Grant Morrison Surveys the Situation In “The Age of Horus”

 

Interview by Prop Anon

For those familiar with Mondo2000.com, Grant Morrison needs no introduction. Over the course of his long career, Morrison, and his generation of punk rock warlords, busted through the doors of the lagging comics industry — sorely in need of some power chord clarity and imaginative story lines — and proceeded to take readers on new paths of literary discovery. Morrison’s genius use of tropes, his subversions and inversion of same, are so much fun to read. It’s all there, the light and the dark.

Times are dark. Since the last time I interviewed Morrison, in 2017, Trump and his idiotic minions have rolled out the red carpet for the angel of death. Morrison knows what’s at stake. However, don’t ask him for specific details about the daily plays of politricks. There is little need. The ebullient Scotsman continues to trek the antipodes of the mind, dropping gems and jewels like Chester Copperpot (from The Goonies), educating readers how to vibe right and live like rock stars during a possible apocalypse.

In this interview we discuss his newest television show Brave New World which features an Artificial Intelligence, named Indra, that feeds on human brains to survive. Morrison also provides an update on the progress on his The Invisibles tv show, as well as his insights into Robert Anton Wilson, magick, the Aeon of Ma’at.

Enjoy!

Brave New World recently aired this past July on Peacock. The project involved you, Brian Taylor — your partner on Happy! and then David Weiner, correct?

GM: Yes, David came in at a time when the project had stalled a little and he was able to turn it around. Me and Brian started it with the original pitch. The network liked Happy! so they asked if we wanted to pitch for Brave New World, which they were trying to develop with Amblin. We won the gig out of a bunch of other potential writers, mainly because we insisted on treating the World State as a decent working model of utopia, rather than a classic dystopia in the mold of Elysium or Metropolis or 1984. We worked on a few iterations of the script, and then Brian got really busy on Happy! season 2. So, I kind of stayed with it when David Weiner came aboard as the showrunner on Brave New World. He totally revamped and overhauled it. He’s a very smart guy and came from a theatre background and he focused on the emotional stuff, the quirky relationships between the lead characters. My contributions are especially apparent in the high-concepts and the world-building — you know: how does the naming system work? How does the society run? Why isn’t it mechanized? Why isn’t it industrialized? Why are there no private cars and only public transport?

I worked out every detail of that, and then I worked with David on a new version of the pilot script. And he brought together a bunch of amazing writers to flesh the whole thing out. Of the eleven writers in the writer’s room, eight of them were women.

Lenina Crowne has a really hard time in the book, as she is always being slapped around by a sociopathic, Shakespeare-quoting, sex-negative John the Savage. So, the notion was — let’s do something more modern and radical. In terms of my magical practice, this ties Brave New World to my thoughts about the Aeon of Ma’at, the Goddess of Truth, Balance and Harmony.

In the book, Lenina is treated quiet badly and comes to a grim end, so I thought let’s make her the central character of this new version. The Savage Lands depicts a childlike level of society; John is tied to his mother and has very little agency. The World State has progressed to teenage; with its non-stop music and parties and strict social demarcation into easily-identifiable ‘tribes’. The idea was to have Lenina begin to work with the Indra to build a truly ‘adult’ utopia… which would lead us into season 2…

I’ve seen critics complain about the Brave New World sex scenes not being sexy but that was the point we were making! There’s even a major scene of intimacy between John and Lenina that deliberately exists in contrast to the shallow hedonism of the orgies. In this world, sex is more like a social duty, or it’s like sport. It doesn’t involve the guilt and the excitement, the transgression and the passion that we associate with sex at all.

So, I think all of that stuff that I really like in it is asking how does this world work? How and why? And what do they get from it and how different does it feel from our world. At the same time, David was asking how to do human beings as we understand them as they live and interact in a world with these limitations or parameters and how do we show that in a way that Huxley didn’t. So, I think the combination of everyone who worked on it made the project really rich and interesting. It’s not like the comics where it’s just me and an artist, or a letterer and colorist as the equivalent of a pop group. This was like being on a football team. It was a big team. A lot of the writing that reaches the screen is not what you put on the page necessarily. It’s what passes through the team filter and the show runner’s re-drafts that makes it onto the screen. So, it’s much more like you are on a team, which I really enjoyed.

That’s cool man. I just watched the pilot and noticed a running image of your work: The human centipede.

GM: (laughing) You know I haven’t seen Human Centipede. I can’t watch horror movies.

LOL. Well my guess is that those forms of one long continuous being, which looks like a centipede, is your visual description of a self, moving through time, which you said you learned in Kathmandu in 1994 as how things actually are. How does this experience still interact with your life?

GM: We can’t see any direction in time. We can’t see back, and we can’t see forward. We can remember back and imagine forward, but that’s it. We’re trained to feel like ‘individuals’ so we don’t actually see ourselves as the extended processes that we are, shapeshifters who transform through decades from small, plump baby things to large and horny muscular teenagers, to hard-working, middle age adults, and finally desiccated seniors dying on beds. If we sped that up and showed one human life over ten minutes, it would be a body horror werewolf transformation more outrageous and horrifying than any seen onscreen.

But to me it’s like the color of the sky, it’s so self-evident that to see a bird fly past the window is to imagine its skipping solid trail through the medium of time.  In time we are all connected, there’s just no denying that. There’s nothing mystical about any of this. I’m talking about stuff that is simply real.

Imagination can give you the ability to look backwards and forward. So, when you run it backwards, think how your grown-up mature body was once smaller, less massive, less capable of interacting with the environment – that’s real. Run it back to the beginnings of life on earth ad it’s clear that we all are one thing. A singular organism made of many parts, just like a human body with its billions of individual skin cells – which die and fall from the body every day.

So, what does that mean? If people learned this in school, if we understood and accepted, we were all the same fucking thing(!) it might help prevent the collapse into mad division that’s occurring, just now. It’s just a matter of perspective that could change everything.

But the organism we’re part of might be sick, who knows? When cells in a body turn against one another and the system that supports them starts breaking down, it’s cancer…

You had the gnostic experience. To just hear it or read it is one thing but when you have the experience that seems to be the most convincing thing.

GM: Well, it seems to become self-evident. It’s really like someone turns your head around in Plato’s cave and you realize that there’s a light and someone’s doing shadow figures with their fingers. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. And it’s ‘Oh, of course’! Of course! There’s no denying it. But I guess to have that experience is its own confirmation. It’s like living by the sea all your life, then having to explain that to someone living inland who’s never seen the ocean and doesn’t believe an ocean could exist because they’ve never seen one.

To me it can be confirmed intellectually by just thinking about time and how you are embedded in time. You know you had to be six years old to be here. So, where the hell is ‘being six’? Well, being six exists in a time direction that you can’t see or point to, but it’s still there. To misunderstand that is equivalent to flying from Los Angeles to London then, after touching down at Heathrow, insisting that Los Angeles no longer exists!

And once you’re truly aware of time as the medium through which we transmit our physical signal, then there is no denying that your personal track winds its way back into your mum and she goes back to her mum and it all goes back to that single dividing cell 3 and a half billion years ago. To me, that’s just basic mechanical shit. That’s not mysticism. I’m not interested in ghosts and spirit worlds. If I’m going to have transcendence, I want to be able to touch it.

Swervin’ back to Brave New World. One other thing I liked about that show was the AI system called Indra which must be a reference to the concept of Indra’s Net.

GM: And as you know the drug in the show is Soma, which is Huxley’s creation. I just figured if Huxley named the drug Soma… if he had predicted AI, which is one thing he didn’t predict, I think he would have stuck with the Sanskrit and called it Indra.

