Posts tagged: science fiction
My first short story, “The Faraday Bag,” will debut next week in the Membrane art and fiction anthology from Dreadful Cafe on Thursday December 12. My contribution is a near-future sci-fi story about the precariat, 3D printed pharmaceuticals and student loan debt. It also includes nine other stories stories on “android cannibals, a clown plague, Nazi zombies, alien cancer, killer nuns, and more, as well as original and vintage art and photography.” Every story includes a full-color illustration.
Membrane will be released initially as an e-book only, but a print version will follow sometime next year. All proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
The Week reports, back in October 2012:
An ambitious new e-book pushes the boundaries of interactive fiction by requiring readers to visit specific locations to unlock new parts of its story
If you want the full experience of The Silent History — a new e-book available on the iPhone and iPad — you’d better get ready to do some traveling. The Silent History is “part medical case study, part mystery novel, and part-real-life scavenger hunt,” says Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED, and the e-book aims to personalize its narrative for each reader. (Watch a trailer for The Silent History below.) The Silent History is divided into two parts: Testimonials and field reports. The testimonials, which are divided into six volumes of 20 chapters each, are automatically unlocked as the story unfolds each day. But the field reports require an unprecedented level of interaction: They can only be read by traveling to specific locations, and readers are encouraged to write and contribute their own localized installments.
Fiction (?) from Adam Rothstein:
They explained the manifesto. Any device that was known to be approaching release, they would fabricate and wield in public. Their devices were seen in blurry street photos, profiled in gadget magazines of the highest order, spotted in the wild when by rights, they should never have been. They intentionally subverted the release cycle paradigm, and in doing so redirected the entire gray market of development, hype, and design. “Permanent beta techno-anarchism by the deed,” was the phrase I remember best, though this commodity insurgency was certainly permeated by the occult as much as any politics. Perhaps it was something in the incense smoke affecting my powers of reason, but there was a dark magic implied in these counterfeit devices.
Their work displayed the usual anti-corporate merit badges, measured in leftist buzz words and culture jamming cache. Every counterfeit device they made and used in public was a lobbed stick of dynamite at the Silicon Valley scabs, who had commodified the spirit of invention and delivered it up to the bosses. But there was a deeper symbolism at play. The devices they produced in this pseudo-lab were hexes, a transubstantiation of the spirit of consumption, simultaneously capturing the specter and setting it upon others. The market of gadget futures was a field of energy, invisible to anyone who wasn’t ensconced in this culture. And the Group played with this metaphysics as if it was their own personal toy. There was an incredible amount of power invested in the development of the newest, the most cutting edge, the most must-have consumer devices. The Group was blackening it, stealing this occult knowledge for their own purposes, hijacking it into unholy loops that they were attempting to channel. Also, sabotaging and rupturing the rights-of-way that railroaded this energy back to its supposed owners. And if the Group were throwing these bombs into the market square, then there were definitely Pinkertons out there, looking for them.
Full Story: The State: Chased by Google X
Tim Maughan uses design fiction to sketch a vision of our precarious future:
Nicki is awake even before her mum calls her from the other side of the door. She’s sat up in bed, crackly FM radio ebbing from tiny supermarket grade speakers, her fingers flicking across her charity shop grade tablet’s touchscreen. She’s close to shutting down two auctions when a third pushes itself across her screen with it’s familiar white and green branded arrogance. Starbucks. Oxford Circus. 4 hour shift from 1415.
She sighs, dismisses it. She’s not even sure why she still keeps that notification running. Starbucks, the holy fucking grail. But she can’t go there, can’t even try, without that elusive Barista badge.
Which is why she’s been betting like mad on this Pret a Manger auction, dropping her hourly down to near pointless levels. It says it’s in back of house food prep, but she’s seen the forum stories, the other z-contractors who always say take any job where they serve coffee, just in case. That’s how I did it, they say, forced my way in, all bright faces and make up and flirting and ‘this coffee machine looks AMAZING how does it work?’ and then pow, Barista badge.
