nothing here but us solar-powered punks, feat. Andrew Dana Hudson
issue 019 - March 10th, 2019
Welcome to issue 19 of the nothing here newsletter. This issue we’re joined by Andrew Dana Hudson, an award-winning speculative fiction writer, and part of the team that put together the upcoming Weight of Light anthology from ASU (but more about that below).
We have a whole variety of awful for you, as well as some art and some hope to help see you through.
With this issue in particular I was thinking that we are totally giving away story ideas, and I figure that’s a big part of our value - giving fiction writers grist for the story mills. If that’s you, and anything we share sparks a story that sees publication, let me know, because I’d love to see it, and love to share it here in the newsletter. (And if you’re not a fiction writer, feel free to share this with any of those poor souls you know.)
That’s enough for now - on with the show.
Andrew Dana Hudson (ADH) - Speculative fiction writer. Research at ASU Sustainability and AI Policy Futures. Solarpunk, cli-fi, and American socialism. Phoenix, AZ. @AndrewDHudson
Corey J. White (CJW) - The VoidWitch Saga. Newsletter facilitator. Naarm/Melbourne.
Marlee Jane Ward (MJW) - Writer, reader, weirdo. Author of ‘Welcome To Orphancorp’ and ‘Psynode’. Host of Catastropod. ADHD, spec fic, feminism, cats. On Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia. @marleejaneward
Austin Armatys (AA) - Writer/Teacher/Wretched Creature // Oh Nothing Press // MechaDeath physical edition available now // @0hnothing
m1k3y (MKY) - Wallfacer / Apocalyptic Futurist / #salvagepunk / @m1k3y
MKY: About Face (via @debcha)
ADH: This reminded me of another black-and-white erasure of diversity and nuance that I heard of recently. In Yuma, AZ, the high school mascot is The Criminals. Student athletes compete wearing literal black and white prison jumpsuits. Their logo has a leering male face, and their school crest includes a ball-and-chain. Pretty wild, given Yuma High is a majority POC school in a lily-white state. Turning the stars and stripes into black and white prison bars forces everyone to imagine their future in America as belonging either inside or outside those bars in a future carceral state.
CJW: What a powerful piece from Nate Powell. He only briefly touches on the militarisation of police, but the very final ‘page’ very much put me in mind of acts of racist violence committed by police who are never held accountable for their actions. They are literally above the law because they are the law. (“I never broke the law, I am the law!”)
Anyway, plenty of people have pointed out the horror implicit in police embracing the Punisher skull, but this is the deepest and most detailed look at the phenomenon I’ve yet come across.
MKY: I feel like this somehow ties into the above…
AA: Powell’s fantastic work reminded me of another deeply-considered and insightful piece by our very own Corey J. White. It’s called Blackbird, and it also addresses the relationship between aesthetics and power - Corey uses the model fighter-jet kits of his youth as a starting point to explore the manufactured cultural acceptance of war and its relationship to consumerism. You can read an excerpt from Corey’s article on the Oh Nothing Press website, and the full essay will appear this year in Creeper Magazine Issue One, about which I’ll spill some more beans sooooooon.
CJW: I didn’t want to toot my own horn, but I definitely saw some parallels there too.
CJW: WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People
Shikharam’s alleged murder in 2006 was no isolated incident: It was part of a pattern that persists to this day. In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved nonprofit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people.
tldr. This is a long piece of investigative journalism, covering events going back to 2006, showing that the charity WWF funds paramilitary forces that terrorise and kill indigenous people living in nature parks.
The militarisation of police is one thing, but this is border-line bizarre to consider:
WWF is not alone in its embrace of militarization: Other conservation charities have enlisted in the war on poaching in growing numbers over the past decade, recruiting veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to teach forest rangers counterinsurgency techniques and posting promotional materials showing armed guards standing at attention in fatigues and berets. Ex–special forces operatives promote their services at wildlife conferences. But WWF stands out as the biggest global player in this increasingly crowded space.