Indra was my notion for explaining a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense in Huxley’s book. Why are there Epsilons? Why does the World State need a labor force? The book is about the consequences of capitalist mass production, mass consumption, mass destruction, because Huxley had moved to Hollywood and he’d seen the consumer society in full flood and witnessed the world of glamorous unreality — the talkies — which was happening. The whole thing is his attempt to deal with the impact of Ford and Hollywood. As I said, the one thing he didn’t think of was AI. So, the question became how could you make sense of a lot of the things he didn’t make sense of? 

And the idea came up of having a computer network that ran on human brains. We have all those neurons and all that capacity there. So instead of having a central server, the computer is a distributed network that runs on the brains of everyone in the World State. That was designed to solve the problem created by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking who were both terrified that AI was going to rise up and take over, steal our jobs, and occupy our homes in a kind of immigration nightmare gone sci-fi.

So, I thought, what if you made a computer network that required human brains to run on? It wouldn’t make sense to kill us. It wouldn’t want to kill us. But what it might do is organize us more efficiently. So that might explain a lot of the stuff Huxley didn’t bother to deal with.

The network starts to self-organize and it creates this homeostatic caste system, like a hive. It stratifies people and what it gives them in return is happiness. In Brave New World, the ultimate commodity is happiness. There’s no love, no money, but if you could make everyone happy even if they’re up to their necks in shit, then you’ve won. That was the idea. To create a computer network that doesn’t want to kill people. So, the reason why there are Epsilons — the reason people do jobs and manual labor, is because the computer needs its components to be fit and healthy. Rather than mechanize them, with everyone just slobbing out, it needs citizens to be super fit. So, they are always having sex, they are always playing sport, they are always working. They have pointless jobs that encourage them to be fit and healthy. That was the idea. The Indra network solved a lot of problems and I think it was one of the elegant additions to Huxley’s original.

Then who created the network in the story? Who gave birth to the AI?

GM:  Well, that was the original ten Controllers who started the World State. In Huxley’s book, there’s an anthrax pandemic that kills 2/3 of the world population and there’s only a couple of billion or whatever left. And everyone else gets together and forms a world scientific, anti-religious state because the killer plague was largely caused by political and religious conflict. So suddenly the World State arises to ensure that people won’t screw up so badly ever again. In our version, America is the only country that secedes from the World State. In Huxley, the Savage lands is just a Santa Fe reservation, a pueblo culture. In this version, the Savage Lands is all of North America. The idea was to imagine America 300 hundred years after the fall. People are sick, and the environment is fucked and there’s been six presidents in the last five months, and it costs three thousand dollars to buy a Mars Bar! America’s decision not to join the World State has brought the country to the brink of ecological, economical, and societal collapse. In this version, I think we got a richer background than even the original.

 

 

Let’s talk about The Invisibles tv show. Do you want to be the show runner? How much of a say are you going to have over the final product of The Invisibles?

GM: Honestly, as much as I can, but I would never want to be a showrunner. I just don’t want to do that job. You have to dedicate your entire life to the show. I’m kind of too old and I do too many other things to want to concentrate on one idea for the years it can take to make a TV show. So, I’m always going to have to work with someone. It worked so far with Happy! where Patrick MacManus and Brian Taylor did the heavy-lifting production-wise, and with Brave New World, David Weiner was a great collaborator.

With The Invisibles, it’s closer to home for me and I’m trying to keep as much of a grip on the material until that moment of having to hand it over to someone else and accepting that it will change. I think because it’s so unique to me and some of the ideas in it haven’t appeared anywhere else, there is a little bit more control. But yeah man, I’m three drafts in on the script and I like to think it’s getting better all the time. I still can’t talk about who it’s with now. It’s not with UCP, which it was at one point. Beyond that, it’s going well. It’s been fun. I’ve just been enjoying learning how to write in a different way. I love doing this now. Imagining an actor saying the lines and what it might look like. It’s giving me a completely different buzz from the comic stuff.

Would you ever consider directing?

GM: Nah, again. I don’t want to. Although having said that, I do have one short film to my name – I was asked to write and direct a short film as part of the 42 One Dream Rush project in 2010. The brief was that it had to be just 42 seconds long and based on a dream. David Lynch did one; Kenneth Anger, Asia Argento, and a bunch of other genuine directors and alternative artists, so I was in decent company. My film is an end-of-the-world epic called ‘The 42-Second Minute’ which is just a close-up on a clock! That’s my entire directorial resume right there. That’s enough for me on IMDB.

In December 2019, Deadline announced that your partner on Happy! Brian Taylor was going to be the showrunner for Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’ Illuminatus! as a TV show.

There seem to all these great stories of my youth now being made into television shows

GM: I think there’s a bunch of challenging stuff coming out and these shows add to that. I think people are looking for new myths to help us make sense of the curious times we’re in. I think you need those kinds of stories and works that are coming at our problems from all angles. Think of the opening of Illuminatus! and it’s though the eyes of a squirrel and through George Dorn and a bunch of other characters. There’s a multi-prismatic viewpoint of the world. And I think the minute they can start capturing that sort of thing in TV, showing it through the eyes of all kinds of different characters with different viewpoints and different world view and reality tunnels, it will be pretty interesting.

It’s the fractalization of the media — that’s what made it all possible. There was a time you just couldn’t get away with any of this. I remember a time I was pitching Doom Patrol to Warner’s and their response was that this is ‘wackadoodle’ and now it’s one of their best and most successful shows. And it’s totally based off the stuff that me and Richard Case did with that comic 30 years ago. Stuff people told me would never be adapted, could never be adapted. I think that the success of things like Doom Patrol, or Umbrella Academy or The Boys shows the way that people’s imaginations have been expanded by more fantastic or quirky shows, opening the doors to wilder and more personal stuff.

Speaking of this new myth and ethos, for a few years now you have been speaking about the Aeon of Ma’at. Is this the strongest current you see in humanity these days?

GM: It’s still a subcurrent at the moment, as the patriarchal Aeon of Osiris bows out kicking and screaming but I think it’s the only one that gives us any chance of survival right now. It’s not like this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. For me these ideas are interesting metaphors; they’re filters, and I find that if I apply this particular filter suggested by Kenneth Grant and Crowley it allows me to see things in a different relationship, which is very creatively rewarding if nothing else.  Viewing the world through the filter of these Thelemic notions, what’s happening right now all around us suddenly becomes not only obvious but almost predictable.  

It’s important to emphasize that this is not something to ‘believe’ in. This is a metaphor and not a belief system. But new metaphors can change whole cultures as we know from our history.

Crowley said that the general tenor of the last six thousand years of human civilization could be summed up by the personalities of a family of Egyptian gods. And the first two thousand years up to the birth of Christ, this was the Age of Isis, the Mother Goddess, where people were hunter/gatherers or early agrarians living off the land, relying on ‘Mother Earth’, the seasons and the tides. So, the next Aeon from Christ onward is the Aeon of Osiris, the dying and resurrected god. Osiris is also the law giver and he brings with him the written word, so now ideas can be enshrined in books and books can outlast generations and they take on the aura of gods themselves.

God himself is present in the works of the Bible. God himself is present in the Quran. So certainly, there’s this programming code language, the instructional Dad language, which can take people over just from reading a book and turn them into agents of the Dad god’s expansionist, controlling agenda. This is when Nature goes from provider to something that exists to be tamed and exploited. That’s the Aeon of Osiris.

