nothing here but a smokescreen

issue 041 - 12th January, 2020

CJW: Welcome to another issue of nothing here. I had plans for this issue that I didn't quite get to because I got struck down by some sort of illness. So, for instance, there's nothing here about Iran, though that entire situation is fucked up, watching the American warhawks try to fabricate a war for the sake of political capital/profits/military-industrial hegemony/apocalyptic evangelical beliefs, all with complete disregard for the innocent Iranians that will die needlessly just so the US can wave it's big imperialist dick around. Hopefully next issue we'll have some more to share with you on Iran, but for now you could listen to these two recent Chapo Episodes, or friend of the newsletter Brendan recommends the recent episode of Radio War Nerd (patreon pay wall link).

But in case you hadn't noticed, us Aussies have been a little distracted/overwhelmed/heartbroken/depressed/angered by the recent bushfires and our useless government's inept reaction to them. The only possible upside I can see to the situation is that it is so egregious people might actually be starting to realise how awful Murdoch's stranglehold is on our national media. It's kind of hard to believe whatever climate change denying, pro-coal bullshit they're trying to sell you when you can see and smell the smoke from fires burning hundreds (or even thousands) of kilometres away.

So that's where we're at. Welcome to 2020? But we are very glad that you've chosen to join us, and hope that you get something out of it, and know that you can always hit Reply if you've got something to share.

If you like what we do and would like to support us, you can become a paid subscriber, and also get access to bonus issues. The latest one was a podcast experiment from Austin and I. Hit the button below for more info.

CJW: A national disaster: On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

[O]nly after the damage to his personal brand became too great did he finally come to the understanding that it was his responsibility to lead. It all spoke of an underlying view that volunteer firefighters and state government agencies and private donations should carry the load. Morrison seemed to treat his role as merely ceremonial, like a national counsellor or cheerleader. The important thing was to preserve the impression that it was all under control.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - we have to look out for each other because we can no longer trust our governments to do that. Australia has been burning for months now, and our inept and corrupt Prime Minister (I use “corrupt” precisely - one doesn’t need to dig into his work history too deeply to find dismissals likely caused by, umm, financial impropriety) was on holiday in Hawaii. Not only that, but when he did finally return he said “I am comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here simply so I can be here alongside them as they go through this terrible time.” Fuck the fuck off. We don’t want your smug shit-eating self standing alongside us, we just want someone to show some fucking leadership in this country, and that’s supposed to be your fucking job. I could go on - it’s all Australian twitter has been talking about after all - but if you want a good summary of recent events through a strictly political lens, the above is a great place to start.

Also, in an age of increasing natural disaster, this is honestly the best we can expect from right-wing governments because they are ideologically opposed to helping their constituents:

In moments of national disaster the flaws of modern right-wing governments become stark: try telling bushfire victims that you believe in lower government spending, fewer services and individual responsibility. But Morrison does believe in these. He remained mute for so long so that responsibility (and financial burden) would be taken up by others. Which it was.

AA: Private donations to charities dealing with bushfire fallout was at over $140 million 4 or so days ago, and I'm sure the total is much, much higher now. My inner cynic tells me this is another obvious sign of the disintegration of the institutions we once trusted to support and protect us - who needs a comprehensive social safety net and reliable, well-funded infrastructure when you've got corporate generosity (and its attendant PR benefits), influencer-led crowdfunding campaigns and benevolent mega-celebs? The compassionate generosity of individuals all over the world is nothing to be scoffed at, but this soothing balm should not distract us from the fact that our elected leaders are cutting public services to the bone while propping up corporate interests. As Boonta Vista put it after raising 20k, “remember that if we all advocate as hard as possible for a fairer socialist democracy, we might have a government that is willing to pay firefighters for risking their lives for us!” 

//

CJW: Australia took a match to UN climate talks while back home the country burned

[T]he Australian government acted like business as usual in Madrid. Focused on watering down Australia’s ambition. Pushing for dodgy accounting tricks that would halve Australia’s (already completely inadequate) climate effort, with flow-on effects to weaken ambition of other countries. Analysis released during the summit showed that if Australia, China and Brazil used their hollow Kyoto units to meet Paris agreement targets, global ambition would decrease by 25%, delaying the transition to new energy systems and resulting in more global heating. Despite a coalition of countries coming out to oppose this weakening, the issue remains unresolved, with talks being carried into next year.

