, but the trope is pretty widespread and, I think, predates him by quite a ways. It’s a lot of noir, Stepford Wives, Desperate Housewives, and just a bunch of fiction. It’s all sort of Peyton Place.

But The Return seems to get that the appearance is gone. Or different. That the neighborhoods themselves no longer look desirable. They look unhuman and unoccupied. There’s no keeping up appearances because there’s no one even looking. It’s a psychotic and paranoid zone where everyone had retreated deep inside. A place where people can only communicate with each other through violence. It’s all borders and isolation.

To be sure, Twin Peaks has its fantastic and surreal elements. But The Return is solidly grounded in truth. It’s not dealing with obsolete narrative tropes. It’s grounded. It’s the actual psychic terrain. And that’s the sort of science fiction or, Satan help me, “art” that I like. I can’t pretend to do it near as well as Lynch but it’s what I try to do. I don’t give a shit about predicting how things will be in the future, I only want to capture some of how things feel in the present. Speculative elements are often required. A more talented writer could probably do without them. I can’t. Nor can I sell any of it. But, I’m fucking thrilled someone can.

And it’s awesome to see it on TV. To see TV that expands the possible.

It’s unusual to see anything like The Return on television. I think a lot of that is because to get something on TV, even to get something published, you have to be able to pitch it like “this is like _____ meets ____.” But so much of ____ is just so fucking obsolete.

And fiction is stuck using obsolete methods to communicate with dead tropes. It just keeps bringing us back to the same fucking place. Again and again. And again.

log: squid baby

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: L3: 2,564 – 311,289: 7 – 2,481: 76% – 49%

Not much to report from these parts. Coming to the end of my Evolutionary Biology and Medicine class. My second vaccination date has been moved up a week. We’re trying to hit 80% full vaccination by the end of October so a lot of dates were moved up.

I watched Squid Game. I enjoyed it. Ultraviolent satire of capitalism? How could I not?

Squid Game feels basically like the same family of stuff as my book. Genre, I guess? I was never wild on calling things a genre. To me, “genre” feels like something to help arrange a bookstore, part of the marketing department, or as a way to help academics scour through a text in search of influence or whatever. And mainly, I think texts are sometimes influenced by other texts but sometimes they’re just looking at the same thing. But whatever — I’m not really against the idea of genre. Whatever works for you. The term just seems a little off to me though. Maybe I have too much affection? This genre or subgenre or whatever feels more like family. But, like a family I have something in common with. A family I like.

As a grouping, it’s kind of like, in no particular order, Clockwork Orange, Cube, Old Boy, Battle Royale, Technicolor Ultra Mall, Squid Game. I might also chuck some Ballard in there — maybe High Rise and Kingdom Come– but Ballard just seems a little different. And whatever it is, it is 100% definitely not cyberpunk. It’s a lot of things. None of it is that. And yeah, cyberpunk can be violent and anti-capitalist but cyberpunk is just different.

In my mind, at least. Very different.

Swear to god, no idea how I ever got lumped into cyberpunk.

I’m sure you can think of a few other examples of what I’m talking about though. Death Race 2000. Snowpiercer, maybe? That sort of thing. Though my book came out before some of that stuff, that’s the basic family of stuff and the sort of stuff I was into and trying to do.

But it’s an odd little family. Like it gets called a lot of things, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, satire, and all of that is kind of right and also just kind of totally wrong. Back in the day, I called the group ultra-violence. I could be totally wrong but I think I was the first person to name that family and maybe still the only person who sees it as a category or subcategory or whatever. Fuck knows, the term never caught on! I just wanted to call my book and the sort of things I liked and thought it was a part of something. So “ultra-violence.”

And ultra-violence didn’t really have to do with the amount of violence. A lot things can be really violent but not “ultra-violence.” Had more to do with it being both violent and about violence — and the violence being gratuitous because, well, violence always fucking is — and the violence should not be glorified. It should be really bluntly violent. Maybe even stylized blunt. It should often be stupid and pointless violence. Hard to watch or stomach in places. And not just because of the violence but because it hits you in the heart. The violence should also occur throughout — in interactions that are not typically thought of violent.

Aside from the the type, style, and purposes of the violence, I also thought ultra-violence needed to be have some method of mind control, an element of humor, and probably some aspect of satire. The work has to implicate the reader/viewer, the medium itself, and violence as spectacle and entertainment — even as it did the thing it was against and, as it did that thing, it should also be subverting it. Hard trick but important.

