A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘cyberpunk

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Architectuul looks back at some highlights from 2019.
  • Bad Astronomy looks at the gas cloud, red and green, of RCW 120.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the dynamics of identity politics, here.
  • Bruce Dorminey notes a NASA statement about the importance of understanding dust dynamics in other solar systems to find Earth analogues.
  • Far Outliers looks at the problems pacifying the Chesapeake Bay area in 1813, here.
  • Gizmodo looks at the most popular Wikipedia articles for the year 2019.
  • io9 shares a video of images from a 1995 Akira cyberpunk computer game that never got finished.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how the United States tried to “civilize” the Inupiat of Alaska by giving them reindeer herds.
  • Language Hat links to an online atlas of Scots dialects.
  • Language Log reports on a 12th century Sanskrit inscription that testifies to the presence of Muslims in Bengal at that point.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how much Tuvalu depends on revenue from its .tv Internet domain.
  • Drew Rowsome looks at the Duncan Ralston horror novel Salvage, set in small-town Canada.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the strong relationship between wealth and life expectancy in France.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel notes that, in a hypothetical supernova, all life on an Earth-like planet would be boiled alive by neutrinos.
  • Strange Maps links to a graphic interface that translates a word into all the languages of Europe.
  • Understanding Society looks at the structures of high-reliability organizations.
  • Window on Eurasia shares a suggestion that Homer Simpson is actually the US’ version of Russia’s Ivan the Fool.

[NEWS] Five sci-fi links: cyberpunk zombies, Alita: Battle Angel, women, W40K, The Silent Star

  • Jesse Scott in The Guardian of Charlottetown considers the idea the cyberpunk might be in a process of being zombified.
  • McKenna Gray at On The A Side suggests that James Cameron’s decision to wait until the technology caught up to his vision helps make Alita: Battle Angel a success.
  • Wired notes the research of Lisa Yaszek, who argues the belief that early science fiction was lacking women writers is false, that it was instead a matter of misogynistic anthologists hiding women writers’ work.
  • This delightful Alex Hern article in The Guardian takes a look at how Warhammer40K has become such a huge hit.
  • Eric Schewe at JSTOR Daily looks at the 1960 East German SF film The Silent Star, a remarkably inclusive utopian vision of the future that–conceivably–did set a precedent for Star Trek.

[NEWS] Five sci-fi links: Star Trek, Neuromancer and cyberspace, solarpunk, cyberpunk

  • Not too long ago, the Toronto Star noted that back in 1966 it had reported on the filming of “The Man Trap” , the first Star Trek episode to air. Its report is here.
  • This io9 report on how Alex Kurtzman talks about the tension between staying loyal to canon in Star Trek and doing something new provides insight.
  • This Mark Hill essay at Heterotopia Magazine looks at how the Commodore 64 version of Neuromancer reflects the cyberspace imagined very early in the history of the online world, all graphics and BBSs.
  • This Adam Boffa essay at Longreads takes a look at solarpunk, a new SF genre characterized by a hopeful post-apocalyptic environment imagining ecologically sound technologies and societies.
  • Lee Constantinou, writing at Slate, suggests that the continued survival of cyberpunk and children genres like solarpunk speaks of an exhaustion of the imagination of SF writers, in a lack of belief in change.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 10, 2019 at 10:51 am

[MUSIC] Grimes, “We Appreciate Power”

I have been thinking a lot about Grimes‘ new single, “We Appreciate Power”, since its release last week.

This song is incredibly catchy, a development of Grimes’ dreamier earlier music in a harder direction. The lyrical direction takes an even harder turn, moving beyond the cyberpunk evoked by Grimes and her collaborator HANA in the lyric video for “We Appreciate Power” towards hard transhumanism.

Simulation, give me something good
God’s creation, so misunderstood
Pray to the divinity, the keeper of the key
One day everyone will believe

[. . .]

People like to say that we’re insane
But AI will reward us when it reigns
Pledge allegiance to the world’s most powerful computer
Simulation: it’s the future

“We Appreciate Power” is the pop music of the singularity.

Jeremy Gordon’s essay at The Outline makes a compelling case for considering the techno-futurism of Grimes’ partner Elon Musk as an influence on her musical direction. I can see it, though I can also see this song as being a product of an ambient cultural moment. As Erica Russell’s thoughtful review at Paper Magazine makes clear, the recognition of the power of AI is becoming increasingly common.