MKY:

Mandatory AHS: Apoc reaction image.

Desperately hoping (against hope?) that we get some serious political change in this country, stat. And more than just motherfucking neoliberal market-based solutions [WHO KILLED THE WORLD?]. Something that takes the idea of the Green New Deal and turns Australia from the worst place on Earth rn, to the place where the rising tides began to turn. At the very least, we’re gonna make some great art.

Credit: Scottie Marsh. Context: Australia’s PM went on holiday to Hawaii during an unprecedented bushfire disaster.

MJW: ‘Desperately hoping (against hope?) that we get some serious political change in this country, stat.’ - I wish I could even HOPE any more that this will happen, but I can’t. The Australian government is so far up the ass of fossil fuels that it’s unlikely anything is going to change any time soon. I feel like the powers that be would prefer to $$$ until they die and fuck the rest of us. 

(Pictured: Scott Morrison with an inanimate lump of coal in Parliament like a perfectly normal human being person.)

//

MJW: Smokescreen

What most anti-smoking and anti-drug rhetoric fails to acknowledge is that the threat of illness isn’t compelling to those of us who are already ill. We are triaging our pain, staunching the most urgent wound.

This personal essay stabbed me in the belly with just how perfectly it sums up my relationship with smoking, and indeed all the addictive and non-addictive substances I’ve struggled to let go of in my lifetime. Regardless of your belief in an ‘addictive personality’ (I’m not sure such a thing exists, I say, in the same breath that I tell you that if it does then I definitely have one) if you’ve ever struggled with an addiction, you’ll likely find something relatable in this essay from Caroline Angell.

//

CJW: Dear Designer: The Road Back (via Ed [you know who you are...])

The first half of this piece has an interesting run-down on the shift in online culture between 2009 and 2019, and thoughts on climate change and all the rest. The second half is very much focused on the tech industry, with thoughts that could be useful for people in it. So if that’s you, definitely check this out.

//

MJW: Writing With My Keys Between My Fingers

These are not things that we can ignore. We grow accustomed to this level of vitriol and vulnerability. We laugh about it in private (“Add it to the rape threat pile! Dick pics are in the lead today! Get it together, Team Death!”) but most of us don’t air it in public because we’d like people to focus on our work, not our weariness. We can’t simply dump our emails and ignore our inboxes; this is where we get work.

CJW: This is something I need to try and internalise:

There is a conversation I wish men had among themselves about how they respond to women who write online. They could share their strategies to avoid sending cruel and hateful messages:

  1. Hey, bro! Instead of harassing that woman, did you try counting to ten?

  2. How about distracting yourself with another activity, such as knitting?

  3. I know you’re mad that she expressed an opinion you disagree with! But pretend that byline said Ned Nobody instead of Sarah Somebody. Now you don’t want to threaten to rape him at all, do you?

As a general rule I’d rather just avoid interacting with shitty men online (and I’d also hate to be seen as white-knighting), but sadly some of these men will only listen to other men, so maybe I need to step up more.

//

AA: Oslo saw zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019. Here’s how the city did it.

Ok, this is probably going to blow your mind, but the solution to fewer pedestrian and cyclist deaths is… fewer cars driving around! 

Over the last five years, the city has taken dramatic steps to reduce vehicular traffic in its downtown, including replacing nearly all on-street parking with bike lanes and sidewalks. Major streets have been closed to cars, and congestion pricing raised the fee to drive into the city center, with the goal of making most of downtown car-free by 2019.

This sort of thing will never happen in Australia for a number of reasons, but you can imagine the typical conservative response to any measure that does not prioritise individuality as a guiding principle? 

CJW: There are some parallels to this piece too: How will we ever get people out of cars?

++++

Cutting Room Floor:

CJW: Scattered Signal

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed “via Ospare” appear in most of our issues. Well now Ospare has their own newsletter, Scattered Signal. It’s in the format of essays/rants, with additional links, quotes, and other miscellanea. The first is largely on writing and necessity, and also superheroics as a cultural ouroboros, and the second is on war, activism, ecological catastrophe, and related topics. Ospare is young, radical, and sharp as a tack. I’ll be reading each of these dispatches carefully, and you should too.