I think people hear “ultra-violence” and think of things like torture-porn like Saw or whatever, which I just think is kinda crap horror, or things that are just violent other things. Never been that to me. It’s probably a subtle difference but I do believe in this difference. Like, I know what I did, what I did deliberately, and the family I felt a part of and wanted to be in — even if it lacked and still lacks a real name. So, yeah, called it Ultra-violence.

And, with Squid Game, I think there’s a new member of the family. I’m happy it’s aboard. And it has many of the same problems our little family of delinquents has but I’m happy it’s around all the same. I think maybe I’m should be jealous of its success. A bit like – oh, so now you want ridiculous ultraviolent critiques of capitalism? Harumph! Poor me! IGNORED!!! Satan knows, I’ve seen people have that sort of reaction on much softer ground. But whatever. Just good to watch the sort of shit I’m into watching. I liked it pretty well.

Aside from that, I’m thinking of having a coat made. I really miss an old coat I had. Been missing it for a while. Just an old houndstooth thing that I picked up at some shop in Toronto called Cabaret. Man, I loved that shop. And I loved that coat. Here I am in like — I don’t know 2007-2008, not sure, at a bar in The Market with that coat.

Still have and use that shirt, that tie, that hat, those gloves. But that coat? That coat is gone. A cat pissed on it. That cat is dead now. Sadly, I had nothing to do with that. I was, however, very happy to get the news that the bastard had died. I like cats but that particular cat? No. I hated that cat. He was a real asshole. You have no idea. Just a total prick. I still hate him.

Rot in hell, Bruno. I’ll see you soon enough.

Like, I will know I’m in hell when I see that cat.

So yeah, that’s the sort of thing I’m thinking about having made. Might go darker though. Not sure. But trying to find pictures of that coat, I found some old pictures online.

Like this one:

I’ve got to me in my fucking twenties there. That was at a fashion show of some kind. They had a booth. I’m not sure if it was fashion week, FAT, or just a random show. But it was that era, long before influencers, when fashion had no fucking idea what to do with bloggers. Like were they media? Trespassers? A problem or an opportunity? Weird period.

I don’t have a lot of what’s in that picture. I still have the tie and the hat. I miss that suit – got it secondhand thrifting and then altered at a tailor and I really liked it. I think I just used it as a work suit and it just got run into the ground. Can’t remember tho.

log: humanoids

Finishing a semester feels a bit like running into a sudden void. Less so when I was working, of course, and probably less so pre COVID, not that I can remember.

But now

Time blooms around you. And time is a hungry fucker. Time likes to be filled. No idea why.

I’ve been feeding my fat pet time some movies and some writing. I also read the textbook for my Korean history class and am about to dive into The Three Kingdoms. Been meaning to read that one for a while but just haven’t gotten around to it.

Since I already have the workbook and know how the book works, I might also do my conversational Korean class before the class begins. That way I can do the class twice.

It might help. I don’t know.

I did bump into something pretty damn good though.

I shit you not, I regard this as one of the finest science fiction movies I’ve ever seen. I watched it last night then I watched it again today. I really fucking like it.

It’s very much the sort of sci-fi I always read and liked. I’ve never seen any of this style of stuff put on film before – at least not in any way that is at all true to how those books read. Watching it, I feel a bit how a fan of 30s pulp must have felt seeing Star Wars.

But it was just a back in time feeling. It also went forward.

Last time I had this feeling was hearing Raymond Scott. It was like finding a common ancestor for all my favorite shit. It made a lot of that stuff make more sense. I have the same basic feeling about this movie. It’s foundation.

I had a brief look into the movie and found out that it’s based on a book written by Jack Williamson.

Like me, he had a hearty distrust of sci-fi taking on Literary values. Where I differ with him is that he frames this as a sort of commercial vs literary thing.

That’s how this debate is usually framed and it’s bonkers. I think it comes from a lot of these writers writing for money. But a lot of these sci-fi cats really have no idea just how weird and noncommercial, even anti-commercial, their pulp shit actually was. And I, for one, think commercial values have done a lot more damage to sci-fi than Literary values. Tho, I’m not wild on either intruding. They’re both gentrification – one is the art gallery, the other is the condos.

To my view, sci-fi has its own set of aesthetic qualities. And these are often both anti-Art and anti-$$$. Fuck’s sake, they’re often anti-drama. They can’t even exist within the rules of “good” drama.