CJW: Police across the US are training crime-predicting AIs on falsified data
[The New Orleans Police Department] used excessive force, and disproportionately against black residents; targeted racial minorities, non-native English speakers, and LGBTQ individuals; and failed to address violence against women. The problems, said assistant attorney general Thomas Perez at the time, were “serious, wide-ranging, systemic and deeply rooted within the culture of the department.”
Despite the disturbing findings, the city entered a secret partnership only a year later with data-mining firm Palantir to deploy a predictive policing system. The system used historical data, including arrest records and electronic police reports, to forecast crime and help shape public safety strategies, according to company and city government materials. At no point did those materials suggest any effort to clean or amend the data to address the violations revealed by the DOJ. In all likelihood, the corrupted data was fed directly into the system, reinforcing the department’s discriminatory practices.
I doubt this is the first article we’ve shared about human bias being replicated in AI that are designed for policing and judicial functions, but it might just demonstrate the disgusting excesses of certain police that these algorithms are trained on.
ADH: I had a convo with @onekade recently about the Coplink system that many police departments use, which actually recommends who to investigate for a crime. Kade made the point that it’s really hard to do anything about these systems because trials are the only chance the public/civil society often has to interrogate how they work and whether practices are constitutional—and only a tiny percentage of cases go to trial. Of those that do, only a few could make a good legal challenge case. It took 20 years to get a cell phone privacy case to SCOTUS.
CJW: Related - Self-Driving Cars Are 'More Likely' To Hit And Kill Non-White Pedestrians (via Damien Williams)
CJW: Wealthy, Successful, and Miserable
“I feel like I’m wasting my life,” he told me. “When I die, is anyone going to care that I earned an extra percentage point of return? My work feels totally meaningless.” He recognized the incredible privilege of his pay and status, but his anguish seemed genuine. “If you spend 12 hours a day doing work you hate, at some point it doesn’t matter what your paycheck says,” he told me. There’s no magic salary at which a bad job becomes good. He had received an offer at a start-up, and he would have loved to take it, but it paid half as much, and he felt locked into a lifestyle that made this pay cut impossible. “My wife laughed when I told her about it,” he said.
On the one hand maybe this is proof that capitalism is truly fucked because even the people at the top are unhappy, but on the other hand… in the pull quote it’s a 600k a year job that the wife is dismissing with laughter.
Six. Hundred. Thousand. US dollars.
So maybe fuck these people and their misery?
“You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.
Now this is interesting, but I feel like I’m too cynical to ever see my day job in terms other than “earning money for my boss and not being paid particularly well for it”... And maybe that’s why I’m so depressed...
MJW: Every so often I think about getting a ‘normal’ job, you know, working 9-5 and not being broke all the time. Then I read articles like this and feel justified in working part-time. No amount of money can undo the ruin of work you hate.
But also: fuck these people and their misery. These folks at the top, earning big bucks and hating their affluent lives, maybe they deserve their misery. No one needs that much money, and I don’t see any work as being worthy of those kinds of dollars. ‘Cept maybe teaching…
AA: Teachers should ABSOLUTELY get 600k a year! Probably more.
ADH: Way back I had a professor who argued that salaries should be set by the percentage of time you spend caring for people, particularly those less powerful than you. Nurses and schoolteachers should be making seven figures, software engineers and hedge fund managers should make minimum wage.
CJW: Is the Insect Apocalypse Really Upon Us?
First, some good news: The claim that insects will all be annihilated within the century is absurd. Almost everyone I spoke with says that it’s not even plausible, let alone probable. “Not going to happen,” says Elsa Youngsteadt from North Carolina State University. “They’re the most diverse group of organisms on the planet. Some of them will make it.” Indeed, insects of some sort are likely to be the last ones standing. Any event sufficiently catastrophic to scour the world of insects would also render it inhospitable to other animal life. “If it happened, humans would no longer be on the planet,” says Corrie Moreau from Cornell University.
ADH: Rigorous or not, the insect apocalypse headlines recently sparked a flurry of delightful anti-lawn discourse, since individuals can actually mend one of the “thousand cuts of extinction” by making sure their yards provide habitats for bugs and others. This got me thinking about policy tools, and now I’m obsessed with a future in which people can take a couple days of “paid garden leave” each year. We often let people write pro-social activities off on their taxes, but encouraging people to take off the time seems more potent in our modern working conditions. Let’s just keep giving people state-mandated PTO for various good things until one way we wake up and we’re living in a full communist luxury leisure society.