//

CJW: I’ve recommended Andrew Macrae’s fantastic, irregular newsletter, slow worries, before, but the latest issue on climate grief is a phenomenal read. If Medium is your delivery mechanism of choice, you can read it here.

MKY: Jojo Rabbit

Ngl, when I heard about the premise of this film I was like… um, k? Then I watched it, and holy shit do not doubt our brother from across the sea, Taika Waititi. This is a necessary piece of culture for our times, that basically amounts to ‘how the fuck do you deprogram a Nazi kid?’ and makes the key point that a country is not its leadership, which is a lil bit resonant rn too.

//

MKY: We Are The Wave (Wir sind die Welle) [Netflix]

As one review pointed out, you need to go about five wikipedia articles deep on this one. This is the latest iteration of The Wave, and the only version I’ve seen (or read). That said, this pairs incredibly well with Jojo Rabbit, is set in a high school named after members of the German Resistance to Nazi regime, and is a solid and nuanced exploration of how to start your own resistance cell, and the issues you might face along the way. Def. a solid way to start the new year / decade / end of times.

AA: Justin Murphy recently wrote a blog about how he thinks online magazines are a waste of time and that “small, in-house production teams” are more able to service the niche interests that dedicated fan bases connect with. His arguments make sense, and this bit reminded me in many ways of trying to track down people to write non-fiction for Creeper: 

You'll find that trying to get people to write for you is like herding cats, you know, because most... er... a lot of people just aren't that productive. They're just not that focused. Even smart people, even people who are capable. It's just very hard for people.

This has very much been my experience with Creeper 002 but, like, I get it. We're not established (so there's little reputational benefit), we don't pay much (so the material benefit isn't there) and of course people have plenty of distractions and responsibilities… it sometimes makes me wonder if I should be doing less curating and more creating. Just musing in public here, but I have also had plenty of interactions with very diligent and prompt writers willing to tolerate endless editorial notes and discussions, so… *shrug emoji*

MKY: I unlocked one of my major writing pieces from last year, The Invasive Predators Took My Chickens Away, for all to read now.

As Phoebz is my witness (look upon her works), I’ll have a lot more to say along these lines this year… in both fiction and non-fiction form.

\\

CJW: And that’s it for another issue. Thanks again.

nothing here but larrikin bootlickers

issue 040 - 29th December, 2019

CJW: Welcome, friends.

Last weekend I wrote a bonus letter all about the music of Refused - Refused Are Fucking (Un)dead. I’ve been listening to them for 20 years, so I had some thoughts… To get access, see our future bonus letters, and dive into the full archive, you can become a supporter.

MJW: I'm the 13-year-old police threatened to arrest at the Kirribilli House protest. This is why I did it

Right before the riot police came it was quiet; dense smoke swirled over the road. A sense of unease settled over me. A squad of about 25 fully suited and armed riot police came marching over the hill. It was like something out of a movie. The officers approached the wall of students and protesters with intense intimidation tactics. They went for the loudest and most motivating people first, the natural leaders, grabbing their arms and pulling them into the police van if they didn’t comply.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but being scared and doing the thing anyway. The kids are alright. The world we are gonna leave for them is not. 

Have you seen the footage? I hope the copper who staunched this kid feels like a big man. 

CJW: Famous last words:

The number of police didn’t worry me then, we were told they were there to protect us.

In a year when we’ve seen Australian police go after whistleblowers and violently disperse climate change protestors, the authoritarian creep is become more and more apparent. I swear that as little as 15 years ago there was a strong anti-authoritarian undercurrent in Australia, but now conservative commentators are eager to tell us that the useless, no-future protestors deserve what they get at the hands of the police, and demand POC shut their mouths about issues of race and colonialism, all whilst still claiming we’re a country of laid-back larrikins.

But sure, send the police after school children while you pat yourself on the back for giving everyone a “fair go”. Everyone that’s white, cishet, wealthy, and alive now. Because fuck everyone else, and fuck the future.

