Savage Nights: Scene Three – JoJo’s Diner

It was raining hard and heavy by the time I got back to the Grunge. Drops pelting the windshield and hood with splotches of black and yellow dribble; probably acidic chems from China or some blasted industrial system on what was left of the Pacific. Each drop seemed to congeal and create fissures here and there like lepro-pustules on a dying cow. I edged up to JoJo’s Diner down on Cobain Dr., sat there for minute or two deciding whether it was worth it or not. My stomach growled after a while…

Yea, it was worth it.

Pulled an old AV-Poncho from behind the seat, made sure my hunting rifles and other weaponry were still set and locked in the welded cage I’d had specially built after the war. Pushed the button on the tire-sieve, and gently let out all the air from back tires just in case. Yea, had to be careful, didn’t want the jackals to snip my ride before the night was over. They’d killed my dog, Lester Young last month. Dam, son-of-bitches! Needless to say I’d found them. Let’s not talk about that.

I studied the clientele through the grimy windows of the old converted bus JoJo used for a neighborhood eatery. He’d made this metal trap out of a couple old rusty greyhounds: pre-war jobs; welded them end-to-end. Looked more like two trains passing in the night that had ended in an apocalypse, teeth bared to the world like two wolves in heat. Wasn’t anyone to worry or fret over I could see. Two young guys, hoodies, sitting back playing and fiddling with electronics; flip-scale gibs, prongs, floaters – the usual netcrackers. Nothing much. Two-time bitcoin traders most likely. Otherwise it was a quiet, lonely night. Everyone else looked normal. Working stiffs either coming on, or going off salv-shift. Short for salvegers, scrammers, diggers and shovebone men. Too dead tired to cause any trouble.

Saw Tully at the cash register. She smiled. That old woman been there from eternity it seemed. Still had those missing buck-teeth smack in the center of her mouth where she’d been kicked by a couple of Bogan’s Boys way back. Those boys looked worse after it was over. Six feet down worse. Didn’t bother Tully none about the teeth; in fact she grew used to it, and kinda liked it after a time. She could whistle through the empty space between her teeth like a siren on a dog patrol. She had a laugh that would make you jiggle right along with her, a  gut slinging cackle laugh that reached all the way down and grabbed you, and wouldn’t let go till the tears dropped like flames, bitter and painful.

“Sup, Tul?” She eyed me cautiously. Old eyes. Then I saw the slow recognition seep in as she snickered, then said: “By God, Jonah,” she motioned to the kitchen, banging the pot down a few times, “Jonah, wake up, it’s Rider he’s come home for a visit…”.

Jonah – or his facsimile, peered around the corner of the serving iron: “By dam if it isn’t,” he said. “What the hell you doing out in this mudslide, Jessie? And so far from your Lady?”

“Business, Jo,” I said. “Just business…” And, left it at that.

“Humph… talkative bastard tonight aren’t you…” Jo said, and smiled, then slapped his hand down, yelled at Pris to pick up, then turned back to his fry-line, turning a row of burgers over – or something that passed for burgers. With Jo you just never knew.

Tully motioned me to the far seat next to the window. My usual spot. I didn’t like my back to the door. She knew. She walked up with a pot of steaming coffee, sat a big mug down and plopped the whole pot down, saying, “Guess you’ll need this, Jessie…”. She knew I would. She knew things about me I didn’t know myself.

After the war when things had gone south, it was her and JoJo had fixed me up with a place out back in a tool-shed. Wasn’t much, but hey it served the purpose. And, at the time beggars couldn’t be choosy. Even if I wasn’t a beggar. I remember one night when we were all alone, probably 2 a.m or so, she was watching me. Gave me the creeps, as if she was reading my soul or something. I kept spinning an old dollar piece while sipping some nasty dregs she’d laid before me. After a while I finally just said: “What the freck you looking at old woman, giving me the hebe jeebies.”

Those coal black eyes set back real far in her skull focused to a point on me and she spoke softly, saying, “Jessie there’s death in your body: a ghost, a terrible thing riding you like a hellborn.” I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She spoke again: “It’s following you, Jessie, its got its mark on you. I can see it. It’s like a small black knot on your heart, sucking at you, a parasite eating away at your mind.” She coughed. Went on: “If you don’t get rid of it it’s going not only kill you, but kill everything you ever loved. You understand?” I didn’t. Thought she was whacked.