An example.

In this movie, the robots are talking. Part of the scene goes something like this

Robot A: I’m experiencing doubts about this plan.

Robot B: You may withdraw if it is against your circuits.

Robot A: Nah, I’m good.

Any sensible dramatist who cared about art or money knows that you don’t just invent and deflate conflict like this. Here, you can turn the robots into baddies YOU MUST COMPLY or into goodies or you just milk that conflict and use it to have character growth or some shit. This has none of that.

Now, someone might look at that and go, well this is a terrible and boring movie amd that’s why.

But, if that bullshit doesn’t worry you and you have some fucking imagination still rattling around in that skull of yours, in that moment you brush up against how alien these robots are and how differently they think. They don’t even care that they’re in a movie! Human drama means nothing to them. It’s strange.

It’s awful drama and great science fiction. Sci-fi can be like that. It’s fine. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. Drama often wrecks it.

It’s strange that the writer of this movie would think this was commercial fiction. I mean, we’ve all seen the commercial version of this movie a million times and it’s not scene after scene of people and robots talking about things. It’s a guy with a gun taking the law into his own hands and things getting blown up. That’s not this. This is not that.

This is sci-fi and great sci-fi at that. It’s not worried about art or money or, if it is, it doesn’t know how to make either. It’s just its own weird thing. I’m so happy to have seen it. One of the best.

And, yeah, it’s flawed but I put “The Creation of the Humanoids” up there with 2001 and probably prefer this. No joke.

It’s just awesome.

Easing Explained

STEER AWAY FROM THE SUN! PUT OUT THE FIRES! STABILIZE SHIP INTEGRITY BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT LANDING! DO NOT LAND ON THE SUN! REPEAT DO NOT LAND ON THE SUN! THE SUN IS NOT WHERE YOU LAND!

Language is difficult. It’s a thin and precarious bridge stung between people. We often take it for granted. We operate, we have to, with some half-ignorant surety that our words mean something and that these meanings are solid. We act as if clarity is possible and we do this largely because we known that obfuscation is possible. We believe in clarity because we live with its opposite. It’s often easy to forget how difficult it can be for even just two people who speak the same language to communicate with each other.

In times such as these, fraught with desire and politics, when words take on more meaning than they usually bear, communication grows more difficult still. At the exact moment when we require complexity and nuance from our words, they fail us. It becomes harder to communicate with any complexity and nuance. Indeed, in situations such as these, our meanings might better be rendered in primate shrieks and soft cooing sounds. If these sounds are not our meanings, our meanings might still be heard as such.

Like everything else, language itself slows down. Words and terms must be circled back on and clarified. Here,in South Korea, we were told that social distancing was being “eased” and this was followed by a couple of days of debate about the meaning of “easing” and whether that word should even be used to describe these next few tentative steps. This confusion emerged even among people who share the same response and context.

When a word as charged as this gets exported into drastically different situations, such as North America, there is a whole host of other risks. What a North American might imagine “easing” to mean, the context they hear “easing” in, and the conditions they imagine “easing” can occur in are all radically different. Is “easing” a fantasy of an end? How does “easing” sound in New York? Las Vegas? What does it mean in these places?

Language is always difficult. It’s some sort of miracle that anyone ever even pulls off the trick of communication. Sometimes, I suspect that no one ever really succeeds. At best, we sometimes achieve an impression that we have deeply communicated when, really, our mutual misunderstandings have only proved functionally irrelevant and our paltry shared meanings and mistakes have shown themselves to be both compatible and workable. Most often, we’re just shrieking and cooing. That’s often about the best we can hope for.

Oddly, I have some faith in the ability of science fiction to help with this difficulty. As a genre, I think it deals much more in resonance than prediction and I believe these two things are often confused — usually to the detriment of the art. And I think that science fiction, with its weird imaginaries, works a lot better at communicating under stress than terms like “easing restrictions”, which are so subject to local interpretation. Science fiction also allows better organizing metaphors than “war.” Not that you would know this from a lot of science fiction.

So, I’m going to try to give you an idea of where we are here, right now, in Korea, using some fucking sci-fi talk. I hope it will help to clarify the situation.