CJW: I totally agree, and am tempted to try and track down some native plants (link for Victorians) and do some work in the garden… when this heat wave passes. And as well as the anti-lawn discourse, I think it’s just good to make people stop and consider the importance of insects. A lot of people hate bugs, or see them only as pests, but they’re a huge part of our ecosystem, so changing the popular perception of them to recognise that importance is A+ in my books. I mostly shared this article because it can sometimes feel like we’re collectively The Boy Who Cried Apocalypse, so if there’s a chance to share some good news, I’ll take it.
MJW: The Trauma Floor
On Facebook’s contractor content moderators. What’s a job worth? Your mental health? Your confidence in humanity?
CJW: There is a lot of horrifying and interesting stuff in this article, but this bit right near the end made me think of it in religious terms:
“If we weren’t there doing that job, Facebook would be so ugly,” Li says. “We’re seeing all that stuff on their behalf. And hell yeah, we make some wrong calls. But people don’t know that there’s actually human beings behind those seats.”
These people are mini-Jesuses, taking on the sins of the world one fucked-up Facecook post at a time. And their crucifixion is a mental one.
ADH: I think about this a lot—that the expansive creativity of human perversity means it will likely always take a tremendous amount of human labor to keep the biggest online spaces as clean and manicured as the tech stacks envision. There’s just so much horrifying stuff that we all want to pretend doesn’t exist, and every year we throw our backs into making more.
Lately I’ve been shopping a story about future human “chaperones” hired to review the tickets that pop up whenever someone tries to fuck their AI personal assistant, a la Her. I imagined this emotional intelligence clickwork being done mostly by the “refugariat,” folks flooded out of Florida and crammed into FEMA trailers—but given enough broadband to make themselves useful to the tech giants. The story is a lot about AI, but that core kernel was inspired by exactly these moderators, doing the underwork of trying to jam dirty human life into the pleasant and profitable abstractions these platforms want to be.
Also, jeez, reading about the conspiracy theories running rampant in the moderation staff—are we reaching the stage of social media warfare where people will deliberately take these jobs to help their preferred toxic memes reach a few extra million people? Rank-and-file union salting for conspiracy tribes.
MJW: In my latest book, Prisoncorp, content moderation is the work of prisoners. I can just see it being the kind of work farmed out to the lowest on the ladder.
CJW: Ancient Root
We are all lives in other skins, furs, feathers, or scales, each with different visions and dreams and histories, different kinds of earth intelligence, all of it making for one great whole. We are all steeped in our own ways of knowing and being, communicating one to another in whatever way is possible. The human, animal, and plant world each add a piece to the puzzle of one great earth consciousness, one mighty and beautiful terrestrial intelligence.
I found this essay by Linda Hogan to be beautiful and touching. Consider it something of a companion piece to Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing, which we’ve talked about in these pages before.
ADH: I did my own meditation on the elephantine mind a few months ago in a story for Terraform. I fully intend to do more. I love this piece, but there’s this thing that always bugs me when I read these odes to the wisdom of non-human intelligences: they sound so much like how we write about humans that aren’t plugged into modernity. So how much of that alien profundity is biological and how much is materially and socially constructed? The way we marvel at elephants who make crude paintings always feels so fucking condescending to me. I want to see what elephants paint after they visit the Louvre and attend art school and hang out at salons debating neo-neo-cubism. This isn’t a dig on elephants—it’s to say I want them to get to do that stuff!
Elephants embody a problem that I don’t think anyone really has a good political answer for: how do we bring non-human intelligences with us into civilization? Enslaving elephants, keeping them in captivity, surveilling and controlling them without their consent is all clearly immoral—just like it is when we do that to humans. But the most radical conservation just draws lines on a map and tells humans to stay out, trusting that the creatures within can thrive in conditions that for humans we’d call “poverty.” That, as a complete answer, feels too much like the reservation thinking that we’ve seen fail, erode, and marginalize indigenous peoples into an impoverished underclass. I want to see a future where elephants aren’t just freed from our predation, but actually get to participate in civilization if they want.