Following Osiris, comes this fiery breakdown, the child Horus is the son of Osiris and he’s every jihadi, every warrior, every rock star reformer, every young man who sees as his sacred mission the tearing down of structures, the questioning of rules. It’s punk rock, “I gotta tear it all down.” But running in tandem with that, according to Kenneth Grant, is the shadow Aeon of Ma’at, Horus’ sister and she’s the goddess of truth and balance and harmony and all that Wonder Woman stuff.

For me, having gone through the Abyss of Daath in the Thelema structure of initiation — having undergone that in a really experiential and exhausting way, I found myself in the Qabbalistic sphere of Binah, and the entire world suddenly looked very different and made sense in different configurations which re-energized the work I’d been doing.  

So, I decided to accept that the Aeon of Ma’at was coming down fast and I tried to align all my thinking with that, which provided me with a new bunch of metaphors and ways of framing the world. Imagine all this division and deconstruction was just a corridor we’re passing through. All the fractioning and separation —that’s typical of Horus. We can see the hand of Horus in the modern-day tearing down of monuments and statues. He’s kicking the fuck out of formerly stable systems all around the world. That’s exactly what you would expect of this spirit that Crowley said manifested first in 1913. But for me, I think he made his presence felt quite clearly on 9/11.

You can easily organize the evidence to suggest that there is an Aeon of Horus occurring now. Where systems are being taken down, where everything’s being questioned and audited, and the past is subject to major revision. So, there’s also some fun to be had in thinking “Ok, if this is actually playing out in some symbolic fashion, then what might the Aeon of Ma’at look like, artistically?’

And to me it looks like the rise of marginalized voices, it looks like more women coming into the discourse. It looks like trans people coming into the discourse. It looks like all the opportunities for groups who were disempowered by the Patriarchy, who couldn’t speak before to have their say.

Ma’at – what would her signature disease be? Well it might be a distributed network, a viral malady that could attack all of humanity. What would happen if she emptied the houses of the old gods as a show of possibility? You remember at the height of the first lockdown, all the churches were empty, all the sports stadiums were empty, all the mosques were empty, all the temples were empty. So, the Dad god had nowhere to go.

In Britain, I know, and I’m sure in America, there was a strange uprising of praise for care workers. People would go out every Thursday here and bang on pots and pans and basically thank the nurturing spirt, this caring spirit, for its very existence. It was a very religious, ritualistic thing that we were all doing. That’s Ma’at right there. Then there’s mother nature with hurricanes tearing down borders, storms ravaging everyone’s homes. It all suddenly makes sense in a new context if you use the filter of Ma’at to look at the world. For me, I’ve found some creative applications for it, like in Brave New World and the Wonder Woman comic that I’ve done.

Let’s talk about Magick. How does one get better at it?

GM: By doing it on a regular basis! It’s like a martial art or a musical talent. If you dedicate yourself to learning and practice, if you read other magician’s accounts, if you pay attention, then you start to notice details that the less engaged will miss and this allows you to do things that other people may regard as magical or even supernatural. Just like a stage conjurer, or a great guitarist, or a gifted actor or artist can do. It’s just about really paying attention and doing the work to see what happens. It’s just a way of looking at things in a fresh light and then working with this augmented version of reality in ways that can appear supernatural. One of magic’s main attractions involves bringing things into being, from the conception or thought all the way to solid materiality. Making the insubstantial tangible.

But there’s also a whole other thing. Magic is about deliberately inducing unusual states of consciousness. Some of these states of consciousness have been called gods because they feel super organized and positive, and some of them can be called demons because they feel chaotic, violent, hateful and perverted or whatever. That’s part of magic. It’s as simple as how can you create different states of consciousness? Magic uses spells or rituals, some developed over many centuries, to stimulate specific focused states of consciousness, whether demonic or angelic or god like. Psychedelics and hallucinogens have been used by shamans for the same purpose.

And the written word along with the expression of it are all magic. In the sense that words themselves hold such tremendous power.

GM: If you can limit the language you can reduce the scope of a conjuror. George Orwell warns us about that in the appendices to 1984. If you restrict the language, if you make it impossible to express abstract ideas, then you put boundaries on people’s ability to think creatively or communicate certain concepts. It does work. Words shouldn’t have the kind of power and meaning that we attribute to them but most of us grew up in the Aeon of Osiris, where words have been really important and fundamental to human progress. Words mean the law, words mean the Bible, or the Constitution, words define the divine rules by which we abide. The 10 Commandments.

As any writer can tell you; words are just things that dance around when you play with them. They can mean all kinds of different things. They bring with them the distortions of interpretation where the words of Christ – ‘love your enemies’ – can be twisted to motivate bloody genocidal Crusades. I think Wilson was trying to undermine people’s fear of the perceived authority and power of words as things in themselves.

For sure. There are some big words that have been added to the dictionary over the last 20 years, specifically Beyonce’s ‘bootylicious.’

GM: Well exactly, there you go man. But still I don’t exactly know what it’s describing, but I can almost taste it!

Adding on the to the notion of words and symbols being charged with magic, they have also been charged through the increasing amounts of propaganda over the course of the 20th Century and into today. Isn’t that something that RAW is constantly reminding readers, that propaganda is real, and lots of it feeds off your base emotions, like anger and fear. Most people don’t recognize that cuz they haven’t seen the FNORDS!

GM: It’s more like people’s sense of the immense energy compressed into certain words. It’s not the word itself – as Wilson reminds us ‘fuck’ is a ‘bad’ word but it doesn’t sound much different from ‘folk’, a ‘good’ word, and it means the same as ‘coitus’, another ‘good’ word. So where exactly does the wickedness and dirtiness of ‘fuck’ reside?

Words become fetishized for reasons good or bad and the more fetishized they are, the more taboo they become, which confers an aura of outlaw sexiness that attracts some people to them.

Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bob Wilson himself, all made a point of saying that words should not be given this kind of power because once they have this power, they can become fetishized and weaponized. If you de-power a word then it can’t be used to trigger other people in the same reliable way, but we’re just not in that phase, with the dislocated politics of culture right now. I think people got it right to take down some of these structures right now and perhaps it’s okay to retire certain radioactive, abusive terms as long as we make sure we’re creating new words in other areas.

As a for instance, when I was a kid there were no words to describe certain aspects of my own experience. I’ve been non-binary, cross-dressing, ‘gender queer’ since I was 10 years old, but the available terms for what I was doing and how I felt were few and far between. We had ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestite’ both of which sounded like DSM classifications rather than lifestyle choices! I didn’t want to be labelled as medical aberration because that’s not how it felt, nor was it something cut-and-dried and done. I didn’t want to ‘transition’ or embody my ‘female’ side exclusively, so I had no idea where I fit in.

Terms like ‘genderqueer’ and ‘non-binary’ only came into vogue in the mid-90s. So kids like me had very limited ways of describing our attraction to drag and sexual ambiguity. Nowadays there’s this whole new vocabulary, allowing kids to figure out exactly where they sit on the ‘color wheel’ of gender and sexuality, so I think it’s OK to lose a few contentious words when you are creating new ones that offer a more finely-grained approach to experience.

When we make the jump to a non-Roman-alphabet-based emoji language for purposes of radio telepathic communication, things will change once more.

This conversation of neutralizing the charge from taboo words is also a premise of RAW’s Ishtar Rising, which you wrote the introduction of the newest reprinting of the book by Hilaritas Press. Also, in that book, Wilson explores the mythical trope of the underground journey, something explored and unpacked in nearly all his books.