Starship South Korea has suffered a disaster. A bad one. Bats. Not even space bats but just regular old bats that somehow stowed away from spaceport. These bats get into the fuel, mutate, and multiply like motherfuckers. You would not believe these bats. You have a single bat, make a single mistake, and you got a ship of pregnant bats spraying bat eggs all over.

The ship cannot be fixed while in space. Even if it could be fixed in space, we would need a lot of help from our fleet to do so. That’s not going to happen. All the other ships in our space fleet are suffering from the same sudden disaster. They got bats in the engine too!

This bat problem was made worse by some of these engines, which apparently melt-down at the mere sight of a bat, others which increase the mutation, and by some of the captains, many of whom got the job because their dad pulled a few strings or maybe their dad was a captain too. Some of these captains decided that a bat-nest could never threaten a starship’s engine. They basically tried to ignore the whole bat issue. These ships are now overrun with guano. In many cases, these other ships are getting it worse. Some of these captains have opened their airlocks and blown most their crew out the doors while leaving the bats clinging to the rafters. It’s a real mess. Bats? Who would have thought?

But, a few years back,Starship Korea had a possum in the engine room. Since then, it’s been thinking about these things. That space possum taught everyone to take these creatures serious and it meant there was some bat-proofing in place. The ship deployed its bat catchers early. Still wasn’t easy. We’ve managed to catch a lot of the bats and to suppress the biggest flames from the biggest fires. (Our captain’s hair is no longer a torch, for example.) But there’s still embers glowing, plasma flows flowing where no plasma should flow, and bat eggs all over the place — some of which are carried by the fruiting bodies of the people other ships have ejected from their airlocks, and others eggs which are just under the carpets despite the best efforts of the vacuum crews. But it has been a minute since an explosion. This is a minute that we need to use.

We think we’ve stabilized the structural integrity of the ship. Not totally and not well enough to continue through space. Maybe well enough to try an emergency landing. We’ve even located a nearby world that scans as possibly hospitable to human life. Possibly! If we can get down there, we can shut down the engine and maybe even get to work on fixing this ship and dealing with the whole bat problem. We can do more bat-proofing.

But we haven’t landed the ship. We’re only now attempting entry into that planet’s atmosphere. The ship might burn up in this atmosphere or just crash into the planet. Our landing apparatus is a little suspect and, on top of this, no one has ever actually tried landing a starship on a planet because it is a STARship not a LAND ON A PLANETship.

And this planet that we’re not even on yet? The air seems sort of breathable but there will be problems. We’ve also detected some very strange life-signs in the mountains. But we can worry about those after we land without exploding. Right now, that’s the problem.

So, yeah, it’s like restrictions have been eased (just a little) but this is about where we are – coming into an alien atmosphere at high speed. It’s risky shit but it has to be done.

Our command structure is competent and well trained, our crew is doing what it should. We’re listening to the experts, and following instructions. Accepting escape pods. We have communications up and working and we’re trying to share information, resources, and direction to this planet with other members of our space fleet. This could be going better.

For some reason, some ships aren’t answering hails. Others are claiming that they’ve found a bigger better planet, the greatest planet full of the best people, and that they are already living on that planet where they beam magic light into themselves to get rid of bat eggs. (We see no such planet on our sensors, have never heard of this light thing, and according to our computer printout, that ship looks like it’s floating dead in space and is very full of and totally overwhelmed with bats. The very best and biggest bats with the most eggs. You should see these eggs.) Some ships have decided that the crews who run the ship are expendable dead weight and might even be bats, and that killing their crew is the way to get rid of bats. Others seem to think that the bats will only attack their elderly, infirm, and weak, and advocate for eugenics by bat because it’s cheaper than bat-egg vacuums. Many ships just seem to looking for someone to blame.

Some ships have decided to fly their collapsing bat-filled ships straight into the sun.

Strange communications from those ships.

Their messages repeat “THE ECONOMY THE ECONOMY THE ECONOMY.” It’s the chant of a death cult that believes that the cleansing fire of the sun will burn away the corruption of the physical ship and leave only the pure spiritual essence of The Free Market. In retrospect, that death cult should have been dealt with long ago. Its members never should have been allowed anywhere near Space Fleet. Bribed their way in, is the rumor. Even at the best of times, they’re steering their ships towards every sun and black-hole they can find. And now we have to hear this final morbid chant from them. That too will need fixing.

