CJW: Welcome to the latest edition of the nothing here newsletter. Here in Australia, summer has just begun (but you wouldn’t know it from Melbourne’s weather), whilst in America everyone is off celebrating Thanksgiving (in all its problematic glory) and Capitalism (ditto).
We’ve got a whole lot of articles linked below, so hopefully you’ll find something worthwhile amongst the selection.
Our latest bonus letter was Part Three of m1k3y’s series of Field Notes from the Proto-Invisibles Monastery. To get access to it, our future bonuses, and the full archive, just go here to become a supporter.
Corey J. White (CJW) - Sci-fi author. Newsletter facilitator. Naarm/Melbourne.
Austin Armatys (AA) - Writer/Teacher/Wretched Creeper // Oh Nothing Press
Hundreds of pages of leaked internal government documents reveal how China’s mass detention of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang came from directives by Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to “show absolutely no mercy” in the “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism”.
In the speeches, Xi did not explicitly order the creation of a large network of camps, but called for the party to use the “organs of dictatorship” to deal with extremism.
I don't know that anyone (and particularly not any readers of this newsletter) ever believed China's rhetoric around these camps, but it's still good to see more evidence coming to light.
Now we'll have to wait and see if there's enough of a backlash from foreign governments to make China close the camps. I'm doubtful though - from witnessing Australia's offshore torture camps slowly being exported around the world, I think we're more likely to see other governments taking note to see exactly what they can get away with in their own upcoming camps.
CJW: The Captured City (at reallifemag)
Songdo in South Korea was built from the ground up as a smart city, with ubiquitous sensing, automated services, and more screens than you could ever want built into every surface — every building, bus stop, and light post — from the beginning. It was meant to be a shining beacon for all other cities to follow. But as this CityLab article points out, not only did it continually blow its budget and timelines, the city is now sparsely populated. It is like a showroom for an urban future that never arrived, like a life sized architectural model. The smart city is not a field of dreams. If you build it, they might never come.
This quote in particular follows on from our discussion last issue:
The “smart city” is not a coherent concept, let alone an actually existing entity. It’s better understood as a misleading euphemism for a corporately controlled urban future.
But from there it moves into even scarier territory, touching on the War on Terror and increased paramilitary-police surveillance of our so-called "free" cities.
And then there's this:
By selling (or giving away) [the networked doorbell camera Ring] as consumer goods, Amazon and police can avoid the public oversight that would normally come with a mass proliferation of cameras, especially throughout residential neighborhoods, because each Ring is willingly installed by an individual household.
We tend to worry about online surveillance and the degradation of our privacy and liberties, but this demonstrates how we're allowing advertising-surveillance capitalism to construct a panopticon not only online but also in the real world.
I could keep quoting this piece ad nauseum, so maybe just go read it...
The militarization of police is another name for the tactics and weapons of war coming home, channeled into our cities and their use expanded with no apparent limit. “Eventually, as military ways of thinking run rampant,” Stephen Graham warns in Cities Under Siege, “there is nothing left in the world that is not a target for the full spectrum of symbolic or actual violence mobilized through the latest ideologies of permanent, boundless war.”
In Australia we are all now being treated as children, quietened Australians, most especially on the climate crisis. While the climate crisis has become Australians’ number one concern, both major parties play determinedly deaf and dumb on the issue while action and protest about the climate crisis is increasingly subject to prosecution and heavy sentencing.
In Tasmania, the Liberal government intends to legislate sentences of up to 21 years – more than many get for murder – for environmental protest, legislation typical of the new climate of authoritarianism that has flourished under Morrison. As Australia burns, what we are witnessing nationally is no more or less than the criminalisation of democracy in defence of the coal and gas industries.
Two days before saw the release of a major UN report that forecast Australia to be the sixth-largest producer of fossil fuels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2030 Australia’s extraction-based emissions from fossil fuel production will have increased by 95%. By 2040, according to the report, on current projections the world’s annual carbon emissions will be 41 gigatonnes, four times more than the maximum amount of 10 gigatonnes required to keep global heating below 1.5C. [...] Australia is actively working hard to become a major driver of the global climate crisis. That is what we have become.
CJW: This opinion piece is a great summary of so much of what is wrong with our current government’s views on climate change and coal.
Bushfires aren't the only threat to koala populations -- Hosking pointed out that deforestation and land loss for farming, agriculture and urbanisation is a threat to koalas all year round.
CJW: Today is the first day of summer here in Australia, and already we’ve seen massive bushfires burning across the eastern states. In the wake of the fires an article went viral, stating that koalas were “functionally extinct”, but this was put out by a Koala Charity, and reported on as fact… because that’s what happens after decades of budget cutting in newsrooms all across the country: journalists with little to no journalistic instinct gormlessly reporting press releases as fact.