Joseph Campbell has some cool stuff to say about the Underground Journey, mainly that in all his studies of world myths he had observed two types of underground journey stories. One type was when the underground swallows up a poor soul like the whale did to Jonah. When this happens, the sole purpose of the seeker is to just survive the ordeal and return to the surface in one piece. The second type of journey through the underground occurs when the hero or heroine must descend into the depths and kill a monster. Campbell mentions one myth where the hero must slay a dragon then drink its blood to gain its power and move on and continue their quest. Campbell associates this killing of the dragon and drinking its blood as an integration of our shadows into our psyches. By integrating these elements of ourselves we then gain the sort of personal power needed to live a joyful and energetically engaged life.

GM: Yeah, and the story of the underground journey in Britain often involves someone finding a cave where he sees all of King Arthur’s knights asleep just waiting for the time of England’s greatest need when they will have to rise up and fight the final battle against evil. So that’s a more passive version of the story. Someone goes in and finds these sleeping warriors. That’s the personal power, that’s the higher self that will arise when you need it most.

Wilson has a dark side version of this exact legend at the end of Illuminatus with the undead Nazi battalions awaiting their orders to rise from Lake Totenkopf and reclaim the world!

What advice do you have for the magicians out there who have a story to tell and want to storm the reality studio?

GM: Tell a different story. Tell a fresh story that speaks to its times and the people around you. A story that offers possibilities, exit strategies, rather than apocalypse and ruin. I can’t see that there’s anything else…

In the Wonder Woman book I’m doing, for instance, I’ve actively avoided writing the boy hero story that’s so ubiquitous as to seem inescapable —  the familiar story of the One, the champion, the Joseph Campbell monomyth thing that drives so many Hollywood movies and YA stories. We’ve seen it. The Lion King. The callow youth loses mom or dad, or his comfortable place in the tribe, and he has to fight his way back to save the kingdom from its corrupt old leader, before claiming the captive princess and becoming the new king and… ad infinitum. The Circle of Life if it only applied to boys. I thought, where is the mythic heroine’s story? In Ishtar Rising, Wilson talks about the myth of Inanna, and how she goes down into Hell and has to give up everything of herself to gain the wisdom and experience she can bring back to her tribe. Privileging the network rather than the sovereign individual.

And so, as I thought about the differences between the hero’s and the heroine’s journey, it gave me a bunch of different modes to work in. Finding ways to avoid telling the boy hero story again was quite liberating. It just gave me a bunch of new ideas, an interesting new way of telling stories that didn’t rely on the framework of the hero’s journey that Campbell talks about.

Playing the devil’s advocate here. Today there is a lot of fervor around identity, and there is one strong of thought that people can never truly understand what it is like walking in the shoes of others. Some may ask why a white man would seek to tell the story of a woman, from her perspective, instead of just sticking to what he knows, being a man. 

How authentically real is that character or story, etc.?

GM: It’s important to air these feelings for debate. I must admit, with all respect, that I completely disagree with the idea that we cannot understand one another.

Firstly, there’s a major obvious problem about coming at things from this perspective — if fundamentally, we cannot truly know or have any meaningful opinion on what it feels like to be X, then we may as well stop listening to anything anyone else has to say about their personal experience, on the basis that it can only be irrelevant to our specific lives!

If I can never truly understand you without walking in your shoes and vice versa, what’s the point of listening or talking to anyone about our experience? What’s the point of writing stories, or protesting, or making art if experience cannot by its nature be communicated and understood by anyone who has not shared the experience of the artist, or the writer?

I think we all know it doesn’t really work that way in the real world. We don’t need to be a thing to have some understanding of how it operates. People can be great veterinarians without personally experiencing the day-to-day inner lives of dogs and cats. I can read Solzhenitsyn and shed empathic tears for the inmates of the Gulag without having to reprise their exact experience.

To think otherwise might be, I suspect, a symptom of narcissism painted into its inevitable corner, its private echo chamber – destructive, divided, atomized, individualistic to the point of self-abnegation – and indicative of late stage Osiris pathology.

And you know, we actually do understand one another in so many ways. We can imagine what it’s like to live someone else’s life –— or we can have our imaginations enflamed by well-told tales of other people’s lives and thrill to the ways they resonate exactly with our own lived experience. As a writer, I know this to be true.

We’ve been observing one another’s behavior and drawing conclusions since the dawn of humanity. People aren’t so complicated or new that the basic functions remain a mystery. All our plays, poems, songs and stories are a record of our attempts to understand ourselves and one another. The fact that Greek drama or Shakespeare still speaks to us is evidence that basic human nature has remained fairly consistent for thousands of years.

We figured one another out a long, long time ago.

And ultimately, I’ll say again, we are all the same organism. What we’re seeing is ring fingers fighting with thumbs, eyelashes screaming that eyebrows can never understand them! To point that out is probably an anathema in this current time of narcissistic inflation but it will be understood as a fact of nature in the end.

Maybe I’m wrong and we’re all fucked because humans are a kind of cancer-creature and our only purpose is to destroy each other and all other lifeforms on our planet… there’s still time for Agent Smith to be proved right!

I think everyone should have to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. We can all learn from one other but that means communicating; that means starting with the assumption we do have a common basis for genuine understanding even if our specific circumstances can never be repeated or totally understood by anyone other than ourselves. We all hurt, we all feel joy, we all get turned on, or scared. We all experience loss, and lack of self-worth and feel badly treated by the world at times.

And I understand why everyone should talk and tell stories from their own position you know but it’s also very useful – and a major human talent –  to imagine how other people feel and consider how the world might look through their eyes.  

And you do that by staying informed, listening to voices even when you disagree with them –—and by employing empathy and imagination to put yourself in their place as best as you’re able.

These are difficult times. I’m not a guru. I don’t know what to say to make it all better. There’s seven in a half billion people and it often seems they all fucking hate each other! Yet they all want everyone else to agree with their tiny, restricted, localized points of view. And they’ve all got a piece of ground to defend against perceived foes. I get it, but ultimately, we’re all one thing, one massive organism that’s going through difficult growing pains at the moment, so maybe we need to start thinking about what makes us alike, rather than different.

I hope so

GM: Well, this is part of the boiling process. Capitalist consumer culture has clearly reached its limits and we either advance to a more efficient, stable, less suicidal and aggressive engagement with other people and our environment or we go extinct as a species, taking all the whales and tigers and gorillas with us, before we even figured out how to talk to them and hear their stories! There are few options remaining.

The current questioning, the judgmental audit of where we are and how we got here, is a Horus thing. We can only hope we sublimate from here via Ma’at into something more nurturing and sustainable.

It is a hot moment. Temperatures are rising, Artic ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, and people may be unconsciously registering all that, and doing a horrible job at it. Instead of dealing with one’s own sense of panic, constriction, and fear it looks like many people are just running hot.

GM: I feel like every word we say is now a potential indictment, you know. The last malignant thrashing of the passing Aeon of Osiris. The echoes of the Inquisition, accusations of ‘wrongthink’, the return of Original Sin, the demonic glee taken in any stumble or falter from the approved path seems almost mediaeval. It’s terrifying. The potential for misunderstanding is almost infinite and its almost fated that we will struggle to abide by rules that grow ever more authoritarian and specific every day. Again, all that feels to me like the last ferocious attempts at asserting its fading power by the Osiris energy of the last 2000 years, now gone rotten and unsustainable but trying harder to keep everything and everybody under increasingly deranged levels of control in every area of our lives.

Writers and artists can find more reasons to stop their expression than ever before it seems. The voice of criticism and judgement is easier to find these days, just doom scroll through various social media sites and it’s all over the place.

GM: I regard it all as new input. As tough as it is, there’s an excitement. It’s making me think, it’s making me question myself and my assumptions, it’s making me write different things. I love ideas that challenge my thinking — even if I don’t agree with them in the end.