MKY: PREACH! This is the only future I care about, the multispecies civilisation in spaaace.
CJW: The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet (via Sentiers)
Now once-blasphemous ideas are emerging in the startup world. In the past couple of months, VCs who backed Uber and once-blustering startup founders are advising others to grow organically: Avoid venture capitalists. Seek out homegrown term sheets. Aim for sustainability, not a monopoly. Forget being a billion-dollar company. “Fuck scale.” (That one is courtesy of Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga, who once confessed to doing “every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues.”)
Took them long enough to figure that out…
CJW: AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform—Call It Mirrorworld (via Sentiers)
To recreate a map that is as big as the globe—in 3D, no less—you need to photograph all places and things from every possible angle, all the time, which means you need to have a planet full of cameras that are always on.
We are making that distributed, all-seeing camera network by reducing cameras to pinpoint electric eyes that can be placed anywhere and everywhere. Like computer chips before them, cameras are becoming better, cheaper, and smaller every year. [...] Most of these newer artificial eyes will be right in front of our own eyes, on glasses or in contacts, so that wherever we humans look, that scene will be captured.
The heavy atoms in cameras will continue to be replaced with bits of weightless software, shrinking them down to microscopic dots scanning the environment 24 hours a day. The mirrorworld will be a world governed by light rays zipping around, coming into cameras, leaving displays, entering eyes, a never-ending stream of photons painting forms that we walk through and visible ghosts that we touch. The laws of light will govern what is possible.
This is the most Repo Virtual article I’ve yet come across - even more so than any of the ones I took inspiration from when I wrote it.
One of the most interesting things about Wired is the way the ideology of the magazine (technology, and thus Silicon Valley, will solve all of our problems) lends it to rendering these dystopian hellscapes in excitable, almost-advertorial articles. It’s not until the second half of this (rather long) article that it really starts to touch on the drawbacks and challenges of AR.
A large chunk of this article glowingly details all the ways that AR will change our lives, but to me they all seem like ways it will change our lives for the worse. More thorough surveillance, no need for desks - take your workplace with you! (as if our always-online lifestyles haven’t already damaged any semblance of work-life balance), and yet another way for our surveillance-capitalist system to sell us things. It’s only after you get past all that that you get to some actual interesting and creative uses of AR:
History will be a verb. With a swipe of your hand, you will be able to go back in time, at any location, and see what came before. You will be able to lay a reconstructed 19th-century view right over the present reality. To visit an earlier time at a location, you simply revert to a previous version kept in the log. The entire mirrorworld will be like a Word or Photoshop file that you can keep “undoing.” Or you’ll scroll in the other direction: forward. Artists might create future versions of a place, in place. The verisimilitude of such crafty world-building will be revolutionary. These scroll-forward scenarios will have the heft of reality because they will be derived from a full-scale present world. In this way, the mirrorworld may be best referred to as a 4D world.
On the one-hand, I’m happy that AR isn’t dead, because it’s a fundamental part of Repo Virtual, but on the other hand there’s a reason why the setting of RV is a neoliberal cyberpunk dystopia.
Consider the possibility of completely seamless AR breaking down the lines between the real and the Augmented (again, something I touch on in RV); it’s enough to make deepfakes look like a child’s game. Imagine walking down the street and not knowing which cars on the road were real and could kill you, and which were just projections (advertisements?). Imagine walking into your house and going to sit down on a chair only to fall to the floor because your whole house has been ransacked (or repossessed) and the chair you tried to sit on was an augmented replica left in its place.
Eventually this melded world will be the size of our planet. It will be humanity’s greatest achievement, creating new levels of wealth, new social problems, and uncountable opportunities for billions of people. There are no experts yet to make this world; you are not late.