Full Story: Medium: Zero Hours
Bram E. Gieben’s “Search Engine” is sort of a journalist/blogger’s version of this scenario.
The problem, perhaps, with addressing the concerns of the day – particularly in science fiction that hopes to predict the future – is that it ages pieces considerably. Simon Ings (Hot Head; Dead Water) said of Paintwork: “[Tim] catches those fleeting moments of possibility in stories that ought to have no shelf life whatsoever – and which, regardless, linger in the mind.”
With very positive reactions, this timeliness obviously doesn’t concern Tim too much. In fact, he embraces that idea, mentioning how dated – but still enjoyable – films like Alien, Blade Runner and Outland are. “The idea behind many of them,” he tells me, “is that we’ll go into space and it’ll be this massive industrial enterprise; we’ll build these huge mining platforms – and that’s a reflection of the 1980s right? That’s a reflection of what industrial corporate technology was like then. It’s not a reflection of what industry’s like now.
“If we do ever expand our industries into space, it won’t look like that because the only way we could do it would be with more sophisticated technology – with nano-technology, and much sleeker approaches to doing things. We’re not going to go and build huge mining cities on Io, or whatever. But that doesn’t make those films any less beautiful to watch and it doesn’t make them any less relevant. In the1970s and the 1980s, we were building these huge oil platforms out in the North Sea in order to exploit the resources we had there. And I’m a big believer in that sort of science fiction; I don’t mind getting things wrong.”
He can even see his own work becoming dated, despite only being published in July 2011. “I get the impression that QR Codes are already going out of fashion,” he continues. “I don’t mind that because when I was writing about them, they were a fairly new thing. It’s interesting: I think the reason they’re going out of fashion is because they’re so easily hacked! They’re so open to malware – and you don’t know where it goes.
“That’s what Paintwork is all about. I like the idea that you can look back at science fiction from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, now, and go, ‘well, that’s wrong about the future, but that doesn’t matter because it was reflecting the values and concerns of the time it was written.’” It’s like a time capsule. “It makes science fiction an important and historical document,” Tim agrees. “You can’t get the future right, you never can. So coming back to those films, I watch Alien and Blade Runner and those movies all the time because they’re visually stunning. For that reason, there’s a place for it and it is nostalgia.”
Short sci-fi by Tim Maughan:
“‘Burgerpunk?’” Tamsin squinted at me over the rim of her ironically ugly spex. “And that’s…what?”
Her eyes aimed down again, I could tell she was reading from some non-existent document floating in her own private space, my portfolio I presumed. It was also painfully obvious this was the first time she’d seen it. I stifled a sigh.
“Well…it’s a phrase I coined when I was in Shanghai. It’s…let me think. You know what steampunk is, right? Do you remember that?” She was probably too young.
“Sort of.” She half nodded. “Vaguely. Cogs and robots dressed as Colonial Saunders. Airships.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Pretty much. It was this romanticised idea of Victorian Britain but with this…this steam powered technology stuff. Anyway it got really popular in the States mainly, the reasoning being it allowed Americans to fetishise this sanitised, romanticised British Empire, because they’d never had one. I mean they had an economic, military and cultural empire – but not a physical, old school empire with an exciting history, right? Their empire never showed up on any maps.”
“So, the Chinese have the same problem, right, but slightly different – they’ve got this economic and maybe military empire, but they don’t even have a cultural one. Because of the language thing. Nobody outside China apart from a few nerds is watching Chinese movies, reading Chinese comics. So they’ve started fetishising America’s cultural empire. Burgerpunk.”
“Right.” It didn’t seem like Tamsin was completely following me, but I carried on regardless. It was too late to stop, I guess.
“So over in Shanghai and Beijing they’ve got all these AR parks and shopping malls and restaurants, where these salary men and factory workers take their families, and they can sit and eat burgers and milkshakes in fake ‘50s diners served by robots that look like Ronald Reagan and Lady Gaga while clips of the Vietnam war play on flat screens. Just outside Beijing there’s actually a theme park where you can dress up like gang members, and drive around this hyper-real recreation of an anonymous LA retail park – all burger franchises and outlet stores – in replicas of exactly the sort of gas-guzzling US muscle cars that the Chinese government has just had to ban.”