According to a press release, the technocultural song was inspired by North Korean-formed propagandist music group Moranbong, and is “written from the perspective of a Pro-A.I. Girl Group Propaganda machine who use song, dance, sex and fashion to spread goodwill towards Artificial Intelligence — it’s coming whether you like it or not.”

That chilling final warning fits perfectly in line with “We Appreciate Power’s” maniacal dystopian energy, which fully leans into the ever-impending cyber-apocalypse with unhinged glee: “Submit, submit, submit, submit, submit…” Grimes diabolically commands on the outro. If the rise of artificial intelligence is upon us, who are we to deny our own brainwashing at the hands of our creations? We’re already glued to our laptops/cell phones just listening to this song, aren’t we?

In 2018, AI is much more than just the plot device for many of our favorite sci-fi films, from Blade Runner to Ex-Machina. It’s the new normal — a reality we’re currently living in while simultaneously rushing even faster towards. Every day, AI infiltrates our lives, whether we realize it or not. Using facial recognition, Facebook automatically offers to tag our friends in the photos we upload; Siri helps us find that perfect restaurant we’ve been craving but totally forgot the name of; each week, Spotify curates an eerily on-point Discover Weekly playlist for us. AI is useful — imperative even, perhaps, in our newly advanced and increasingly tech-dependent world — but is it really more evil than necessary?

On “We Appreciate Power,” Grimes crafts a complex industrial cyber-pop anthem that leans into technological determinism and the very real possibility of a future AI revolution which, depending on how you feel about living in The Matrix, might sound totally terrifying or, in the case of Grimes, exciting. “Neanderthal to human being/ Evolution, kill the gene/ Biology is superficial/ Intelligence is artificial,” she sings, pointing out the cyclical and temporary nature of humanity. She also appears to celebrate tech’s superiority as the next stage of societal advancement… even if it may spell doom for some. Maybe.

I will be definitely very interested to see where Grimes goes next, with her upcoming album and all. I will also be interested to see, as described in the NME, the continuing influence of these ideas on the global pop music scene. What next?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 6, 2018 at 11:58 pm

[NEWS] Five sci-fi links: Gunn, Williams, KSR, cyberpunk, Chabon on Stewart

  • In an interview with Mark Alpert at Scientific American, golden age SF author James Gunn argues that science fiction still has the potential to save the world.
  • At Universe Today, writer Matt Williams talks about how practising science journalism helped him become a better writer of science fiction.
  • Wired, noting the release of the new Kim Stanley Robinson novel Red Moon, makes the case for his importance as a writer.
  • Paul Walker-Emig at The Guardian makes the case that cyberpunk is full of tropes and aesthetics that are decades old, that the subgenre needs desperately to reinvent itself.
  • Michael Chabon, writer on the new Picard series, enthuses about the joys of working with Patrick Stewart.

[META] Six new blogs on the blogroll

I will be doing the hard work of installing these six blogs on my blogroll later this weekend. For now, suffice it to say that these six blogs, still-extant islands in a blogosphere in a state of transformation, are going to be the last I’ll be adding for some time. It can be hard to keep up with them all.

  • Daily JSTOR is the famed scholarly archive’s blog. This 1 November post, timed for Nanowrimo, sharing some inspiring quotes from writers about writing, is fun.
  • The blog by Lyman Stone, In a State of Migration, has great analyses of demographic issues in the United States and wider world. This recent post, looking at what it would take to–as the alt-right would wish–“make America white” and the enormous costs of this goal, is worth noting.
  • Information is Beautiful, by famed data journalist David McCandless has all sorts of fantastic infographics. I recommend this one, looking at the United Kingdom’s options re: Brexit.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Lingua Franca takes a look at language and writing. This recent post, analyzing the complexities and challenges of George Orwell’s thought on freedom of expression, is very good.
  • Noahpinion is the blog of Bloomberg writer Noah Smith. I quite liked this older essay, one noting that cyberpunk’s writers seem to have gotten the future, unlike other writers in other SF subgenres. Does rapid change lead to bad predictions?
  • Salmagundi is a blog by an anonymous gay Kentucky writer touching on the subjects of his life and more. The most recent post is this link to an essay by Bruce Snider, talking about the lack of rural gay poets.

