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Friday, July 24, 2009

THE IRON DREAM, BUT IN CHINOS

I started writing something in the comments-box below to reply to Jayson, but it started gro-o-o-o-wing, so in the spirit of work avoidance, here's a quasi-post:

Cheers, Jayson. I do like certain strands of dystopian fiction, which probably says a lot (of not-good things) about me as a person. I'm pesimistic about the ever-advancing march of super-heated Capitalism and most people's gullibility as far as PR spin and short-term comforts are concerned; however, I am however, always optimistic that (some) people will continue to find ways to do creative/good stuff around the margins of whatever sort of society we summon into being. People have always done that and always will. I just wish that more folks could grok the idea that they can effect changes (for the better) in their local-worlds by mass engagement/protest and that apathy/consumer sedation is just fuel for the greedheads.

It would be cool if someone filmed one of my blogposts lol. Preferably one featuring b-movie chicks and giant squids. Mothra and Amon Duul 2!

There's been a bit of micro-debate in the SF editorial community recently about near-future SF (post-Cyberpunk) vs. far-future SF (Space Opera). The line of thought was: these days the Yanks (generally) tend towards the first, whilst the Brits tend to do the second, tho obv. that's certainly not a hard n fast rule. There's been a bit of criticism of the near-future SF strain, the argument being that writers're keeping it close to present-time cos they're scared of making 'wrong' predictions and looking foolish; I think that's a bit unfair because (a) near-future stuff generally tends to be more politicised anyway and (b) the far-future stuff - well, who's going to be around to know or care? That almost feels like more of a cop-out to me. Actually, the far-future's going to be sooo fucking strange that we probably won't be able to recognise it in any way, shape or form.

SF isn't about the validity of a writer's predictions or about avoiding looking 'dated'. I like being wrong. The more wrong-er-er I am, the better. The 'wrongness' becomes a riff in its own right. A wriff lol. I looove that wrongness; the idea of future histories or historical futures; worlds that never were; never could or should be. That's where the real fun is. It's about dichotomies; fractured time-lines; the bicamerality of SF: left lobe future, right lobe past. It's shouldn't be a predictive dartboard, y'know.

I've got a lot of thoughts about exploiting predictive 'wrongness' in SF and how to maybe play around with all this conceptual stuff n have fun with it, and I'm very tempted to share them right here and now, except that ideas are at a premium these days, so it's best I maybe just write the damn stories first, then talk about them on this blog afterwards.

Plus: I'm not really an SF writer any way. I like D. Green's term "fantabulist" tho.

Now, about Google. That was just me flinging monkey shit around as usual, but they are an incredibly ambitious and ruthless company - am I alone in finding some of their vision-statements incredibly, um, distasteful? - and if you extrapolate some of their corporate strategies out to some far-flung end-point it'll lead you into some extremely interesting, strange and possibly unpleasant territories.

For starters, they have taken it upon themselves to scan every public-domain book they can get their hands on - and you can bet yer bottom dollar that it won't end there, especially if they start flexing their corporate muscle a bit more aggressively in the near future. Despite all the visionary blue-jean neo-lib billionaire rhetoric - the talk of 'positivity' and 'change' - the real game here is ownership...the back-door acquisition of other people's graft n labour in order to create the biggest library on the planet.

You can almost imagine Page and Brin sat on bean-bags slurping on their iced lattes: "Wow, Larry, wouldn't it be cool if we, like, google-ised every book in the world? Imagine how helpful that would be, y'know, so people didn't have to go to libraries and shops any more - they could just run a GoogleBook Search and find it straightaway with a single key-stroke and then get it off us and read it. Imagine how cool that would be?"

"Very cool, Serge. Uber-cool, in fact. Do you like my new rollerskates?"

"Yah, I do."

And that's how it all starts. With some self-deluded frat-boy vision that becomes a business mission that leads to aggressive acquisition, 'cause, y'know, it's all for the greater good...

No, Google, you can't have my books. Sorry.

And GoogleMaps/GoogleEarth has lead to digitised street-views...digitised cityscapes...is it a great leap to end up with an interconnected digital planet - PlanetGoogle: a colossal conceit far, far bigger than all the Second Lifes, etc put together.

We are re-creating the world in 'our' own image.

"Hey, Larry, why don't we put some, uh, digital shops in there? Imagine how cool it would be if everything you ever wanted was just one click away? We could start with i-Tunes. Phone Steve Jobs..."

"But he's dead, Serge. Cancer."

"Oh, wow. That's awful. Did we digitise him?"

"Ummm, yah."

"Cool."

And haven't they started 3D-mapping other planets? Did I dream it or is there now a GoogleMars?

It's like "The Iron Dream", but in chinos.