 

What are your thoughts on Simulation Theory these days?

GM: I was reading New Scientist recently and one of the correspondents on the letters page threw out this random idea that really resonated with me.  The writer was saying that if we live in a simulation then perhaps the world in the past was not as detailed or as high fidelity as it we experience it now! There have been upgrades, developments. In computer game terms, think of the difference between Space Invaders and Red Dead Redemption 2!

And I thought, wow, wouldn’t that be funny if, you know, those medieval painters with the flat landscapes and no perspective, what if they were accurately representing an earlier, more simplistic iteration of our simulated reality? What if they were simply portraying what the world actually looked like in the early stages of the simulation! What if these artists were recording what they saw and that’s how it looked?

Suddenly I saw the history of art in a whole new light! I thought how cool it would be if the cave paintings at Lascaux represented caveman reality perfectly – that’s how the simulated world really looked in an early development of the simulation when we were all just stick figures with antlers and the animals were sketchy semi-abstracts…

I love that idea; that the simulation is becoming more complex and well-rendered as it goes along – and we can see where it’s been.

It almost seems like it will become harder to break the Matrix as it becomes more refined, nuanced and easier to mistake for reality. It is interesting looking at the Simulation theory with the idea of calling it a metaphor for the same thing that the Gnostics came up with.

GM: Yeah, the idea that the universe is a counterfeit created not by god but by some sort of underling of god… that was the gnostic idea. It’s not so much about breaking the Matrix, I feel it’s more about learning to work with it. In the movie, once Neo figures out how it works, he becomes a magician, a superhero. The counterfeit world in the movie seems much more fun than the real one.

 Can magic be a useful tool for navigating VR and AR in IRL?

GM: Yeah, because magic is just about adding meaning or enchantment to the environment and to your life. Magic spices up everything; it’s like hot sauce! Once you add magic, the universe comes to life and starts to dance with you. If you choose to be an exploiter, a black magician, it’s more like a lap dance but otherwise it’s a tango! As I’ve said before, it’s easy to add magic to things. If you decide a certain stone could use some magic power, then carry it with you long enough and it will become first a good luck talisman and will finally accrue the significance and meaning of a Holy Grail if it’s given enough time and attention. So, the more meaning you can add to experience, the more magical it will seem. It’s not difficult or ‘occult’ at all. Magic makes everything more exciting, rich and alive and that’s its job. The more magic you can create around something the more special your interaction with it will feel.

 

The President Addresses The Nation

The President Addresses The Nation

R.U. Sirius January 8, 2019

I see them all lined up at the border
killers, gangsters, rapists…

Ravers with drugs
Bugs with diseases
Mr. Freeze
Chupacabra
Old Sandinistas
Bolton just told me there’s Zapatistas
Angry strippers who use the name Rita
Members of ISIS carrying Pita

vampire bats
gals wearing pussy hats
Soros’s minions of liberal fat cats
Knee takers carrying baseball bats

Masked Antifas throwing rocks
Vicente Fox
Honduran children with chicken pox

IRS agents have joined the throng
Octavio Paz arm-in-arm
With Robert de Niro and Erica Jong
Mueller supporters who know I’ve done wrong
Emiliano Zapata on the back of King Kong
Streisand singing that stupid song

Hillary Clinton is down there too
Professor Chomsky and his radical jews
Even the truthers are turning on me
Why can’t I just make a decree
This is a national emergency

Yes there are monsters south of our border
I need a wall against this disorder
Dictator or prison – that’s how I see it
Yes it’s an emergency soon I will decree it

Mrs. Santa Claus is coming to town

by Destinyland

The problem isn’t “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Holiday traditions age slowly — and poorly — and we find ourselves waking up to a whimsically wintry wonder world as we try to apply our new modern sensibilities to Christmas itself. The TV show Glee once famously bypassed all the tricky gender politics by simply having the song sung by two adorable men.



But here’s the bad news for feminists. For decades Christmas has been depicted as a male-centric holiday dominated by a man-giver and his man-elfs. (Even the reindeer all seem to be male.) And if you dig a little bit deeper, it just gets worse. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the classic Christmas special, Burl Ives even tells youngsters how Donner the reindeer’s wife — Mrs. Donner — was forbidden from helping find Rudolph because “this is man’s work.” (Leaving Mrs. Donner in tears…)

“Are women bad at looking for things?” asks the Women’s Media Center (a group co-founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan.) In a critique titled “Rudolph, the Sexist Reindeer,” they cite other complaints about the children’s special’s frequent bullying (and also it’s “sheer creepiness”), before noting that ultimately the special “is pretty clear that the boys join in the reindeer games while the girls stay off in the corner…swooning? Admiring?

“Life isn’t all that different for the female elves either.”

But now, the hopeful note. Throughout our history there’ve been inspiring attempts to fix the holiday’s one-sided gender balance. For example, back in 1953 Nat King Cole recorded a delightful tribute to the Christmas-y role played by Mrs. Santa Claus, who helps the couple eke out their North Pole subsistence by personally feeding hay to all of Santa’s flying reindeer. And apparently she’s also in charge of important Christmas-related responsibilities, including sleigh-packing, gift-wrapping, and a crucial advisory role for Santa’s whole toy-delivering operation.

Mrs. Santa Claus briefly turns up in the 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians — albeit for roughly 32 seconds. (The entire miserable film was once heckled by the robot hand puppets on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.)

But an important message was thus delivered to the next generation of film-makers. Yes, Virginia, there is a Mrs. Santa Claus. Back in 2013, Saturday Night Live delivered a brash skit in which Mrs. Santa Claus complains about the travails of a marriage where “your husband is unemployed for 364 days a year, and he’s a thousand years old,” calling Christmas Eve the day “when Santa finally gets his lazy ass out of the house.” And a later SNL skit even shows what happens when Mrs. Santa Claus gets sexually harassed by pervy elves.

Here’s my point. 2018 saw a growing push for more women in media and government, and a greater representation throughout society in general. So why isn’t there a movement to give a larger role to Mrs. Santa Claus? Why do we spend each Christmas focusing on an aging white guy who can see you when you’re sleeping?

Let me just put it this way. I know a lot of parents who’d feel much more comfortable if their children were sitting on Mrs. Santa Claus’s lap….

And to the end, one film was way ahead of its time.

In 1996, Broadway legend Jerry Herman was 65 years old. But 12 years after his hit La Cage Aux Folles, he took one more crack at skewering our society’s gender roles, writing the entire score for an original TV production titled Mrs. Santa Claus. Given a lavish Christmas production from Hallmark Home Entertainment, the film starred Angela Lansbury — the first person to sing “We Need a Little Christmas” (in Herman’s 1966 hit Broadway musical Mame.) Mrs. Santa Claus describes herself as “invincible,” singing that “the moment has come to beat my own drum because, I want the world to know there’s a Mrs. Santa Claus!”

It’s not to be confused with the 2018 horror film “Mrs. Claus”, in which she’s a serial killer rampaging through a snow-capped suburbs.

Instead, this film glows with a gentle holiday glow of feminine pride, as Lansbury croons that “I’m coming your way, keep an eye on my sleigh…” The critics called the film “endearing” and “sure to be an instant classic” — before it vanished into obscurity for the next 20 years. The DVD “has long been out of print,” warns Wikipedia — but the film has suddenly come back to life in the cloud, and Amazon Prime customers can now watch it free. (Or you can snag a used copy of the DVD for $4.13.)

So this Christmas all those male-centric grinches better watch out.