After that I kept pretty much to myself. Didn’t eat there unless the place was so busy she’d have a hard time looking at me much less talking to me. But that was all history now, as they say. Water under the bridge. After a few years I discovered what she meant. The hard way – the dirty, nasty, screwed way. The way a man screws over his best friend after he’s gone and fell in love with his girlfriend. A sort of sucka-punch to the throat kind of screw. Not pretty. But who ever said life was pretty was an idiot. And I knew: I was one, an idiot and a sucker. And, yes… a killer, to boot. That, too, was another piece of the puzzle, a piece of history that had brought me to this moment. One doesn’t fight fate so much as hinder its success. Fate and freedom are just the sisters of some turnstile mobius-strip on the road to hell.

After a while the Kid – as I called Pris, walked out from behind the counter and laid that patch of vittles down across the formica tabletop. Lunch-loaf was the blue-plate special today with mashed, green beans and cauliflower, and a side of cornbread made with spiced peppers (hot ones!). She smiled at me, popped a bubble, and smacked her lips: “Hey, Jessie, you never come by anymore. Why? I scare you away or something?” I laughed. “Nah, Kid, I’ve just been to blame busy doing what a guy’s got to do out there.” I shook my head toward window into the night rain.

Pris was another reject, another lost soul on the mend. Tully and JoJo seemed to have a knack for such things. Acting like magnets for the detritus and misfits of the world. She was a good Kid, still a little innocent around the edges. Wore her hair in a pigtail. Smiled and laughed too much. Came from farm country farther south and east of Grunge City. All wastelands now. Parents had died years ago. Left her with her Uncle and brothers. They’d abandoned her here one day, driven off without her and never come back. Guess they had their reasons. Who knows? Probably the best thing for her though. At least now she ate, had a bed, warm clothes, a place to rebuild her life. Even if it was a anti-life. What else would you call it?

After eating and finishing off the pot of coffee. I sat there brooding. That’s what I do, brood. Helps me forget things. But not tonight. Tonight I was thinking long and hard about ghosts, about Talia, and most of all… about Falcon. That bastard was back in town. My best friend, or what used to be my best friend. Now he was my enemy. Probably had always been my enemy.

So I sat there all night thinking about what I’d do next. Tully didn’t mind. She kept refilling the pot. Clucking away about all the nonesuch crap going on in Grunge. Didn’t bother me in the least. By the time the sun came up I knew what had to be done. I also knew I needed to check in on Betsy. There was an order to things, even if one didn’t always know what it was, or how to act on it.; and, one of them was to make sure your woman knew you were still alive. The other was to make sure she was alive…

** ** **

One | Two | Three | Four | Five


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Short History of Necropunk Philosophy

A Short History of Necropunk Philosophy

Decided to move this from my last post on my work-in-progress Savage Nights.

Thinking of Capitalism as a necropunk invasion from the future, driven by death-drives, cannibalizing through crisis, collapse, catastrophe is at the core of what Bataille and Nick Land after him would term “base materialism” converging on the closure of history into a posthuman future. Or, what my friend Scott Bakker would term the ‘crash space’ of the Semantic Apocalypse.

Screen Shot 02-13-16 at 05.30 PM

Chronicles of the High Inquest by S.P. Somtow

Working a new near future Grunge or Necropunk Noir Science Fiction I began collecting information regarding past uses of this notion. For me the master stylist of this genre remains Richard Calder with his Dead Girls/Dead Boys/Dead Things trilogy. (see review) He lived in Thailand 1990-1996 and later in the Philippines until returning to London in the first years of this century – who began publishing sf with “Toxine” in Interzone. Yet, there is also S.P. Somtow whose works may or may not have influenced Calder’s fusion of decodence, decadence, and necrotical politics and socio-cultural inflections, yet have at their bases the necropunk style and philosophy that seems to infect, contaminate, and corrupt this genre through its hyperstitional, memetic, and egregore enactments and disclosures of the was in which the future infects and bleeds into the past through slippage.

Continue reading

If My Skin Were Blue

blue_alien_by_valentinakallias

If my skin were blue
would the difference frighten you?

Would you treat me strangely?
Gaze at me as if I were from Mars?

And, if I spoke with a lisp or blemish,
a slight accent, as if I were a foreigner. What then?

Would you act politely, make me special,
put me on a pedestal, make me your showcase idol?
Put me on TV like some celebrity or clown;
teach me tricks, have me repeat your mockeries?

We no longer know who we are,
wherein we’ve been thrown,
where we’re going to,
from what land we came from; and, mostly
we’ve forgotten what it means
to be blue
in a blue world.