(I’m not blaming anyone who shared the article, because the idea that the bushfires [which our government is doing their best to ignore, while they deny any link to climate change] could have nearly wiped out one of our most iconic animals was a visceral gut punch.)
AA: The article mentions the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s $1.5 million GoFundMe, which you can still donate to if you’re worried about the koala’s plight.
The Seattle Times reports that farmers in the Columbia River basin are selling their rights to use public water to a private-equity firm [...]
When one considers that water rights are based (according to the government department that issues permits for water resources, the Department of Ecology) on using "a certain amount of public water for a beneficial purpose," then how in the world can these rights be transferred to bankers? How can a farmer sell them in the same way one sells shares on Wall Street? The public still owns this water, right?
I’ve not seen the film mentioned that’s here, Sleep Dealer, but this whole article is low-key horrifying.
MKY: SLEEP DEALER FOREVER
From the very start this piece conflates (the increasingly splintered ideas of) accelerationism with a very specific and niche brand of neo-nazi accelerationism. The writer also makes the (admittedly easy to make) mistake of conflating CCRU Nick Land with post-China Land, despite the fact that anyone with more than a passing interest in Land knows he swerved right dramatically after deep-frying his brain in amphetamines.
All throughout the piece the writer talks about accelerationism as though it was a concrete and well-defined (violent) ideology, and not a once-fringe philosophical idea that has mutated, evolved, and fragmented to such a degree that the term "accelerationism" on its own barely means anything, especially when you're writing nonsense like:
But the thing about accelerationism today is that it does not require any organized plot or group to lead to mass murder.
Which kind of accelerationism? l/acc? r/acc? g/acc? u/acc? green/acc? (I could go on.) In short, exploring the ways that neo-nazis are using accelerationist ideas to suit their violent and hateful agenda could make for an interesting article, but merely conflating the two seems intellectually bankrupt. The lack of any nuance or knowledge in discussing accelerationism makes it seem like the writer hardly knows what they're talking about and thus throws the whole article into doubt. At best this could have made for a half-baked blog post, and indeed, if you strip out all of the off-target generalisations, the half-arsed history of accelerationism, and the very tenuous links between people/groups/ideologies mentioned here, that's all you'd be left with.
I mean, hell, they use this quote:
“There is an entire subculture of individuals who are promoting this concept, who advocate for sabotage and destruction against the system,” Mendelson, the Anti-Defamation League researcher, says.
and don't once mention anarcho-primitivists, Ted K, or Linkola. The writer of this piece needs to read this here newsletter if they want to keep writing in this area because they're missing so much context, and seemingly just making shit up to fill those gaps. (And I just read his bio, and am even more surprised that this shit was ever written, let alone published.)
Now I'm waiting to be branded a neo-nazi because I have a copy of CCRU's writings on my bookshelf (despite the fact it has more in common with The Matrix than Mein Kampf). And, fuck me, I'm against accelerationism (I'm interested in it as theory and as a very 'now' philosophy, but not as an ideology that is actually useful for us today), but this piece was so trash that I had to write this rant.
For an in-depth history of accelerationism, which intelligently links it to the current condition, go no further than this piece by Andy Beckett. And here’s some more context here on the accelerationism = right-wing terrorism conflation. (Those links almost certainly via Ospare.)
AA: “Aldous Huxley”, who made some good Acc primers on Youtube also did a livestream where he deconstructs the article you’ve eviscerated above, Corey. He also answers some questions from the chat about Acc-adjacent topics, if you’re not Acc/hausted by the topic already.
Sorry not sorry for posting yet again about the small matter of our wonderfully strange universe, as we learn more and more about the extrasolar objects that pass thru our corner of the galaxy (sidenote: it also makes The Expanse a tad prescient) which we’re just getting more glimpses of as we speak:
Some scientists have tried to calculate which stars 1I/‘Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov could have formed around, but tracing their orbits back is difficult — like trying to reconstruct which bar a London pub-crawler started at from the final one they visited...
Once astronomers have 10 or 20 interstellar objects under their belts, they should have a much better picture of what these deep-space wanderers are really like. “Eventually we’ll be talking about the Galaxy as something in which we are exchanging the products of planetary systems,” says Bannister. “It will be an entirely different way of doing astronomy.”
They’ve now detected ALIEN FUCKING WATER coming off 2I/Borisov and that’s where my inner sci-fi cynic voice kicks in and imagines the next plutocratic health craze being revitalised by alien tonics transported back by the next generation of little japanese space robots.