[LINK] “Here’s What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Fascism”

Wired shares excerpts from a recent interview with Bruce Sterling on what science fiction can teach its readers about fascism, and about what science fiction has to learn about itself.

“There’s a kind of rhetorical trick that goes on in science fiction, and in fascism, that kind of says, ‘Don’t really worry about what this means for the guy next door,’” Sterling says. “That it’s so cool and amazing that you should just surrender yourself to the rapture of its fantastic-ness.”

As an example he cites the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which astronaut David Bowman is transformed into a superhuman entity called the Star Child. Sterling says the image is so striking and awe-inspiring that few viewers ever think to ponder the potential downsides of the Star Child.

“It’s not like anybody voted on the space baby,” he says. “It’s not like an ethics commission wrote on the space baby. It’s not like anybody says, ‘What if the space baby turns out to be cruel to certain ethnic minorities?’”

Sterling believes that it’s important to retain your ability to be moved and inspired, but equally important to be selective about the images and ideas that you choose to invest in.

“If you don’t have a sense of wonder it’s like you’re dead inside,” he says. “But your sense of wonder can be used to trick you. You can have a sense of wonder over a thing that’s basically a conjurer’s trick, or a con job, or a rip-off.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Antipope hosts a guest blogger with an interesting vision for a new iteration of cyberpunk.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling shares a link to a report on Saudi Arabian water resources.
  • Centauri Dreams shares a study of nearby brown dwarf WISE 0855.
  • Crooked Timber notes the amoral technocracy of the Speers.
  • Dangerous Minds shares vintage postcards from a century ago warning against the threat of feminism.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the import of carbon to oxygen ratios in exoplanet formation.
  • ImaGeo notes the discovery of new dwarf planet RR245.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Australians scientists have declared an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in that country, conditionally.
  • Language Hat links to a site for learning sign languages.
  • Language Log tests an alleged Finnish joke about Russian occupations for linguistic plausibility.
  • The LRB Blog notes that Prime Minister Theresa May is not a victory for feminism.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the depopulation of Japan and looks at Britain’s low productivity.
  • Otto Pohl announces his impending move to academia in Kurdistan.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at Ukrainian emigration.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russian austerity will hurt Russia’s regions.

[REVIEW] Akira

Thursday night showing’s of Akira at the Revue Cinema in Roncesvalles happily did not disappoint. The showing itself could have been better: the start time was delayed, but more frustratingly the organizers kept having sound trouble, starting with the dubbed version and then trying to get the sound going on the subtitled one only to opt for the dubbed version on the fourth try. The film itself was superb, no disappointment to my old memories.

A quick Googling reveals that I encountered Akira for the first time a bit more than a decade ago, Sam showing me the movie in December of 2005 and then lending me the translated volumes of the original manga over the first part of the following year. It’s been a decade since I last engaged with this in depth, and I was a bit worried. I had been afraid that my memories of Akira were wrong, but I had also been afraid that the appraisals I wrote at the time would be massively incorrect. Neither is the case: Akira still stands up as a powerful and artistically credible depiction of the human encounter with the post-human, and the movie in particular remains an effective distillation of the sprawling sagas of the manga.

I was off on one thing, though, or–at best–I was reflecting the perspectives of my time, back in the halcyon pre-crash days of 2005 and 2006. At the time, I wrote that Akira did not feel like our future, not with its post-apocalyptic urban civilization beset by mass protests and terrorism and the real dangerous conspiracies of the powerful and disenchanted. History has since returned, and watching some of the scenes featuring the revolutionaries and random protesters of Neo-Tokyo gave me chills. The imagining of the possibility of radical human transcendence embraced by so many of Akira‘s characters may be widely unrealistic, but what does it say about our civilization that the only thing left to us is chaos and despair?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 4, 2016 at 11:59 pm

[MUSIC] Deep Forest with Peter Gabriel, “While the Earth Sleeps”

“While the Earth Sleeps”, a collaboration of Peter Gabriel with Deep Forest, the latter group sampling Bulgarian folk singer Katya Petrova, is the terminal song on the soundtrack of the sadly underrated 1995 proto-cyberpunk movie Strange Days. This fan video is conveniently local, pairing footage of a trip down the Don Valley Parkway with the music.

Strongly recommended.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2015 at 3:58 am