Forgetting history is a terrible thing. Who will teach us
to be blue again?

Maybe we should begin by singing:

…………I sing of the beauty of blueness:
of the sea that is blue,
of the sky cerulean,
of the blue-sparked stars at night,
of the blue smooth flesh of my sweet love’s kiss and midnight shadings;
the folds, resolve to the blue-black measure of her curved light’s breaking…”


 

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Shanghai, Modernity, and Speed: The Future of Metropolis

499-TheShanghaiTower

Enda Duffy in The Speed Handbook tells us that modernity brought about a series of new human-scaled and immediately vastly popular technological inventions of the beginning of the twentieth century, centrally and most importantly the motorcar, offered to masses of people that rarest of things: a wholly new experience, the experience of moving at what appeared to be great speeds, and the sensation of controlling that movement.1 The modern city would give birth to the road, the boulevard, the speed-zone of linear geometry, world where machines could roam at will but humans must fear to tread.

Anna Greenspan in her book on Shanghai’s future Shanghai Future: Modernity Remade reminds us that the modern vision of the ‘Contemporary City’ is not tied to any particular place and time. Instead, it is produced on an empty, abstract plain. It is precisely this abstraction that makes the modern metropolis continually futuristic. Its time, writes Robert Fishman, was ‘the time of the present, not any calendar day or year, but that revolutionary ‘here and now where the hopes of the present are finally realized’. ‘It is called contemporary,’ Le Corbusier insists, ‘because tomorrow belongs to nobody.’  In much of the world the Contemporary City may be a relic, but in Shanghai dreams of the future metropolis live on.2

Continue reading

Shanghai’s Retro-Futures: The Demise of Progress in a Progressive Age

virginia-duran-blog-sites-to-take-the-best-skyline-pictures-in-shanghai-vue-bar

Shanghai is a city hungry for the future. To get a taste, head to the heights of the financial district in Pudong’s Lujiazui. At dusk, the view from the ninety-first floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center is fantastically alien. Outside the enormous windows, the metropolis stretches out like an off-world fantasy; a film apparition of a science-fiction city.

– Anna Greenspan,   Shanghai Future

Reading Anna Greenspan’s Shanghai Future: Modernity Remade which is a great introduction not only to Shanghai, but to the underpinnings of our current malaise regarding the future itself (here she speaks of the old World Fairs of previous eras):

Today, in the developed world at least, this progressive optimism strikes many as archaic, absurd and shockingly naïve. It is not so much that GM’s vision of the 1960s is outmoded— after all the Futurama pavilion foreshadowed the immensely transformative US interstate highway system, which was built under Eisenhower in the mid-1950s, a couple of decades after it was first presented at the World Fair. Rather, it is the spirit of futurism itself that seems so remarkably out of date. The progressive presumptions embodied by Futurama induce— together with images of jetpacks and robot maids— a wistful, tragi-comic nostalgia for a future that never arrived. Autogyros, in particular, seem to taunt us as a broken promise. ‘Where are the flying cars?’ ask writers disappointed by the dreams left unfulfilled.  ‘A rich legacy of failed predictions has accumulated over a century (or more) of science fiction, futurology and popular expectations of progress, covering topics from space colonization, undersea cities, extravagant urban designs, advanced transportation systems, humanoid domestic robots and ray-guns, to jumpsuit clothing and meal pills,’  writes Nick Land in his blog on Shanghai time.  This apparent gap between what is and what we once thought might be has left us wracked with doubt about the world to come. ‘We don’t have the same relation to progress as we used to,’ claims author Michael Specter. ‘We talk about it ambivalently. We talk about it with ironic little quotes around it—“ progress”.’  In our cynical, postmodern age, ‘retro-futurism’ is the only form of futurism that survives.1

Greenspan will offer a reading of temporality as well: From Marxism ‘with its quasi-millenarian elements’, to the utopian visions of the City of Tomorrow, modernity, and the futurism it invokes, still largely expresses this same conception of time. Today, Pope Gregory’s calendric reforms have become the basis for an unchallenged time marker that has spread across the world and the Gregorian calendar is now considered to be the (almost) undisputed calendar of globalization. ‘It is an intriguing and ineluctable paradox of globalized modernity,’ continues Land in a blog post entitled ‘Calendric Dominion’, ‘that its approximation to universality remains fundamentally structured by ethno-geographical peculiarities of a distinctly pre-modern type’.  A culture’s rhythms, history and aspirations are rooted in their calendars. This is why calendars have always been so important to both rulers and revolutionary groups. Calendars are the surest means through which a culture can separate itself both from their immediate past and from their existing surroundings. Thus, calendric change has frequently been recognized as a culture’s first and most crucial step in establishing their autonomy and solidifying their traditions. As author William Burroughs noted, if you want to change a culture, you have to change its calendar. (pp. xv-xvi).