Full Story: The Orphan: #Burgerpunk
Paul Graham Raven introduces the idea of “infrastructure fiction,” a derivative of design fiction (itself somewhat related to science fiction):
No one would describe Douglas Adams as a “hard” science fiction writer, but I’ve long felt that he was better than many of his more serious contemporaries at communicating the paradoxical relationships we humans have with the world we inhabit. Near the start of the third Hitchhiker’s Guide novel, Life, the Universe and Everything (Adams, 2009), Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect observe the arrival of an unusual spacecraft (which, if I remember correctly, looks rather like a low-budget Italian bistro turned on its side) in the middle of Lords cricket ground during an important test match. This spacecraft remains unnoticed by the players, the crowd, or even the stolid BBC reporters covering the match; this is because it includes a device which generates a “Someone Else’s Problem” field, whose inventor realised that, while making something invisible is very tricky, making something look like someone else’s problem is much, much easier, as most people are predisposed to that position.
The challenge for infrastructure fiction is to dispel the Someone Else’s Problem field and reveal the elided centrality of infrastructure to pretty much everything we do. Its challenge is to explore what infrastructure means.
Paul includes links to a few examples from a University of Sheffield project he was involved in, including the “City Blood” concept pictured above.
Coming Soon: OMNI Magazine Art Gallery and Book
Vice’s Claire Evans just got to check out the largest known collection of OMNI related ephemera in the world and shares some interesting news:
OMNI was bankrolled by a fountain of cash generated by Penthouse. And by bankrolled, I mean bankrolled: the most shocking thing I found in Jeremy’s filing cabinets wasn’t the Penthouse negatives but stacks of magazines annotated with invoices detailing how much each contributor was paid. For the issue dated November 1989, Guccione’s company, General Media Incorporated, spent $16,843.65 on illustrations – solar sails, airbrushed mazes, a silhouette of Neptune pressed up against an inky sky. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that this sum eclipses the entire monthly operating budgets of many modern magazines.
This is because Bob loved art. His mansions in Manhattan and on the Hudson river were both filled with old masters and paintings by the hundreds of artists he tapped to illustrate OMNI and Penthouse. “Design was everything for Bob,” Jane said. No matter if they were selecting pictorials for Penthouse or laying out the sleek, futuristic pages of OMNI, it was the same. “I knew in the end, we would thinking about that vertical, that horizontal, we’d be thinking about that perfect placement, we’d be thinking about design, color, light.” When Guccione’s empire crumbled – General Media went bankrupt in 2003 – his personal assets were liquidated to pay off debts. The Van Goghs, Modiglianis, Picassos, and Renoirs went to the auction house; the rest of the artworks – sexy pictures and science fiction landscapes alike – were scattered to the wind. […]
OMNI is returning with a vengeance. An exhibition of its art is in the works, some of which I saw: original lithographs and paintings from the magazine, artworks that Jeremy et al. have been tracking down at huge cost. The warehouse now stashes 53 surrealistic oils and fantasy landscapes and contains works by Rafal Olbinski, Robert Kittila, Jon Berkey, Tsuneo Sanda, and Bruce Jensen. Coming up: a book of this collected artwork, released by Powerhouse Books; a panel at the Toronto Fan Expo; and eventually booths at conventions around the country.
Full Story: Vice: OMNI Magazine Will Rise Again
I bought a stash of OMNI magazines on eBay a couple years ago and it was totally worth it. But you can read scans online for free at Archive.org. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of issues with William Gibson stories and here’s the famous issue seen above, with an H.R. Giger cover, an interview with Future Shock author Alvin Toffler conducted by Guccione, a “Computer Lib” article by Ted “Xanadu” Nelson, John Lily on dolphins, fiction by Greg Bear and more.
Or dive into the Fortean index of OMNI to find particular topics of interest.
After a while, most serialized webcomics start to look the same. Just about every series seems to strike a similar balance of influences from anime and western animation. But not Light Years Away, which draws inspiration from European sci-fi comics by artists like Moebius and Tanino Liberatore.