If any AR firms want to pay me big money to imagine the new social problems that could be brought about by AR, just hit reply ;)
MKY: Our five biggest delusions about climate change
Solid preview of the world to come here in this OpEd by David Wallace-Wells (if you need a setting for your near future realism piece, start with this - if you want more deets on why the Anthropocene is SO MUCH MORE than climate change, read this), but the sentence that leapt out at me was: “As real life becomes more and more apocalyptic, what will become of science fiction?”
or why, as I move towards mostly crafting fiction (show, don’t tell?) I'm drawn to writing sci-fi flavored survival horrors and ultraviolent technothrillers… that still fit under HopePunk, as I choose to interpret it anyway.
Which brings me to my pitch for a reboot of the Arrow’verse - Arrow, International. Ollie Queen & Co roaming the globe. Breaking into boardrooms and parliaments. Delivering extra legal justice. “You have failed this planet”.
CJW: As the toll of Australia’s frontier brutality keeps climbing, truth telling is long overdue (via Jack Latimore)
Reynolds speaks of the significance of Evans and Ørsted-Jensen’s research on the numbers of killings in colonial Queensland.
Based on an extrapolation of native police documentation, they estimated (conservatively) that as many as 60,000 Aboriginal people died in frontier violence in Queensland alone.
The national implications of the figure are profound; the wars that raged across this continent from 1788 did, it seem, claim more Indigenous lives than 62,000 Australian service personnel who died in the first world war.
The Guardian AU is doing a series on the massacring of Australia’s Indigenous populations, which includes this piece. The Guardian actually does a lot of great work here, so it’s strange and disappointing that the UK branch has somehow been (seemingly) overtaken by TERFs.
CJW: The Weight of Light (Coming out Tuesday, March 12)
One of the reasons ADH joined us this issue was to talk about The Weight of Light, a new solarpunk anthology coming out of the Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination - “A collection of science fiction stories, art, and essays exploring human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist.” Andrew was kind enough to get us early copies of the ebook so we could give it a read, and have a talk about it here in these pages, but it will be available for free download on Tuesday March 12th.
It’s perhaps not fair to call it a science-fiction anthology, because each of the four stories in the collection is accompanied by short essays that provide additional context, and detail some of the research and speculation that supports these stories. This is design fiction, with just as much consideration given to the real-world potential of the design as to the fiction itself, and with larger political issues always forming part of the setting of each story (because everything is political, and because energy and its distribution, costs, etc, are especially political).
But it’s all that additional context that makes it such an interesting read. Any fiction writer can throw a bunch of ideas at the wall to see what sticks, but having researchers crunching the numbers, and approaching those ideas from a different angle makes these solarpunk futures a little fuller, or perhaps more viable than they otherwise might seem. I could easily imagine the Snake in For the Snake of Power or the city-scale scaffolding of Under the Grid becoming real infrastructural projects in the near future, and the agri-voltaics in Big Rural seem completely obvious once you see the research and figures behind it. I didn’t really get a good feel for the design underpinning of Corey S. Pressman’s story, Divided Light (shout out to a fellow Corey [Middle Initial] [Surname]!), but it was also the story that was the most wildly imaginative, and the one with the most interesting cultural elements. So each of the stories works to differing degrees as both fiction and design fiction, but again, that’s what makes the book and the project so interesting.
ADH: Very excited to see this coming out on Tuesday after almost a year of gestation. The Weight of Light is part of a series of books the Center for Science and the Imagination has put out mixing scholarly non-fiction with science fiction. Other ones already available cover topics like the stratosphere and space futures. Their Future Tense Fiction series in Slate comes with such commentary too. Science writing that collaborates with fiction rather than simply reviews or critiques is pretty rare, so I recommend not just skipping to the stories.
This book on solar energy emerged out of an intense workshop with four teams, each featuring an engineer, a social scientist, a visual artist, and a sci-fi writer. In my team we hit on the notion of urban homeowner skyspace as an extension of fights we already see at the HOA level around rooftop solar. We collectively picked a broad political and technical moment to describe, zeroed in on a city and a set of institutions, sketched out themes, even created some of the core characters and the broad arc of the story that became Under The Grid. Plenty of the story’s moving pieces didn’t show up until I actually started typing the thing (Trevor in particular), but as a writer it’s actually super nice to have smart people kick ideas around until you have some serious blueprints to start working from.