AA: Crikey had a summary of our country’s “slide” (more of an enthusiastic leap) towards authoritarianism in 2019. It’s been a big year for Banal Systemic Evil, and these people must be exhausted, the poor dears. Like, remember when the cops said it was totally fine to routinely strip-search children? I’d already forgotten about that one. Excited to see how they outdo themselves in 2020.

//

MJW: How the rich plan to rule a burning planet

To believe that someone in Morrison’s position could genuinely be ignorant of the dangers of climate change is itself to give up on reason. The prime minister of Australia is among the most well-briefed people on the planet, with thousands of staff at his beck and call to update him on the latest developments in climate science or any other field he may wish to get his head around. The only rational explanation is that Morrison and his like are aware of the dangers posed by climate change but are choosing to act as though they’re not. 

[...]

Publicly, they’re telling school kids not to worry about the future. Behind the scenes, however […] they’re hard at work, planning for a future in which they can maintain their power and privilege amid the chaos and destruction of the burning world around them.

CJW: Climate change denial is/as class solidarity and class warfare. The rich and powerful will only look after their own kind.

First, they’re building their military might – spending billions of dollars on ensuring they have the best means of destruction at their disposal to help project their power in an increasingly unstable world. Second, they’re building walls and brutal detention regimes to make sure borders can be crossed only by those deemed necessary to the requirements of profit making. Third, they’re enhancing their repressive apparatus by passing anti-protest laws and expanding and granting new powers to the police and security agencies to help crush dissent at home.

AA: “Many of what we call 'conspiracies' are the ruling class showing class solidarity.”

MKY: yeah, I believe Graeber called this ‘the communism of the rich’ in Debt too.

//

CJW: Jeff Bezos’s Vision of the Future Is Basically Blade Runner (via Sentiers)

The richest man in the world with an intent to “save the Earth,” Bezos has claimed that space travel is “the only way” he can see to effectively deploy his enormous wealth — a statement he saw fit to make while simultaneously working to defeat a small tax increase in Seattle that would have bolstered programs to help the city’s soaring homeless population.

He pretends that he wants to save humanity, but instead of using his vast wealth and networks of connection to work toward a livable planet, he pushes these untenable sci-fi dreams. Either he wants a plutocratic exit strategy (because, honestly, can you imagine trillions of humans living on Earth or in its orbit?), or he wants to be the God-Emperor of Space. If he worked to fix the Earth, he wouldn’t be in control of it because there are these pesky things called established governments, nations, and borders. But if he colonises space he would be recognised as the Godhead and saviour of us all.

So what I’m saying is… GUILLOTINE GUILLOTINE GUILLOTINE GUILLOTINE

MKY: “Bezos is convinced that humanity will fall prey to “stasis and rationing” if we remain on Earth” which is basically still Earth in the 23rd Century space future a la The Expanse. Which is to say, a few more up-to-date - and less low hanging - scifi references might’ve helped this piece, which I otherwise loved. But also: HANG BEZOS!, or at least sentence him to servitude in the fulfilment mines. And finally… if he really wanted to get humanity off-world he’d be investing in a freaking space elevator, not playing space bro in space… but then, that would be creating something resembling infrastructure for all, instead of the few. Etc etc UGH

AA: Just here to note that Jeff Bezos appeared in Star Trek Beyond looking like a giant testicle

If you want to read more about Bezos’ schemes, this article Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan is worth a read, and it includes this very relevant section: 

What worries Bezos is that in the coming generations the planet’s growing energy demands will outstrip its limited supply. The danger, he says, “is not necessarily extinction,” but stasis: “We will have to stop growing, which I think is a very bad future.” While others might fret that climate change will soon make the planet uninhabitable, the billionaire wrings his hands over the prospects of diminished growth.

Also, I just watched Elon Musk do a guest voice on Rick and Morty. Eh, ok. I look forward to Peter Thiel’s turn as “insectoid bounty hunter that befriends Baby Yoda” on The Mandalorian. 