LYA is set in a world where many — perhaps most — people have cybernetic implants. But there’s a growing, violent anti-implant movement called the Puritans. The first story arc, Escape from Prison Planet, tells the story of Milo, a repeat offender doing time on an off-planet penal colony, where he ends up in the middle of a prison gang war between the Puritans and the implantees. Soon, however, he finds out there’s something bigger going on.
I talked with writer Ethan Ede and artist Adam Roselund — the Boise, Idaho based duo behind the series — about webcomics, the future of the series and other projects they have in the hopper.
Left: Ethan Ede Right: Adam Roselund
Klint Finley: First, I’m curious why you guys self-published online. Did you shop it around to publishers first?
Ethan: We self-published this story because we wanted to do it our way. Having control over our product is very important to us, that’s one of the reasons there are no ads on the site, because that is content we can’t control. At the time when we started Light Years Away we were shopping several products around to publishers and we wanted to put something out in the meantime. We actually picked LYA because it is the least like the stories we normally tell.
Adam: As well as the story being built for the format. We were kind of frustrated at the pitch process when we decided on LYA. We just wanted to get some stories out there and read, and at the time, no one was buying science fiction. The market was in contraction, and publishers were reticent to take a chance on what we were selling.
Do you think you’ll ever go to a publisher or will you continue to self-publish?
Ethan: LYA will always be self published on the web, we wouldn’t turn away a publisher that wanted to collect the stories for print though.
Adam: We have a few projects that are built specifically for print as well. We have one that we are currently working on for Dark Horse, but it doesn’t change how we approach LYA.
Anything more you can tell us about the Dark Horse project?
Adam: The story we’re doing for Dark Horse will be in Dark Horse presents. It’s not on the schedule just yet since we’re still putting it together, but probably should be out sometime later this year.
Congrats, that’s a good foot in the door. Have you had any other professional work published?
Ethan: We did a story for an anthology called CTRL.ALT.SHIFT back in 2009 but mostly we have just been working on developing our own stories. We have been offered other gigs which we turned down because they weren’t ours. Creative control is very important to us, we don’t want to do a corporate owned story. We want to make our books our way, and that takes a little more work, than showing off sample pages and getting work on a license.
Adam: I’ve done my fair share of sample pages and inventory stories, but it’s hard to get excited about those, you know? The creation is the thing for us. Breathing life into the things that spring from our imaginations so that we can share them with other people. It’s a harder road than cutting your teeth on a large profile book, but it’s more fulfilling.
I also saw Adam’s name attached to, I think, the original announcement of MonkeyBrain Comics, but I haven’t seen a specific book…
Adam: Yeah, I was originally working on a Monkeybrain story with Brandon Seifert, but both of us got a bit underwater with our respective projects and commitments, so we haven’t created our book yet.
Stepping back a bit, how did Light Years Away come about? I know you guys have also collaborated on Fat Baby — was that before or after you started LYA?
Ethan: Adam and I have been collaborating since late 2004. When we first met it was pretty clear that we basically shared one brain, and we instantly wanted to work together. We started making pitches and approaching publishers blind. Adam’s art was always strong but we didn’t have a name for ourselves and we didn’t have a full book to show off what we could do. So we decided to self publish a story. LYA was one of many scripts I had written and the one we felt best lent itself to the format. We just wanted to make comics, and with the web a publisher wasn’t a gate we necessarily had to get through anymore.
Adam: Fat Baby came about right around the same time as LYA, if I remember correctly. The thing started as an elaborate joke to make ourselves laugh. If you have an hour, we can give you the full rundown of the creation of that project. It’s a real doozy. It’s one big metagag on the comics industry, from international printing rights to creator egoes to the 4-panel gag strip format itself.
In the intro to Escape from Prison Planet, you mention European sci-fi comics being an influence. I think I can see the Tanino Liberatore influence in there. What else influenced the two of you?
Ethan: Moebius Moebius Moebius.