Now that I’m revisiting the book, I’m really touched by the over-theme of returning home that showed up in some of the stories. Maybe there was more cross-pollination between teams than we realized at the time, but I also think there is something about the solar energy transition that makes turning one’s gaze back on the neighborhood feel really potent. Cyberpunk stories about technologies of digital abstraction always seem to travel off of the street to some blackglass corporate headquarters or into the matrix—or both. Solarpunk I think wants to go the opposite direction, following the ripples of decisions made in high abstraction out to the physical realities where lives are lived. How does a neighborhood look different when its energy infrastructure is on the roof for all to see, not hidden in pipes and powerlines? Which aesthetics will be borne of de-abstraction, decentralization, redistribution? What does the street smell like when it realizes it has power?
MKY: I’ve only had a chance to read Under The Grid and its associated essays this week (due to extreme busy). I LOVED it. I got vibes of my favourite cyberpunk short story (that doesn’t feature Leggy Starlitz), Sterling’s Bicycle Repairman. Also nice to see stacked container housing, which I can’t help associating with that glossy, nostalgic, “cyber” but ‘not very punk’ movie Spielberg made (RP1) now, being used in much brighter, greener scenario. A snapshot of the near future, post-Collapse. The idea of Amerika being subject to a superempowered Emergency agency - funded by China & Europe - is so counter to the prevailing trends that it feels genuinely futuristic. (Can you imagine MAGA folx welcoming that?) Like, don’t just predict the road, predict the traffic jam. What comes after the local water wars, some (hopefully) well-planned managed retreat and the churn of internal climate migration? Read this book. And that this story in particular is basically also ‘bureau punk’, watching our protagonist get woke to issues outside her purview - outside the frame of what’s vital, important and necessary that occupies her attention - and doing something about it. That’s the story telling we need rn.
MKY: Lords of Chaos
Did you know there’s seven Culkin siblings? This one stars Rory. He does not at all look like a vat grown clone of his older brothers. He has long black hair, for example.
This is a movie about the seminal Norwegian Death Metal band, Mayhem. It is… quite intense in places. (If you’ve ever heard anything about this band and its ahem, antics, this will be completely unsurprising to you. TW: imagine the worst, then brace yourself.)
There is way more Sigur Ros in the film’s soundtrack than I might’ve otherwise expected (ie none). I caught an extremely limited screening of this, with a fair chunk of Melbs’ metal heads in attendance. I recommend you do the same if you get the chance.
MKY: Widows, or, DEATH TO LIAM NEESON.
So everyone knows that almost every Liam Neeson movie since Taken (or earlier? idk) is one angry widower (or occasionally, divorcee i guess in Taken etc) seeking revenge on the world, right? (And that Liam Neeson is a racist piece of shit.) However do you subvert that? Well, you make the exact opposite movie. One that explores the devastation a bunch of alpha male ‘badass crims’ leave in their wake; something made all the worse when they all die pulling their Heat fanfic bs (spoiler: but it’s all their in the title, innit). Who’s left to pick up the pieces of rubble and build something, when they’re left with nothing? That’s exactly what this film explores, and it pulls the best femme flip on a traditionally male movie I’ve seen yet. Like, the Ghostbusters movie was fine. Oceans 8… I mean, they tried, it was pretty n stuff. But this, this delivers. And the best part, you’ve got Liam Neeson (and everything he represents) front and centre for the world to see and finally get the justice he deserves; filmatically, anyway.
Enough about that fuck. Viola Davis is a powerhouse in this. Like, QUEEN! It is so good to see so many literally and figuratively strong women, who are done with taking any shit from men, absolutely outplay and outshine them. I wish McQueen had adapted Annihilation now.
MJW: I thought Widows was so much stronger a concept than merely flipping the gender roles in a heist flick. Like that recent phenom of like, ‘oooh, let’s take a story but make it girls!’ as if that’s the work done. Widows was so much more than that. Not only did it present us with high-concept heisting, but also the simple, everyday concerns of a woman’s life: ie, how do I go to my heist if I don’t have adequate childcare?