MJW: Gimme Shelter
And I thought the rental market in Sydney was bad. I’ve lived in some hovels (the first house I lived in while I was at uni had a bathroom half hanging off the house, gaps in the floorboards underneath the carpet, and was immediately demolished after we moved out) but that sounds a whole lot better than a fucking shed in a backyard in Oakland, and I’m pretty sure it was cheaper, too.
If cyberpunk has become hopelessly obsessed with its own nostalgia, recycling all its 1980s bric-a-brac endlessly, then we need a new model.
There’s a lot in the piece, and some of it I agree with, some of it I don’t, and some of it doesn’t really seem relevant to me when I’m thinking of cyberpunk largely in literary terms. But, as for the point above, this is exactly what I was hoping to address with Repo Virtual - to write a cyberpunk book that, instead of looking back to an 80s cybernostalgia, looks forward from this point in time. It’s a cyberpunk vision of the now and the near future, and in some ways it sort of bridges the gap between a cyberpunk now and a solarpunk future (an idea I want to expand on in a follow-up book eventually). Because the last thing I wanted to do was rehash nostalgic aesthetics, particularly when the world we live in now has so many parallels to the cyberpunk dystopias of the first wave cyberpunk canon books that it seemed obvious to make that parallel apparent.
I’m expecting a bit of a backlash with the book precisely because it’s a quasi-mundane look at the future when compared to cyberpunk of the 80s. There are no flying cars, or lifelike replicants, or hard-light weaponry, or any of the rest. But that’s all deliberate, and ties into this other cyberpunk piece I came across recently: From Cyberpunk to Infopunk (via Kenji Siratori)
‘Like now, but slightly more, and slightly worse’ is one of the most interesting aspects of good cyberpunk.
That’s exactly what I did with Repo Virtual’s vision of the future. Now, but more and worse. It’s deliberately a future that looks very now, because I wanted to talk about issues of today - like climate change, and the personhood of AGI (because if we don’t think about these issues today we’re going to end up with forms of AI that are little more than tools of corporate control) - so readers who are wanting some bright, crazy vision of the future will likely be disappointed. Still, I’m happy with the book, I’m proud of it, and I’m increasingly excited to see it slowly getting out into the world via galleys.
This piece is also interesting in that all the examples of infopunk he uses are generally considered post-cyberpunk. I generally think the idea that we need to step away from “cyberpunk” as a label is useful and true though, and I want to read more about infopunk and how it can be a different and successor movement to cyberpunk. I’d argue though (as I have done before), that in order to truly move forward and away from cyberpunk, we need to drop the punk suffix entirely. As long as we remain tied to it, we remain looking backward to some degree.
VOW Foods’ current focus is on growing kangaroo meat, but a fascinating new Inverse story looks at how the startup eventually hopes to create a modern “Noah’s Ark” — except instead of collecting actual animals, it would build a library of their cells for meat cultivation.
“Nature has incredible diversity so there is great potential to create new food experiences,” co-founder George Peppou recently said a press release. “Our cell library will discover and catalogue new flavor, texture, and nutritional profiles that we can also combine to create amazing new food experiences.”
CJW: This could totally feed into my next book - the idea of a library of meat from various (and no doubt increasing numbers of extinct) animals.
Cutting Room Floor:
Ruthless Quotas at Amazon Are Maiming Employees - Ask yourself: How much does that cheap shit you order from Amazon really cost?
Loitering Objects, on dockless bikes and the further privatisation of urban spaces
“A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Robot Walk Into a Bar” - A new short story looks at how artificial intelligence could support, and distort, faith - by previous guest and friend of the newsletter, Andrew Dana Hudson.
You know how there will be a show that everyone tells you you’re going to like? And because of that, you get all contrary and are like, ‘no, I don’t wanna’, and you don’t watch it to prove some kind of point to yourself and others, like, ‘you don’t know me’? I think Fleabag was a bit like that.
It’s the kind of show that will speak to you if you’ve ever been a woman who has done sex-as-self-destruction. The kind of show where you’ll feel it in the heart ‘cause you watch Fleabag doing these things that you know and she knows are hurting her, but she can’t stop and it reminds you of the way that you couldn’t stop either.
It’s an intense little three-hour binge on a day where you can’t get up off the couch no matter how many promises you make to yourself about how ‘today is going to be different’, and it will soothe your intense depression because at least you don’t have the energy to actively go out and destroy your life (any more).
Sure, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has an upper-middle-class Britishness that you find a little grating, but what she writes about, the show she’s created, speaks to a hurt little place inside you and can even get you to smile, when not much else can.
Here’s some end-of-the-world/rewilding porm for those who are so inclined… Plenty more beautiful photos at the link.
MJW: Thanks for making it through another fortnight of the collective outpouring of our recent input. It means so much that you stick with us every newsletter. The world ain’t pretty, and all we can do is try to is make sense of it, surrounded by people we like.