MKY: Now you’ve got me wondering if Bezos is directly using his Amazon streaming platform to, uh, platform the space future he wants to see. Eg “saving” The Expanse, commissioning an adaptation of the Culture series and the Dark Forest books. And - like Elon using Culture ship names for his craft, but being so far removed from the point of those books - I wonder if he’s actually read them first, or just gone ‘oh, it’s a space thing’ -signs cheque-

//

MKY: The UN climate conference has failed. What now?

If this COP gave us anything, it was the gift of clarity: our moment is shockingly serious, and almost no one in power is acting that way… As it is, the international climate negotiation process isn’t broken, it’s working exactly as intended: the requirement of universal consensus means that fossil-fuel backed petrostates can veto any action. That means any solution on climate change on the scale that the science requires must be revolutionary – driven by a continued escalation of non-violent protests worldwide – and will require the creation of an entirely new system on an emergency timescale.

Also,  someone start making climate action political messages like this for #auspol (etc etc) already.

++++

Cutting Room Floor:

AA: Towards a Transcendental Deduction of Jungle

This extensive interview with Robin McKay covers “the establishment of the CCRU, and the importance of music (particularly jungle) to that scene”. The interview was conducted by Christopher Haworth as part of his research project, Music and the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music.

...jungle became important and at that point it was almost as if techno became the enemy because of its 4/4 rigidity and its lack of syncopation and polyrhythm (...) druidic trance techno on the one hand, as a kind of representative of the great monorhythmic priesthood of metric regularity for the purposes of transcendence, and jungle on the other hand as this kind of weird multitemporal hybrid entity dedicated to picking apart the body and disrupting it with polyrhythm and with bass.

AA:I don’t read many superhero comics (the last one I remember really enjoying was Warren Ellis’ Moon Knight, and a quick search seems to suggest that came out in 2013(!)) but on m1k3y’s recommendation I tracked down House of X / Powers of X, a pair of mini-series that rebooted Marvel’s X-men line of comics. And you know what? It was some surprisingly good shit!

While reading it, I kept thinking of David Mitchell’s work, particularly Cloud Atlas, which shared a similarly expansive fractured time-line and density of wild ideas. And it’s that density that really makes these comics work - this is high-concept action-adventure sci-fi more than it is “superhero comics”. Machine intelligences, the nature of reality, time-travel conundrums - writer Jonathan Hickman used the ever-malleable mutant metaphor to take us into some more contemporary realms of thought, while still remaining relatively accessible to new (or newly returned) readers. 

CJW: This is an innovative and expansive bit of sci-fi comics. The many lives of Moira Kinross are an interesting way of recontextualising (and perhaps later revisiting) different aspects of the X-Men continuity - weaving together disparate storylines to create something both new and familiar. The comics’ highest points sparked the kind of thoughts where I either wanted to pitch something in this new continuity, or write something of my own with a similar structure and scale.

But, as much as I enjoyed the multi-faceted story being told here, by the time the twin series end, it arrives at an all too familiar-feeling continuity reboot. I wanted a definitive ending to the story being told here, but that’s not the point of these serials.

MJW: I’ve shifted from listening to horrific true crime podcasts and onto history podcasts instead. There’s nothing wrong with being obsessed with the old TC, but I just can’t bear to listen to another brutal tale of violence.

Okay, yeah, history is pretty violent.

It’s just that I feel a bit more like I’m learning something, rather than letting various tales of violent jerks assault my ears for hours on end. (The straw that broke the camel’s back was True Crime Bullshit, a podcast about serial killer Israel Keyes that, while well-done, was full of lengthy, monotonous, and banal interviews with Keyes himself. I honestly could not finish, could not listen to one more instance of Keyes laughing off-handedly at something horrific he had done to another human being.)

My new binge of this late is The Fall of Civilisations Podcast. I just think it’s kind of timely? The show is beautifully researched, well-put-together, and narrated by the most soothing British man to ever narrate a podcast (though if you’ve got another example, please let me know. I need my soothing Brits.) I’ve worked my way through all of them, and heartily recommend every episode, but I especially liked number 8: The Sumerians, and 7: The Songhai Empire.

CJW: I’m not going to tell you about anything I did in 2019, instead, let me tell you about some of the best Australian SF of the past few years: Marlee Jane Ward’s Orphancorp trilogy of novellas, the final book of which was published earlier this year.

