Friday, June 18, 2010

Design Fiction, Design Fiction, Design Fiction.

The idea of Design Fiction has been making me hard for some weeks now. Really hard. But I still don't quite understand what it's supposed to be. And maybe that's a good thing. I get to fantasise about a still-not-yet-in-focus set of lit.playtools n almost-tropes.

I think Bruce S is coming at it from a sort of quasi-Ballardian p.o.v. - the next waveband/colour-strand on a never-ending Lit vs. multi-disciplinary mash-up that started with 'Golden Age' Radio n Electrical magazines spewing forth extrapolations of where hard Science, Engineering n Rocketry would go next. The Late-60s New Worlds Generation incorporated footnotes from research journals; terminology n leakage from psychiatry, astrophysics and paleontology. Speculative broadcasts haunted by the deepspace data retrieval-bleeps of radio-telescopes; text imitating the luminous 405-line images beamed into our eyeballs during The Television Age. After '63 we all climbed into the Box - entered The False World - and the eventual process of digitisation, of re-creating the physical world and migrating into it, began. Cyberpunk played w/ the ephemera of the Silicon Age; print-outs n imaginary peripherals; it documented the Proto-Net - landscapes reimagined as networks; Pop Culture and Media as entities - characters - in their own right.

Now it's all Design, Design, Design.

Design as - what? - a new open-source metaphor for imagining, one that can be incorporated - mashed-up - w/ literature - a new form of conceptualising that propels us past physical media and all known platforms? (Design is Imagining Incarnate. It's all about...wondering, but also factoring in the physical practicalities, the possibility of building something new - a product - that might actually come-into-being; how would it interact with us, how would it look?) It's heady stuff, indeed. But is this all really genuinely new n Post-Physical - the next new wave - or is it just Cyberpunk 3.0? Golden Age 6.5? Or all of the above? For every iPhone there's a zillion tech.objects that never get past prototype-stage. But that's irrelevent: the deal here is to create speculative objects, architectures, cultures that we can inhabit with our fictional archetypes - that's what old school SF did; what Scientific Romances did: they provided a 'plausible', coherent form of Futurity, a backdrop to our dreams - one that allowed us to act out morality-plays, satires n social critiques.

Either way, this is Next Wave Shit.

Count me in, but I still, y'know, like Old Shit because...well, because some of it works, some of it's still ripe n open to re-evaluation / reinvention. I like the Oddd, The Straynge...I'm a slave to Modernism too, in some ways. A creature of 20c.

There was a part of me that was gonna do a Graphic Design degree after I was through w/ Microbiology, but computers caught my eye and family circumstances put a kibosh on all that. Now, they seem so...old, computers. And not in a good way. It's all config these days (and the same is true of a lot of books, films, comics - it's all config.); whereas I was a programmer once. A writer who wrote stuff that moved things around; whose work had a physical, transformative presence in the world, if only in a commercial context. Programming languages are a form of Magic too.

All these things play off against each other in my head constantly. They bounce back n forth. I'm a creature of contradiction, but in the end you wind up using what works for you creatively. You have to stay true to yourself, build a voice, an inner, truer You and throw the other stuff away. The end-game is to De-Lame.

Design, Design, Design: I hear it calling to me, but I think I take it all too literally; I'm not clever enough to think round some of the softer edges of what Sterling might be hinting at. I'm making up my own version of what Design Fiction might mean.

But I notice that my rejection levels go up when I do try to apply what I *think* Design Fiction might mean. Editors tell me that the characters are okay (Hurrah! Getting somewhere, then!), but concept (a) or (b) is implausible or unrealistic, so I back off. I haven't got the balance right yet in terms of tone or Concept vs. Story.

In some ways I think I might've been here before - applying Design; the idea of how the world might look - a story I wrote in the early 90's called "Linoleum Sky" seems to have some pre-emptive Future Ghost-Image of what Design Fiction might be about...the perpheral stuff about shop-facades and fashion and names-of-things seems oddly in-line/in-tune with what I Should Be Writing Now; it's a shame it's such a leaden/lumpy clunker of a story. It needs rewriting, but I don't have an electronic copy. Some other recent stuff also feels like Design Fiction - but prob. not in any way that Bruce describes; just my own misreading of it all. Which is fine. I think writing for Dazed and Confused, etc a few years ago has bled out into my fiction.

Maybe I've inadvertently invented Style Mag SF.

Design, Design, Design.

It's a v. fucking interesting time to be a writer.