Adam: As a kid, I was gung ho for Jim Lee X-Men. Then when I hit pimples and pubes phase of life, I discovered Jean Giraud and Bilal and fell in love. Intercut that with a healthy love of Katsuhiro Otomo.
The thing I love most about Moebius and Otomo is the sense of place they give their scenes. Everywhere feels lived in. There’s dirt. There’s graffiti. There’s flies and old water and plugged storm drains. Even in natural surroundings, the Earth feels weathered and the surface earned through years of erosion. These elements I really took hold of and try to apply to my work, as well as a sense of motion and momentum to character movement. That I think I learned from overdosing on animation and cartoons at a formative age.
Ethan: Mezieres and Christin’s Valerian series was also a huge inspiration for me in terms of how I want the story to move. Smaller albums that told a larger tale.
The back of the print book you sell at conventions says “Futurism.” Do you do a lot of research on the technology and theory behind implants, or is this mostly imaginative?
Ethan: Most of what Adam and I do together is Hard Science fiction. That is our passion. LYA happens to be one story where we decided to play fast and loose with science and physics. But nearly every other story we have in the workings is Hard SF. We spend a lot of time world building behind the panels, figuring out things work, looking at how technology can be used and misused. Doing a lot of research.
Adam: Yeah, LYA has warp gates and sentient alien life and all kinds of fantastical stuff in it, but even then, our hard science fiction background causes us to think waaaaaaaay too long about how even the most ridiculous piece of tech in Light Years Away functions on a basic level.
Do you have a background in science or are you self-taught?
Ethan: Neither of us have formal backgrounds in science. we are both autodidacts, we both read a lot and read a lot about emerging technology and science. we are both futurists.
It’s been a while since the site has updated — when can we expect new material?
Ethan: At the moment we are working very hard on this project for DHP but after that is wrapped we plan on a website redesign and the launch of book two of LYA. It makes us bad webcomicers, but Adam and I care less about an update schedule and more about the archives, we want the total book to be quality and that sometimes means we are slower and don’t keep as regular a schedule.
Adam: That’s the big bummer of where we’re at. It’s just the two of us. I only have one brain and two arms, and one of the arms is functionally useless in creating art. It’s basically there to hold the t-square steady. So updates are light when we have more pressing projects to work on unfortunately. But going forward, we really don’t want to sacrifice quality for the sake of a steady update. Book 2 is going to be GORGEOUS. Some of the pages in book one make me shake my head and wish I could re do it, so I promised myself that going forward, LYA will be as well drawn as any project we do for a publisher.
Outside of comics, what sort of creative projects are you two involved with? I know Ethan has a band, for example.
Ethan: Yeah we both play music, I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15. I also make auto-bio comics. We have made short films, and Adam does a lot of design work for bands. I’ve also designed T-shirts and things for a few local bands here in Boise. Basically we try to always keep our hands moving.
Adam: Yeah, I wear a lot of hats. I do Illustration work on the side in addition to my day job as a senior graphic designer for a large web company. I’ve done work for Playboy and various papers and magazines around the world.
Tim Maly is at it again:
It was a post by Allison. Nothing special, something like “Mmmm tasty lunch” with an image attached. The image was a broken link. No big deal. I tried to find the original tweet but there was some problem with the unique ID and you don’t make it easy to page through past tweets. I’d have given up if I hadn’t noticed the timestamp.
The timestamp was in the future. Two days in the future. Weird bug. But @timebot was always a side project and I was on some big deadlines.?
Two days later, Allison decided to go to our favourite sandwich shop. I don’t know the details of what happened. But I do know that at 12:23:51pm on October 3rd, @allililly tweeted “Mmmm tasty lunch” with an image attached and no broken link. The timestamp matched. The unique ID matched. The formerly broken link in @timebot’s message now worked. I got that vertiginous feeling again.
To keep things simple, I’ll spare you the details of the next occurences, or of the time an errant tweet nearly broke up Sandra and her girlfriend. Let’s just say that I’m convinced that, somehow, @timebot is pulling not only tweets from the past, but tweets from the future.
Previously: Tim’s The Corporation Who Would Be King