Because Mrs. Santa Claus is coming to town.

Tripulations 1968 – 1969: Excerpt from Timothy Leary’s Trip Thru Time

by R.U. Sirius

Tripulations 1968 – 1969

A Brief Return to Berkeley During “The Revolution”

Tim’s first impulse, upon being released from the Millbrook hive, was to take Rosemary and Susan (Jack had already left a year earlier, joining the great migration to the streets of the Haight Ashbury) back to his old stomping ground of Berkeley, California where he still owned the family home. By now, Berkeley was a buzzing center of the international counterculture. But Tim was not attuned to Berkeley’s late ‘60s culture of protests, riots and apocalyptic revolutionary rhetoric so his stay in Berkeley would be brief.   

The Brotherhood of Eternal Love

At the invitation of a group called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the small Leary family unit made its way south, to the sunny climes of Orange County, just outside of LA.  

In 1966, a notorious working class gang of tough marijuana dealers from Orange County invaded and ripped off a Hollywood party over a pot deal gone bad. Among the items they grabbed was a bunch of LSD.  They didn’t even know what it was — except that it was obviously a drug.  One day, the gang leader, John Griggs tried it. “This is it!” he told his followers. “A religious experience.” He threw his gun into the ocean. In nearly an instant, the Street Sweepers gang became a religious psychedelic commune. And the skills they’d learned smuggling marijuana from Mexico… well, that still fit the profile. They added acid and hashish to their sales repertoire and became such a successful underground operation that they would eventually get dubbed “the hippie mafia.”

Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Prayers from the Tao te Ching became a sort of holy book for the Brothers and Leary a guru.  Being at loose ends anyway, the Leary family unit was happy to head to Laguna Beach and be glorified and feted by their high-flying friends.   

The Brothers were the ultimate ecstatic warriors of the psychedelic revolution.  They were following the logic (such as it was) of  ‘60s psychedelia — this was the idea or vibe that the more people consumed psychedelic substances, the closer we would get to an advanced enlightened society… even if there was some freaking out, fucking up and weirdness along the way.  What do you think? 

The legend of the Brotherhood and the Laguna Beach scene is the subject of numerous books and articles, the best one being Orange Sunshine by Nicholas Schau.

High Priest & Politics of Ecstasy

1968 saw the release of Timothy Leary’s first semi-autobiographical book, High PriestThis book bravely, poignantly, poetically and hilariously tells the stories of fifteen psychedelic trips taken during the Harvard years (plus the nervous breakdown/breakthrough in Spain in 1959)— the trips that turned Timothy Leary into the legend of a mind. Many of the adventures I’ve already described are included. If you’re going to read one Leary book about the psychedelic experience — with the emphasis on actual experience and not on the insights inspired by them — this is the one for you.

Later, 1968 saw the release of a collection of Leary essays under the title, The Politics of Ecstasy. Much more a product of its time than High Priest, Politics of Ecstasy crackles with its effervescent, confident and whip smart explication of how psychedelic experience intersected with generational politics and a demented war mongering repressive sociopolitical structure to create the mad countercultural explosion that was, in fact, peaking heavily that very year.  Read more “Tripulations 1968 – 1969: Excerpt from Timothy Leary’s Trip Thru Time”

Changes, Postmodernism, Counterculture, Ego

Wilder Gonzales Agreda & R.U. Sirius

In 2015, Wilder Gonzales Agreda interviewed me for http://peruavantgarde.blogspot.com. I’m fond enough of the results to present some of the musings here with some updated annotations. Annotations in caps and blue

Why do you think people in general (not elite) tend to avoid changes even if they finally are going to benefit everyone? Why is to so hard to change mentalities? They seem to get frightened always.

Our minds are SEEM TO BE geared, evolutionarily, towards the recognition of patterns and its predictive mechanisms are most naturally geared towards the immediate near situation…  hunting food, avoiding things that might harm you immediately, maybe some gathering, getting shelter and so forth. It’s kind of amazing that we even got to consciously planned agriculture. Now we’re in societies and cultures of astounding complexity, but many of us are still geared towards our immediate comforts and securities. The simplest – or simple-mindedest way to attain those things is to go along with what everyone else is doing and find your place within it. You get a kind of security of the hive, the pack, the tribe. That security is challenged situationally from time to time but the pack basically likes to shoot the messenger. In apocalyptic situations, this tendency may only get worse.

Academics use to say that in current postmodernism people lose faith on ideals, and they live just for the moment, the ego and pleasure. How do you see this situation regarding counterculture ideals and utopias? Or you see we are living a new era?

I’ve never really thought about postmodernism in terms of faith, but I’m sure it would point to and also provoke a lack of it. And I don’t know that postmodernism is particularly a critique of hedonism or spontaneity IF THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE IMPLYING

Academic postmodernism, which has become TO A GENERALIST APPEARS mostly indistinguishable from poststructuralism, culture theory, critical theory, what have you… really, seems to be a dense thicket of illuminating perceptions, fecund horseshit and lots of tangled up nonsense. This is because academics have to produce a lot of words, and because academic postmodernism came out of the demise of the radical left of the 1960s and it’s splintering into oppressed identity formations. Academic pomo — from it’s roots in questioning the highly defined enlightenment paradigm of Western capitalism and it’s Leninist cousin — seems to have constructed some kind of a linguistic/memetic umbrella under which these various strains of obsession with gender, race and colonialism could still be interrelated. Unfortunately, these relations are constructed DESCRIBED through a peculiar elite specialized language that’s only accessible to other members of the academic tribe. Students get infected by it but usually drop it once they start dealing with the actuality of the world and their not-politically-correct sexual desires. IT SEEMS NOW TO BE CONTINUOUSLY UBIQUITOUS IN CERTAIN CIRCLES, ALBEIT IN A SIMPLE FORM OF TOTALISMS AND CERTAINTIES, SOME OF THEM MORE OR LESS ON TARGET. PROBABLY A REACTION TO THE REACTION AND SOMETHING TO DO WITH SOME KIND OF STASIS (ECONOMIC?) PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING POST-COLLEGE THAT KEEPS THEM IN THE SAME CONTEXT

If I could pick out two fundamental ideas from postmodernism that have meaning and appeal for me:

One: it would be the idea that the singular romanticized consistent western classical liberal individual is a limiting construct and not an actual thing. There are no “stand up guys.” Humans are a fluid changeable process and there are multiplicities of selves, particularly amongst people not enslaved by lives of full time labor –- who generally are the only ones that are privileged to have a self or a multiplicity of selves in the first place.

Two: The other appealing aspect of PoMo is the idea that truth is radically contingent. UNFORTUNATELY PICKED UP BY VARIOUS RIGHT WING THINKERS AS A WAY TO SEW CONFUSION IN DOMAINS WHERE FACTS — EVEN APPROXIMATE FACTS — MATTER TO MUCH TO TREAT AS CONTINGENT. That would not necessarily be hard physical truth (if I threatened an academic pomo with a baseball bat, he or she would recognize it’s absoluteness) but philosophical truth, political truth and even scientific truth (the latter is too long an explantion for this discussion). And with the possible exception of scientific proofs, this seems to be palpably (contingently) true. That is sort of the way things are, whether we like it or not. Read more “Changes, Postmodernism, Counterculture, Ego”

On The Road To Chaos In East Berlin (published MONDO 2000 1991)

by Morgan Russell

 

In honor of former MONDO editor and co-publisher Morgan Russell’s ashes finding their way back from Austria to his home state of Wisconsin, we present this marvelous unfinished piece he sent us about a Chaos Computer Club gathering in what was once East Berlin. The piece ended suddenly when Morgan didn’t send us the ending, but the fun is more in getting to the conference and getting in the conference than in the conference itself… or at least that’s what one would imagine.

