Richard Calder: Dead Girls – The Deco-Punk City; Kathe Koja – Voice of our Hour

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Richard Calder

I couldn’t resist quoting a passage from Richard Calder’s trilogy Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things:

“This was an art nouveau city, a deco city, its sinewy, undulating lines and geometric chic copied from the fashions of the aube du millénaire and imposed on the slums of its twentieth-century inheritance and the sublimities of the past. Again, the pall of greenness descended, a peasouper, a gangrenous membrane, a steamy decay of tropical night. Monorails, skywalks, with their hoards of winepressed humanity, passed above us; autogyros too, with their fat-cat cargoes, hovering above the city’s stagnant pools like steel-hulled dragonflies. Once more, the lightning, and the rain began, coagulating the green tint of the night so that we seemed to be moving through an ocean’s depths. Green was that year’s colour; green, the colour of perversity; a green luminous as a certain pair of eyes.”

Calder heavily influenced by the symbolists and French decadents writes biopunk, or post-cyberpunk fiction that brings back the rich detail of decadent overlays, but with that eye for the streamlined functionalism of the modern turn toward artifice and art deco’s elaborations and motifs. If you’ve not read his work it’s a definite great choice for the linguistic power alone.

Kathe Koja

Under the Poppy: a novel among her other achievements is an exploration of that sensual darkness of the body and mind few of us understand much less wish to visit. A parable set in Victorian England, her deft handling of sex and violence, the dark erotic heart of love is superb and carefully gathers the threads of the decadents motifs into a keening as clear as it is subtle. She’s one of those writers either you love or hate. For me the decadents and symbolists always held a fond place. The closure of a world upon itself in its turn toward the dark frontiers of the heart through forms of perversity will always awaken our imaginations. Most of the time we want to stand in the sunlight like gods without a body, but then it comes back: I, do, after all have a body… and, it knows things I do not know with my conscious being. I still think Camille Paglia in her Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson captured the uniqueness of this darker erotic element in literature. 

With books like the Cipher, about a black hole that transforms one into otherness… In Skin she explores the performance art scene, artistic vision evolves into dementia… Bad Brains in which an artist suffers strange and powerful hallucinations and seizures, during which he sees and tastes things of the world in new ways and relations. Koja is a niche writer, a decadent with a dark bent and delivery. Not for everyone. But for those who know she, too, is a member of the strange club of the dark erotic that blends the fantastic and the real in disturbing ways that awaken you from your death-in-Life.

Nick Land: Teleology, Capitalism, and Artificial Intelligence

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There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence. – Nick Land

The notion of capitalism as an alien intelligence, an artificial and inhuman machinic system with its own agenda that has used humans as its prosthesis for hundreds of years to attain its own ends is at the core of Land’s base materialism. His notions of temporality, causation, and subjectivation were always there in his basic conceptuality if one knew how to read him.

As I suggested in another post notions of time will serve as a leit-motif throughout Land’s writings. In his early The Thirst for Annihilation he will explore time’s dark secrets. It was here that he began developing his early notions of technomic time etc. He reminds us that every civilization “aspires to a transcendent Aeon in which to deposit the functional apparatus of chronos without fear of decay”.2 The point of this for Land is that civilization is a machine constructed to stop time’s progress toward terminal decay and death, entropy. “‘Civilization’ is the name we give to this process, a process turned against the total social calamity – the cosmic sickness – inherent to process as such” (97). This notion that civilization is an engine to stave off the effects of entropy, to embalm time in an absolute medium of synchronic plenitude and cyclicity (i.e., Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” theme) will return in his latest book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time as he describes the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:

As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.3

This notion of time-reversibility has taken on new meaning with those working with Quantum Computers. As Hugo de Garis suggests if computing technology continues to use its traditional irreversible computational style, the heat generated in atomic scale circuits will be so great, they will explode, so a reversible, information preserving, computing style will be needed, usually called “reversible computing”, that does not generate heat, hence will allow 3D computing, and no limit to size. Artilects can become the size of asteroids, kilometers across, with vast computing capacities. (see The Coming Artilect War)

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