Here’s a great review from Mel Campbell.
I’ve long been a fan of Alan Brown/MedusaWolf’s artwork, so I’m excited to see this new comic - still with the same distinct creations as his paintings, but with modern comic style colouring, and a wide array of sci-fi weirdness.
MJW: Stories We Tell Our Robots Episode 28 - Apocapod
Might be biased, because I’m in this podcast, but two Very Smart Dudes and I talked about the apocalypse.
Deep ideological fissures are beginning to divide society, which has been invaded by the fractured narratives of post-truth. People form beliefs based on feelings rather than facts. Reality is oversimplified, then weaponized by master manipulators of information warfare. An ancient and subversive form of propaganda has found a contemporary audience. Everyone believes their own brand of truth.
AA: After a long day of reading an absolute shit-ton of articles, maybe you need a laugh. If so, can I humbly suggest Australian comedy troupe Aunty Donna, who have just released the first batch of a series they’ve titled “Glennridge Secondary College”. This is fast-paced, absurdist sketch comedy with brilliant editing and fantastic chemistry between the cast. It’s a bit like an Australian UCB, and the Upright Citizens Brigade’s TV show was definitive for me, so I don’t offer that praise lightly. Start with Don’t Get In The Kiln or Roll Call - both of which may resonate with my fellow teachers out there. You can also watch one of their full live shows here.
MKY: https://thinkspaceprojects.com/shows/kevinpeterson-2019/ [via beautifulbizarremagzine on Instagram]
I’ve seen the future and its multispecies team-ups thriving in the post-Collapse.
I am SO INTO these works by Kevin Peterson. In his latest showing in LA, he’s creating “a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity.”
Nuff said really. If you make it there, dear reader, say hi from us.
AA: I’ve just had a short piece published on the Burning House Press website. Every month BHP have a guest editor curate a stream of eclectic, experimental work responding to a theme. This month the guest editor is Elytron Frass (author of the incredible choose-your-own-adventure grimoire Liber Exuvia), and the theme is “Handwritten Letters to Fictitious Persons from Alternate Earths”. You can read Frass’ call for submissions here. There have been a number of excellent responses already, and you can still submit until the end of the month, when everything will be collated and archived.
My piece is titled “A’s Request to Think on [X]”, and it’s a meditation on mystery, malice and murdering Murdoch. Someone compared it to Kobe Abe, which is lofty praise indeed. I really enjoyed the process of handwriting this thing, and coming up with the graphic/design elements was also a lot of fun.
AA: Speaking of Elytron Frass, I’ve just published an excerpt from a piece of his titled “Endohost and Exoaviator” on the Oh Nothing Press website. This is Frass’ contribution to the upcoming Creeper Magazine, which we’re describing as “The horror of everyday life, explored”. Besides Frass’ psychedelic sci-fi phantasmagoria you can also currently preview work by Ben McCleay (aka @Thomas_Violence), Sophie Sauzier, Tom Syverson, and me old mate Corey J White. You can also read my contribution, a personal essay about family holidays, jellyfish and murdered children.
CJW: And that’s it for another issue - a big thank you to ADH for joining us, it’s been great having you. If any of our chatter about The Weight of Light anthology has piqued your interest, be sure to check it out on Tuesday. It is well worth a look.
As ever, thank you for joining us too. We hope you enjoyed this issue, chock-full as it was of very now horrors, ideas, art, and all the rest. Feel free to share it far and wide, or hold it close and never let it go.
That piece about wealthy and miserable people is connected in my mind to the recent Ashes Ashes episode on loneliness, and my own recent (particularly bad bout of) depression. I work from home, I write at home, I live a solitary lifestyle to the point where if I’m not actively trying to reach out to people, maybe it won’t happen. So when I talk about community, about finding your people, about thinking about connecting with others in your local community, I’m telling that to myself, but maybe you need to hear it too. We only have each other - for better and for worse - but without that we only have ourselves, and that just makes things so much harder.
So reach out, to us, to other people in your life.
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