 

“Chaos. It’s more than just a name. It’s our way of doing business!”

Germany’s Chaos Computer Club is known in the US primarily for its incursions into U.S. military and NASA computers (see Clifford Stoll’s The Cuckoo’s Egg). Then there was the well-publicized information-for-money deal with the KGB that got busted. The latter was perpetrated by persons who, while not official club members, are at least within the Chaos Computer Club’s ambit. Little more is known about the Chaos group outside Germany.

Chaos members who might enlighten the rest of the world as to the nature of their organization seem to be nonexportable. One of their better-known members, Steffen Wernery, was arrested on charges of computer vandalism on his arrival in Paris where he had a speaking engagement. He was imprisoned for months. Other well-known members are understandably loathe to leave Germany.

Contact between the Chaos Computer Club and the East Berlin Computer Club was established at the CCC’s Christmastime ’89 Kongress in Hamburg. When I received calls from Hamburg and Amsterdam alerting me that the next CCC Kongress was imminent and to be held in the “East Zone,” as the West German computer security journal Daterschutz-Berate quaintly termed it, I immediately left for Europe.

Arriving in Amsterdam, I learned that I was a full month early. I suspect my informant was a bit hazy on the exact dates simply because he wanted an Amerikan around to talk to. No matter. I purposefully occupied my time doing preliminary fieldwork in Amsterdam, checking out its hacker underground, squatters’ movement, pirate radio and TV, and the newly identified Anti- Media Movement

 

“Destroy Media!”

Battle-cry of the Anti-Media Movement

I got my first glimmer of the Anti-Media Movement talking to a member of a group known as ADILKNO (The Foundation for the Advancement of Illegal Knowledge). ADILKNO publishes manifestoes in a hyperintellectual art and media journal, Mediamatic. A magazine for the well-read polyglot, its matter is well-nigh impenetrable without a thorough knowledge of Baudrillard, Virilio, Bataille, and Eco, for starters. Its motto is, “We watch media like others watch TV.”

ADILKNO first proposed its attack on media in a Squatters’ Movement document: “By isolating the media, we will reach many more people! Within the movement, many feel we must give our opinions to the press.

The time in which we can reach our goals through public opinion has long been over!”

ADILKNO believes a “massive defection to reality” is occurring now that everything seems to be covered by the media. “The increasing need to make history in a hobby or tourist atmosphere, away from work, is consciously placing the media in the shadow of the event. For the moment, people have no more time for the media. . . Beyond the media traps, people clear the way tor themselves to do the right thing elsewhere. In Western museum cities, an avant-garde has formed the anti-media movement, which puts an end to all connections under the slogan, ‘Let’s pull down another media!’ With disappearing acts, it creates temporary and local media-free spaces. . . It is a pre-eminently secret movement because it carefully keeps itself out of the press and makes its existence known only through jamming and sabotage. All events that don’t appear in the media are claimed as a victory by the movement. . . The survival strategy of the media is to remain more interesting than reality.” Like that.

In the newly published Movement Teachings:Squatting Beyond the Media (as yet available only in Dutch), Geert Lovink and Arjen Mulder describe the “outer-medial experience” as “making history on the streets through ‘immediate’ (i.e. ‘media-free’) contact.”

The Anti-Media Movement is contentless. It can only be discerned, in Lovink and Mulder’s formulation, as “curious cuts in the data stream.” It is a question of “how we should read the gaps. Is it an accident or the Anti-Media Movement?” One needs “an eye for it.”

Hoping to catch traces of the meaningful gaps of the “AMM” at the CCC Kongress, I mobilize Special Forces: DFM Radio-Televisie.

Read more “On The Road To Chaos In East Berlin (published MONDO 2000 1991)”

The Subsequent State

by M. Christian

A short story from Hard Drive: The Best Sci-Fi Erotica by M. Christian

….

He remembered praying, though he was unsure if he spoke the words out loud or if they’d just been thundering through his mind: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…

“The human intellect passes from its original state, in which it does not think, to a subsequent state, in which it does”

–Aristotle

I don’t know how to start this, so I guess I just have to. I hope you’ll understand that is something I have to do … even though I know it’s wrong. 

But I also know that I can’t live with myself until what happened to you will never happen to anyone – ever again. Knowing that they are out there and will come again and possibly take more that they have already taken – I have to do something.

I love you – and until I knew you, I never understood what that word meant, so I can say it in a way I could never say it before to a person who has given me so much.

Josh

* * * *

The world – looking out at it through the night vision goggles – was green: the tall, wild grasses where he crouched, and slowly crawled through, was green; the trees on the distant hills, which swayed in a low wind he couldn’t feel, being so close to the ground, were green. The stars in the sky were too bright – a wince there – pinholes of green stuck through a paler green canvas.

And there, between the hills, just below him, were the rolling geometries of what he’d been told they called environs: hexagonal panels joined together into organically rolling blisters. Through the plastic, fragmented by the interference of the structure, were the vividly dancing green of what he guessed were fires – and, moving much more slowly, carefully, purposefully were the green illuminations of people.

No, he corrected himself, squeezing the polycarbonate grip of his father’s gun, feeling the grid pattern even though the material of his gloves. Not people. 

There were cameras, which was why he was so low in the tall grass, but he’d learned that there weren’t that many of them – and the ones they did have more than likely wouldn’t be able to pick him up. 

So arrogant, he thought, relaxing his grip on the gun. A breath then, to steady himself. With the inhale and subsequent exhale, he momentarily closed his eyes against the green. There were sensors, microphones, and more, but they, too, shouldn’t be able to pick him up, especially against the rustle of the trees, so he allowed himself to move his lips, though he didn’t speak, he prayed: Should we perish in the struggle, may God embrace us and find for us a place in His Kingdom.

The hill he was on rolled down to an access road: an unpaved narrow ribbon that undulated around the edge of the structures. When he reached where the grass ended and it began, he turned and lowered himself down, taking the final inch between his boots and the dirt path cautiously slow. Both feet down, he dropped and lowered himself all the way, scanning left, then right, then left again, looking for any sign he’d been spotted – but all he saw was the road vanishing around one bend and then the other. 

In front of him, between the hexagon-paneled roof of the environ and the ground, was a low wall of coarse-surfaced bricks. The wall, the plastic immensity of the structure, the dirt at his feet – everything he could see was still an artificially brilliant green. 

When he turned the goggles off, then flipped them away from his eyes, the world was absolutely dark… but only before his eyes adjusted: gradually his memory of the environ – its geometric panels, its organic bulge that now filled half the sky, blocking the intensity of the truly white stars, the bare coarseness of the road, the almost-as-course bricks – was replaced by his actual vision.

A few yards away, he could see a break in the wall: a man-height indentation. Getting closer, he saw the handle.

There’d be an alarm the moment he turned it: five, maybe ten, minutes maximum, before a patrol arrived and gunned him down. His best chance would be to get in and then move as far away from the door as he could – if he was lucky, buying himself an extra few minutes.

Breath in, breath out, right hand on the gun, left hand hovering an inch above the handle. Brave warriors, should fate find us in battle,may our cause be just. May our leaders have clear vision. May our courage not falter –

He closed his eyes, and when he did, he saw again their bodies: the blood, thick and brown on the carpet; their arms and legs turned and twisted clumsily where they fell. The smell of hot copper in the air.

On the wall – painted with the blood of his daughter or his wife – was the Greek letter for alpha, the symbol of the Noos.