Western Civilization is bound to an eschatological time-consciousness, a progressive understanding of a time encoded with both a beginning and an end that has been enormously influential and its impact is still felt today. (p. xvi) When many liberals opined that history had come to an end after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989 this illusion of progressive time with its sense of an impending linear arrow reaching some limit point or zero absolute of closure surfaced. Yet, with all things this, too, passed, and time once again started up its inexorable engine of progress and moved onward as capitalism took on the imperial horizon of an even greater expansion and capture of the total surface of the planet for profit. As Greenspan reports it:

Western culture has thus been exceedingly effective at coding modern time with its own cultural narratives. It has been terrifically successful at branding modernity its own. Indeed, many of China’s most enthusiastic modernisers— from the intelligentsia of the May Fourth movement, through the Marxist revolutionaries, to the technocratic planners of today— have largely accepted this narrative, advocating that China rid itself of its backward traditions and adopt a forward-looking chronology. (p. xvi).

Yet, it is against this eschatology of history and time that China’s premier city of commerce and modernity, Shanghai that seems to waver on the horizon of another temporality, one more conducive to its own sense of destiny and possibility. As Greenspan tells us:

Shanghai futurism ultimately depends on breaking free from this now common assumption about the nature of time. It senses in contemporary Shanghai the possibility of an altogether different future that is not relative but rather real and absolute. This absolute futurism does not belong to linear history. It is not a temporal destination that can be defined relationally. Rather, the absolute future exists today precisely as it has existed before, as an atemporal presence, a virtual realm that ‘infuses the present retroactively with its effects’.  Viewed in this manner, Shanghai’s recollection of yesterday’s modernity is not being driven by a compulsion to repeat. Rather, the city is attempting to reanimate a lost futurism that is just as unpredictable today as it was in the past. What will ultimately emerge is impossible to predict, plan or project, since, by definition, it is utterly unforeseen. We do not yet know what China’s most future-oriented city will be like or what future this city will create. (pp. xvi-xvii).

This sense of an absolute time, absolute future: a timeless present that ‘infuses the present retroactively with its effects’ sounds much like Zizek’s concept of absolute recoil: ” … there is another more subtle retroactivity involved here: an act is abyssal not in the sense that it is not grounded in reasons, but in the circular sense that it retroactively posits its reasons. A truly autonomous symbolic act or intervention never occurs as the result of strategic calculation, as I go through all possible reasons and then choose the most appropriate course of action. An act is autonomous not when it applies a preexisting norm but when it creates a norm in the very act of applying it.”9 This is to situate time outside the arrow of linear equations, outside the capitalist mode of progress, and seek a sense of time as virtual potential, as possibility to be retroactively posited not by some recursion to a Platonic Ideal or Idea, but as the movement of something that does not pre-exist its advent: a new event or act that realizes itself in the very movement of its emergence in the present as part of the contradictory manifest world of conflict and happening. A future as open possibility that never recedes into the abyss of linear bookkeeping.

Maybe it’s this retroactive act of temporal realignment, a potential virtual movement that brings with it the lost future out of the unpredictable real of the past: an impossible that can not be predicated nor planned, but is that strange beast of time – something utterly new and open, the actual future itself as possibility. Is this something at last that we can hope in? An event that opens up the possibility of time and the future as retroactive act? A future that is always emerging out of its on virtual potential of absolute possibility, a present that is both in and out of time – a ‘time out of joint’ (PK Dick) that presents us with that monstrosity of life itself as newness? May we say with Nietzsche that this time of no-time, atemporal movement is Dionysian time – a time that is at once present and untimely? A bubbling spring that continually renews itself out of its own virtual sea of potentiality? Time as absolute acceleration, a time that as Guattari and Deleuze would have affirmed as – total deterritorialization of the pure limit of time itself?  Is this not the true break out, the break through of schiz-time out of the eschatological circle of Western time as Progress? The End of Progress and the Progressive world-view that has held us in its hypnotic gaze for two-hundred years?

Shall we construct a new Calendar together? Absolve ourselves of Western time, of Gregorian time as linear progress, as an arrow going toward some eschatological infinity? Shall we finally free ourselves of that theological and Platonic terminus of Time?

Continue reading