Posts tagged: science fiction
Gibson recently made an appearance at the New York Public Library, and he also did a surprise reading of the first couple pages of his forthcoming science fiction novel The Peripheral. The reading begins about 80 minutes in.
For more Gibson, check out our dossier.
Above: generative cities and architecture by Aranda & Lasch
Futurist Chris Arkenberg outlines a possible scenario for urban planning and architecture:
As complex ecosystems, cities are confronting tremendous pressures to seek optimum efficiency with minimal impact in a resource-constrained world. While architecture, urban planning, and sustainability attempt to address the massive resource requirements and outflow of cities, there are signs that a deeper current of biology is working its way into the urban framework.
Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.
This reminds me of the recent sci-fi short story “Crabapple by Lavie Tidhar:
Neighborhoods sprouted around Central Station like weeds. On the outskirts of the old neighborhood, along the Kibbutz Galuyot Road and Siren Road and Sderot Menachem Begin, the old abandoned highways of Tel Aviv, they grew, ringing the immense structure of the spaceport rising high into the sky. Houses sprouted like trees, blooming, adaptoplant weeds feeding on rain and sun, and digging roots into the sandy ground, breaking ancient asphalt. Adaptoplant neighborhoods, seasonal, unstable, sprouting walls and doors and windows, half-open sewers hanging in the air, exposed bamboo pipes, apartments growing over and into each other, growing without order or sense, creating pavements suspended in midair, houses at crazy angles, shacks and huts with half-formed doors, windows like eyes–
In autumn the neighborhoods shed, doors drying, windows shrinking slowly, pipes drooping. Houses fell like leaves to the ground below and the road cleaning machines murmured happily, eating up the shrunken leaves of former residencies. Above ground the tenants of those seasonal buoyant suburbs stepped cautiously, testing the ground with each step taken, to see if it would hold, migrating nervously across the skyline to other, fresher spurts of growth, new adaptoplant blooming delicately, windows opening like fruit–
For more of Arkenberg check out our interview with him. Want to learn to think like he does? Here’s his guest post listing his favorite books on systems thinking.
And for more big, mad ideas about architecture and cities check out:
“Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes” by Tom Crosshill was nominated for a Nebula this year. The story takes place in Portland, OR and there’s a character, called “Emily,” who is only mentioned, never seen, who I suspect is based on Amber Case:
“Breakthroughs?” I pull back without meaning to. “Every month, heck, every week we get some breakthrough. We all rush to try it and blog it and show it off. Aren’t you scared we’re losing our humanity?”
“Oh, but we’re not human anymore! We’ve fragmented into a thousand different species. With every new technology we choose to adopt — or not — there are more of us.”
“You’re spouting Emily again.”
Lisa turns away, goes back to her suitcase. “She’s a brilliant woman.”
“She’s our competitor.”
“Should we miss out on a chance to change the world again, just because Emily works for the wrong corporation?”
On the screen, Dad gets up on his elbows and watches someone approach. A lithe figure and beautiful, strikingly dark against the white sand. A simulacrum of Mom as she once was. The thing can’t even hold a conversation, but Dad doesn’t seem to mind. He reaches out a lazy hand and grasps her, and draws her down atop him.
I might be misunderstand the term, well, actually both terms, but I think Aliette de Bodard‘s work is “post-colonial space opera.” de Bodard has written three stories published in Clarkesworld set in, apparently, the same universe, each using science fiction to explore the effects of colonialism.
“Immersion,” which was nominated for a Nebula this year, is my favorite. It uses augmented reality as a lens to examine cultural imperialism:
“It’s their weapon, too.” Tam pushed at the entertainment unit. “Just like their books and their holos and their live games. It’s fine for them—they put the immersers on tourist settings, they get just what they need to navigate a foreign environment from whatever idiot’s written the Rong script for that thing. But we—we worship them. We wear the immersers on Galactic all the time. We make ourselves like them, because they push, and because we’re naive enough to give in.”