But, right now, we just have to get through this atmosphere. After that there’s the landing. All these things will be triumphs and failures, endings and beginnings. If we even manage to land this ship without crushing it like a tin can, we can start wondering about the atmosphere and those life-forms in the mountains. What are they even? Reptoids? Humanoids? Bannanoids? Hopefully, we’ll find out. Hopefully, they’ll be friendly. With care, we may even manage to establish friendly relations. We’re going to need friends. Because this fucked up alien planet with its constant newt volcanoes? We’re going to be here for a while and we’re going to be here with bats. This is going to be our home. The ship might not be fixable, the bats might be here to stay. We’re going to have to learn to live with bats as best we can. We’re going to need all the help we can get and to give all the help that we can.

So better get used to it. Better learn to adapt. Better learn to like bats.

And I hope that clears things up. Hope it clarifies the meaning of “easing.” It’s trying an emergency landing on a strange new planet. In the meantime

STEER AWAY FROM THE SUN! PUT OUT THE FIRES! STABILIZE SHIP INTEGRITY BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT LANDING! DO NOT LAND ON THE SUN! REPEAT DO NOT LAND ON THE SUN! THE SUN IS NOT WHERE YOU LAND!

–repeat message–

Space Battles in Comment Sections

I’ve read two articles about science fiction in as many weeks –one about Star Trek– and, God help me, with both, I ended up reading the comments. I’m old enough to know better.

The first comment was some fellow complaining that science fiction has gone all Social Justice Warrior. He wanted to know where all the space battles were. He loved a space battle when he was 12. Space battles got him into science fiction. He really misses these space battles. He wants more space battles. More space battles and less social messages. Please! CAN WE JUST HAVE SPACE BATTLES! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! SPACE! BATTLES! BATTLES IN SPACE! WE COULD CALL IT SPACE BATTLES!

So, there’s the usual things to say about a comment like that. For starters, there’s no fucking shortage of space battles. Hell, even Star Trek, which is about a TREK through the stars, has a lot of space battles. I can only imagine that Star Wars has a lot of battles too. Many of these are probably in space. There’s also The Expanse, which I actually really like. It also features a lot of space battles. Indeed, I think we could all use some more science fiction without space battles. Without battles of any kind. Well, maybe battles with one’s own ethics, limitations, or the expectations of the world around them, or battles with difficult problems of math, technology, and communications, and many of those battles could be waged in space, but you know what I mean — less ships shooting at each other in the stars.

The other thing is that science fiction has always had social messages.

But this point is so fucking obvious.

So what someone like this is almost certainly saying is that they want their science fiction to be whiter and straighter and more manly. And I, for one, will never stop being amused that men who like “space battles” and lasers going “pew-pew” and alien puppets and shit are now such staunch defenders of “TRADITIONAL MASCULINITY!” God forbid the space-pajama, children shows they adore are not MANLY enough. Like, I adore these shows too but damned if I feel like John Wayne when I’m all like “NOOO!!! THAT FLUX CAPACITOR IS INFESTED WITH NANOBOTS! DO NOT PUT IT IN THE RELAY, MR SPACE ROBOT!”

I mean, it’s not exactly killing the only horse you ever loved to feed your family, is it?

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, standard commenter probably a racist, likes space battles, against the social messaging, wishes he was 12. That seems a fair summary.

So, yeah, I agree with a lot of the replies to these nonsense comments. But I do think a lot of the standard replies to this sort of nonsense also hand-wave away a lot of very serious problems with science fiction. It’s like, you say “television’s first interracial kiss” and the progressive bonafides of a show and genre are established forever and ever AMEN. Like, I’m just not so sure that science fiction is all that progressive. Sometimes, I’m not sure if it can be but that’s another conversation. Let’s just say, for now, that the science fiction toolbox is not always up to the topic it seeks to address.

Science fiction has always had social messaging but a lot of it has been very bad messaging. A lot of science fiction has been outrightly and openly fascist and some has been well-intentioned but really pretty terrible. I mean, if you act like Star Trek or science fiction in general is mainly progressive social messaging, you seem as wrong as someone who says it’s just space battles. Like, yeah, Star Trek had an interracial kiss in 1968. It also had “Code of Honor” in 1987. I’m not sure how to score this game so I’m not sure I’d call it a draw, but the show is definitely a mixed bag. Most of science fiction is like that.