Across the trilogy MJW uses a distinct voice to create a vivid collection of characters who emerge from the page breathing, cursing, and fighting for a better life. If the series was only about these characters and their relationships - the ways damaged people can connect and forge families against a hostile system, and the importance of pushing beyond your many hurts and your pain to make those connections - it would still be phenomenal and worth a read, but MJW also weaves real-world issues into the books, like for-profit prisons, the plight of refugees, working conditions at Amazon-like warehouses, and the myriad of tiny ways our world is skewing more and more dystopian. It’s a series that not only cares about its characters, but also cares about people in the real world, a series that burns with anger toward injustice, but without ever losing sight of the small, real, and hurting people at the heart of its narrative.

They’re published here in Australia, so newsletter readers from elsewhere may need to pay a little extra and wait a little longer for these books, but they’re brilliant and heartfelt and brave, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Welcome to Orphancorp | Psynode | Prisoncorp

AA: Corey is one of the hardest-working people I know. Once he wrapped up The Void Witch Saga (his trilogy of gritty hyperkinetic space opera novellas from Tor.com) he was on to, like, a million other projects. One of these - his first novel - was Repo Virtual, which Warren Ellis blurbed as, “Cyberpunk’s critical update, for these mixed-reality days of dark money, livestreaming cults, machine gaze and life lived on the razorwire edge.” 

Doesn’t that sound good? Of course it fucking does. You can pre-order it here. And of course he’s already writing his next thing! And he’s editing Creeper 002! And sharing thoughts on his blog about the writing process, book reviews and cultural criticism! He’s a berserker and must be stopped.  

m1k3y has been busy this year too, although in ways that are less publicly-facing. From what I can tell, he’s studying hard, keeping healthy and taking care of a charming hound. Maybe, if you’re lucky, he’ll drop a picture of the dog here for our collective edification? But what regularly astounds me is how far ahead of the curve m1k3y truly is - he dropped instalments of his “Field Notes from the proto Invisibles Monastery” as bonus content for the newsletter, and each one contained a wild mixture of speculation, rants and spirited analysis, often filtered through pop culture. Here’s a bit that resonated with me: 

Part of the necessary construction project for building the next civilisation is finding and testing elegant solutions to these problems. Salvaging what we can from whatever’s available that might have a clue to solving the puzzle - history, fiction, fever dreams - and building out the next iteration. But first, we need to simplify; and maybe stop begging the State to grant us back our natural born freedoms.

History, fiction, fever dreams. That’s m1k3y. You can support him on Patreon here

And then there's me. I've been hustling to get the next few releases ready at Oh Nothing Press (MechaDeath and Creeper 001 are still available over on the site, including pretty reasonably-priced/free digital copies), and I’ve just released the first episode of my ambient music project Sleep Agent. You can watch it on YouTube, where I described it as such: 

Ambient adventures and soft paranoia. Perfect for studying cursed lore or inducing an exciting nap. Caution: Cognitive prophylactics recommended. No further correspondence with dread entities with be entered into.

If you like ambient music/trippy visuals, please have a listen and let me know what you think! 

Oh, and if you’re a writer of non-fiction with an idea for a short article that might suit Creeper Magazine, please hit up creepermagsubmissions@gmail.com. We would love to get some newsletter readers involved! 

\\

CJW: That was one helluva write-up, AA. I really hope everyone is paying attention to what Austin is doing under the ONP banner, because he’s consistently out there exploring the weirder niches of culture, and always ahead of the zeitgeist - I’ve lost count of the number of times things Austin and I have discussed or planned have appeared in one form or another months or even years down the track.

And that’s it for another year. I for one won’t be sad to put 2019 in the rearview mirror.

I hope you enjoyed/are enjoying the holiday season, and are spending time with people you want, rather than those you feel obligated to see. Because “shoulds” don’t matter any longer. Either the world is ending, so fuck expectations, or we’re going to forge ahead and create a different sort of future, in which case, fuck the expectations of the old world. Live the life you want to. Don’t take any shit, and don’t let the bastards get you down. But at the same time, be kind to those who deserve it, love whoever you want and whoever you can, and remember that vulnerability is a kind of strength.

Reconstituted

Loading more posts…