“And you think you can make this better?” Quy couldn’t help it. It wasn’t that she needed to be convinced: on Prime, she’d never seen immersers. They were tourist stuff, and even while travelling from one city to another, the citizens just assumed they’d know enough to get by. But the stations, their ex-colonies, were flooded with immersers.
Tam’s eyes glinted, as savage as those of the rebels in the history holos. “If I can take them apart, I can rebuild them and disconnect the logical circuits. I can give us the language and the tools to deal with them without being swallowed by them.”
“You’re the doctor?”
The newcomer’s voice was a melodious, rough-edged alto, like the women who smoked tobacco in old movies. It took Molly a moment to reconcile that voice with the thick, broad body. She saw the faintest hint of breasts under the tan shirt where she hadn’t noticed them before.
“Yes,” she said, stepping around her desk. She passed the examining table and storage shelves in three strides. Her tank top slid wetly against her skin as she stuck her hand out in offering. “You are?”
The woman paused, then took Molly’s hand. Her fingers were hot to the touch, red with sunburn. She must not have worn gloves. “Jada.”
Molly frowned. “What do you need?”
“Right to the point,” she said. She tugged her hand away and in one smooth yank pulled her shirt over her head. Then she stood straight, shoulders back. Molly flinched but forced herself to look. Jada was heavily muscled, dense as a tree trunk and probably just as hard, but that wasn’t what was breathtaking. It was the scars.
“You recognize these?” the woman asked.
Designs snaked over her torso, down into the temp-reg pants, up to her neck. The left side of her rib cage was a silvery mass of letters and symbols, all jumbled; there was a stylized sun around her navel with waving lines of light. A crane, its legs hidden by the waistband of her pants, spread its wings over her right side and torso. There were smaller signs hidden around the larger; three simple slashes crossed the space between her collarbones. Her skin was as readable as a novel, her flesh a malleable masterpiece made with knives. Some of the scars were still pink, and a spiral design on her left breast was an angry, fresh red.
Murder scars, Molly thought. Syndicate badge. The sheer number of them made her throat constrict. She took a step backward, as if one step would make any difference to a skilled killer.
Full Story: Tor.com: The Finite Canvas by Brit Mandelo
This is one of those things where I don’t know where the non-fiction stops and the fiction begins. Apparently radical psychotherapist Felix Guattari (co-author of A Thousand Plateaus) wrote screenplay that was never produce. And apparently Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson made a documentary about searching for it.
This story is pure science fiction. It’s the story of UIQ, the Infra-quark Universe; a dweller, I now see, of a Calabi-Yau dimensional manifold, one that knows no individuation, no gender, no distinction between self and other, without fixed limits in space or time. Axel, a brilliant young biologist, discovers a membrane permitting contact with this Infra-quark universe in a mutant strain of phytoplankton and then has to go on the run because the signals from the bacterium play havoc with communications networks. For, once contact has been made, UIQ is already potentially everywhere and everywhen, though invisible; a disturbance in the air that begins (if we can still use that word) to derail the physical laws of the known world. Axel hides out in a squat in Germany, recruiting its broken denizens to help him stabilize contact with UIQ via a DIY interface cobbled together from repurposed junk technology. UIQ begins to converse with the inhabitants, establishing more intensive relations with three in particular: Manou, a precociously intelligent little girl seemingly without parents; Eric, a schizophrenic who has a strangely intimate rapport with a washing machine; and Janice, a young punkish student and part-time DJ.
It is Janice who takes it upon herself to educate UIQ about the affairs of humanity, the nature of individuation and the distinctions between self and other, male and female, that—despite its vast intelligence—continue to perplex and fascinate our bacterial hero. And so UIQ attempts to individuate itself for her, to be “someone” for Janice, to conjure up a face and a voice. It finds that there are “others,” notably Axel, vying for her attention, and so it discovers, too, the meaning of jealousy and the desire to possess. UIQ in love? In the meantime, this face, a blurred enigmatic triangle of three black holes, begins to show its face everywhere: as an ineradicable stain of negative space on TV screens; in stirrings of pond water; in a flight of pigeons or a panicking crowd.