But what probably concerns me more with this guy and his love of space battles is not the reasoning that I read into his comment but his STATED reasoning. He loved space battles when he was 12. I just can’t believe the fucking unbelievable entitlement and childishness of that thinking. Like, he liked a thing when he was 12 so not only does he want everything to stay how it was when he was 12, he also wants to keep enjoying the same shit he enjoyed when he was 12 in the exact same way he enjoyed it when he was 12. It’s like, motherfucker, you’re not 12 anymore. You’re thirty five. Even if all that stuff stayed the same, you were supposed to change. Like, Jesus . . .

Repo Man

A workmate gave me a copy of Repo Man. She knew that I’d been wanting to see it for some time and had never been able to find a copy. So she picked one up from Amoeba and just fucking gave it to me. Very nice. Between that and the all the DEVO shit a customer has given me, I feel pretty good. Mutants help mutants. It’s in the code.

repoman-poster

I watched it the other night. And boy – I miss punk rock. Not the fucking watered down mess it all became, with everyone with a Clash mp3 thinking that made them a punk, but the whole stupid other thing. The getting kicked in the head thing. The danger thing. The simple idea that punks do punk things and most of those things are really fucking stupid but there you have it – it is what it is. The sort of criminal, no life by proxy type shit. I don’t know where that all went. I mean, I don’t want to be a cop about it, but it’s like you wake up one day and then some twenty year old, upstanding-citizen-libertarian is telling you that they hate people on welfare because, well, they’re a bit of a punk. And you just want to shake the kid and be like – you love the rich and you hate welfare, that’s not punk, dummy.  Collect welfare. Spit on the rich. Like, you’re fucking twenty. Get your fucking head out of the boss’s ass, screw it on straight and go fucking live or something.

But anyway . . . Repo Man.

I really miss this part of it too. These sorts of movies and books. That weird intersection between punk and science fiction. And, no, I’m not talking about cyber, steam or whatever punk. That shit can be as bad as that kid. I mean more like the stuff where punk found some sort of fertile ground in sci-fi. B-Movie productions marry nicely with fuck-it-all nihilism. Maybe it started with The Blob. But you know the shit I mean. The speed, beer and an alien costume before noon shit. The teenage car crash shit.

Repo Man is that sort of shit.

The good shit.

Basically, the story is some young punk quits his job at the grocery store. He falls into being a repo man. A car carrying some weird sci-fi macguffin needs to be repossessed. It goes from there. It’s a goofy, funny and fucked up movie. It just gets the psychic tone of the thing right. It’s not “punk” being dissected at a science fiction convention punk. It’s, here’s some old stained paperback you found on the curb punk. Something to leaf through in the welfare waiting room punk. A space artifact made by human aliens.

I miss this sort of shit. You just don’t see it anymore.  Happy I finally got to see it.

New Consumerism

These are your ten commandments for the new consumerism. What’s the new consumerism, you might ask? Well, it’s this:

For decades, a brand’s only priority was to create the best possible product at the most competitive price to ensure sales. But as consumers develop a more comprehensive understanding of issues like sustainability, authenticity and transparency, brands and retailers are being forced to change the way they sell in order to survive.

This change in consumers’ attitudes has a term — “new consumerism” — coined by research firm Euromonitor. “[Its] about today’s consumers reassessing their priorities and increasingly asking themselves what they truly value,” says Sarah Boumphrey, Euromonitor’s global lead of economies and consumers. “[And] conscious consumption replacing the conspicuous consumption of yesteryear.”

So basically, forget good products at low prices, consciousness is now a consumer product. Sweet and tasty. Very good. We sell bespoke experience wholesale.

bee-head

I don’t know why I do this to myself. Really, this is just your standard marketing-speak, handed not down from on high on stone tablets but at conferences on business cards and spread through a thousand speaking engagements worldwide. But then I remember:

I fucking love the throwaway lines in things like this. If you like your dystopian hellscapes rendered in the most banal language possible, well, take a look at this:

“As life becomes a paid-for experience, people increasingly question what is real and what is not.”

 

That’s probably a bit more insightful than the author intended. Here, we find the roots of The Hallucination Regime. Philip K. Dick could take that quote and use it as a tagline.

“Time has become a luxury in today’s connected world.”

Odd isn’t it? If you were to change “today” to “tomorrow” –  “Time has become a luxury in tomorrow’s connected world” – people would be like – that sounds horrible! A world gone mad! Don’t do that! But, as it is, it’s just business as usual. It’s a shrug.

And these relationships with brands? Don’t even get me started.