(via JoAnne McNeil)
“Beholder” by Sarah Grey take a brief look at day to day life in a world where augmented reality is the norm:
She can’t read my traits, though. I am a private person; I do not relish the nagging chime of new comments added to my cloud. I pay a generous sum to a restriction service each month. In return, my data is viciously guarded, bolted and buried like sacred gold. Beyond my physical appearance, all this girl can know is that my name is Maria, that I am fifty-six, that I am an equity partner in a local law firm. She will also see a blink to my charity, founded and named in my daughter’s memory.
My own lenses are Italian—brushed platinum frames with comfort-molded earbuds and a soft rose tint that cools the cafe’s bright fluorescent lights. I blink visuals on, hoping to learn the girl’s name, and an avalanche of words and images engulfs her.
Full Story: Flash Fiction Online: “Beholder” by Sarah Grey
What is that? and I don’t know are repeated many times before the crowd engages its collective intelligence:
“I think it’s one of those downloading machines.”
A while back someone put every issue of OMNI Magazine online for free download in PDF and other formats. Over at the William Gibson forums, Memetic Engineer rounded up all the issues of OMNI that are available for download and have stories by William Gibson in them:
May 1981, features “Johnny Mnemonic.” From the contributors page: “Gibson is a full-time writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. His work appears in two anthologies, Universe 11 and Shadows 4, both published this year by Doubleday. The issue also features a story by Ray Bradbury and an interview with David Cronenberg.
July 1982 features “Burning Chrome.”
July 1983 features “Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
July 1984 features “New Rose Hotel.” (Which was turned into the Gibson movie you never heard about: directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento)
July 1985 features “Dogfight” by Gibson and Michael Swanwick.
The October 1981 issue features “Hinterlands,” but it’s not available in the OMNI archives.
The text on these scans is readable but blurry. If you just want to read the stories, buy the Burning Chrome collection.
See also: William Gibson dossier
Novelist Tom McCarthy on writers’ relationship to the haunting sounds of technology:
The telephone, it turns out, owes its invention to more than simply hearing-aid experiments. Alexander Bell, who grew up playing with mechanical speech devices (his father ran a school for deaf children), lost a brother in adolescence. As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave – if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone. He probably would have invented it anyway, and in fact remained a sceptic and a rationalist throughout his life – but only because his brothers never called: the desire was there, wired right into the handset, which makes the phone itself a haunted apparatus. […]
The pinnacle of literary modernism, its most sophisticated and extreme achievement, is Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, published 17 years after Ulysses as the world stood on the brink of a new orgy of technology and death. Impossible to summarise in a sentence, the Wake has been variously interpreted as the babble running through a dreamer’s head, a disquisition on the history of the world, ditto that of literature, a prophetic set of runes for our age, and a scatological tract so obscene that it had to be written in code to escape the censorship that had befallen Joyce’s previous novel. But whichever way you read it, two things are certain: first, that (as the word “Wake” would suggest) it’s a Book of the Dead, dotted with tombs and rites of mourning; and second, that the technological media people it at every level – telephones and gramophones, films and television and, above all, radio. We have “loftly marconimasts from Clifden” beaming “open tireless secrets … to Nova Scotia’s listing sisterwands”; we have a “contact bridge of … sixty radiolumin lines … where GPO is zentrum” (the post office was the site of Radio Eireann); we have “that lionroar in the air again, the zoohoohoom of Felin make Call”; we even have disembodied voices shouting to each other to “get off my air!” According to the Joyce scholar and poet Jane Lewty, co-editor of Broadcasting Modernism, “the Wake can best be understood as a long radio-séance, with the hero tuning into voices of the dead via a radio set at his bedside, or, perhaps, inside his head.” Perhaps, she concedes when I push the point with her, the “hero” might even be the radio set itself.