Five or ten minutes. Not much time. Turning the handle, pushing the door inwards, he prayed to Jesus Christ that he had enough time to kill at least that many of them. 

* * * *

From the door, he found himself on a narrow path, floored by planks: some kind of access way between the rest of the environ and the wall. The wood muffled his steps: a small miracle.

Earthly fertilizer, freshly cut wood, perfumed smoke, sickly-sweet flowers: an arboretum tickled his nose. Vision further adjusting, he saw the wall to his left, and the intertwined branches of trees on his right – bright and raw, where someone had clipped them to keep the path free. Leaves swiped at his eyes, brushed against his uniform, but otherwise he trotted, hand on the butt of his gun, almost silently.

Silently: no alarm, no sirens. They had to know; they had to be on the way. Five minutes, maybe ten … hopefully more. 

Then the path turned sharply and vanished. Still being led by it, he was spilled out onto the edge of a small, plowed field. When his boots kicked at one of the furrows, the scent of nature bloomed up his nose. In the distance were the golden glows of the fires that had been the green dancers in his goggles. Flickering in and out of darkness beyond them were more and more trees, but also the further distant forms of what looked like a four-tall step of square windows.

“Hello.”

Down the sights of the gun, she was rosy … almost golden … intermittently lit, sporadically revealed by the distant bonfires. 

She was older than he was by five years or maybe even ten. Her hair was so red the fire made the curls and tumbles of it look like she was as much alight as the flames. Her face was lined, but each seam and wrinkle looked like the end, or the beginning, of a happy grin. Her eyes were bright, either orange from the far-off flames, or that color under any light. Around her neck was a leather thong, tugged down between her breasts by what looked like stone charms and tiny brass bells. She was plump: a healthy weight in arms and legs that spoke of her nature, a comfort in that what she was … she was.

“There’s no reason to be afraid.”

She was naked: not bare, not stripped, not exposed. She stood, still at the end of his pistol’s sight, rich earth squished up between the toes on her feet; her heavy breasts, dark-nippled and tanned, were also … what she was. Between her heavy thighs was a triangular curl of also-red hair – as wild and unkempt as the curls that flowed and spilled down her back and arms. There was no clumsy dance of seduction, no loud arousal in her: the earth between her toes; the dark, tanned richness of her skin; the freedom of her hair; the naturalness of her body – all of it was simple, honest, and earthy―

And she, or her people, had killed his wife and daughter: slipping in at night and slitting their throats. Brave warriors, should fate find us in battle, may our cause be just. May our leaders have clear vision. May our courage not falter. Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior―

“No one is going to hurt you.”

She spread her arms. Down his sights, he saw her smile: a sign of calm, of peace, of welcome.

The shot was thunder, a crack of nightmare loud that matched and then beat the drumming of his heart. In his hands, the pistol bucked, wrenching his wrist and arm. 

It fell from his hand, so heavy he felt its impact through the soil even through the soles of his boots. He followed it down, his knees plunging into the thick, soft darkness of the field. Read more “The Subsequent State”

Happy Labor Day (Imagine)

Imagine you live in a small town of 10,000. One guy owns half of everything. A few other people own the rest of it. About 1,000 people are starving or almost starving. 3,000 more are in the streets or overcrowded in ramshackle homes. A large group of people, most of them with dark skin, are locked in cages. About half of the rest of the population live very close to the edge of homelessness or the like. Almost all of the rest of the people sell there time for tickets that allow them to have enough food, a roof overhead and maybe some medical help… and have some enjoyments amidst worries of depression or economic collapse, extreme weather disasters, war, fascism and tribalistic hostilities.  

Happy Labor Day!

 

What’s Eating Jaron Lanier (written about 5 years ago)

R.U. Sirius

So I came across this thing I never published and I like it quite a bit even though I should probably update it but I have a toothache.

So let me just protest that I love Jaron and really loved his recent quasi-autobiographical book Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality 

Anyway, here is something from several years ago in the raw…

……………………..

Every few years, one of my friends from the early days of digital enthusiasm turns up on the media’s radar as a “defector.”

Huzzah! The former advocate or progenitor of the Next New Thing has turned into a flaming critic.  Perhaps he or she has even issued a Jeremiad against the former Great Hope of All Humanity.  It’s a turnkey, media-ready narrative, easy to convey and easy for a reading public that pays little attention to the more complicated discourses taking place around the impacts of radical technology to digest.  He was for it. Now he’s agin’ it.  You can tweet that and have enough characters left over for a haiku.    

Jaron Lanier, who emerged into the media spotlight in the early ’90s as the chief spokesperson for Virtual Reality, seems to be having a longer — and more vocal — run at this sort of thing than most. His 2000 piece — “One Half A Manifesto” — published in Wired, struck out against what he saw as a cybernetic totalism wherein some techno enthusiasts were laboring to create our nonbiological replacement species.  With his  2011 book, You Are Not  A Gadget, he went a bit further into “fighting the future,” finding aspects of the Web 2.0 culture depersonalizing and economically unfair to creatives.  In a recent and much-ballyhooed portrait in The Smithsonian magazine titled “What Turned Jaron Lanier Against The Web,” Ron Rosenbaum portrays Jaron as being like a “spy who came in from the cold.”  

The whole Manichean set-up is a bit much, but the actual content of Jaron’s complaints, I think, are not particularly obscure and touch a disquieted nerve in many of us — particularly those of us who have experienced life before the ubiquity of the social web.

The bummer, according to Lanier — at least as expressed in the aforementioned article — are as follows:

1: We are falling into a “hive mind.” Being webbed together — living in public and thinking collectively leads to a sort of insectoid de-individualization and a devaluation of excellence.  Some time back, Lanier called Wikipedia “digital Maoism” and questioned the au courant deference to “the wisdom of the crowd.”

2:  That whole “Information wants to be free” thing — what some call “free culture” — is not economically kind to artists, musicians, writers and creative folks in general.  Aside from being economically devalued, skilled creative types are demeaned as we’re pushed down into the shit end of the Long Tail along with the vast, relatively unskilled hordes who are happy to provide their own content, thank you very much, and to grab up our stuff for free.  The creative middle class is being disintermediated.

3:  Digitized music sucks

4:  The same technology that privileges file sharing also privileges the plutocratic finance economy.  Digital networked capital is unfair and largely disconnected from actual productivity. 

5:  The Singularitarians are fanatical quasi-religious nuts

6:  Most anonymous people  assholes.  There’s a virtual tsunami of ugliness and hate that seems to be gathering force. Read more “What’s Eating Jaron Lanier (written about 5 years ago)”

God Bless Russo-America

by John Shirley

 

July 4, 2031. “Today we thank the Holy Father and St. Boris and St Xenia for rescuing America from its nightmare of chaos and uncertainty. We give thanks for the Red, White and Blue Militias — American revolutionaries and Selected Special Forces of Russia — who spilled their blood in the struggle to rescue America, as reported by the Heroes of Social Media. With one voice we hail the holy martyr, Donald J. Trump, who died in office as he struggled for the cause.

Many other heroic actions made possible the Great Gasp of Relief as America was liberated by Emperor Vladimir I: The Glorious Acceptance of the Sovereignty of Mother Russia, signed by General George Foster and Admiral Slevins in 2026, as well as the unanimous entirely-democratic fully-counted votes authorizing America’s Blessed Uniting with Russia on July 4, 2028. And we honor the Joyous Welcome by the Voluntarily Disarmed American Military.

“We celebrate the Anniversary of the Blessed Uniting with the execution of 100,000 homosexual blasphemers and 11,000 reactionary domestic terrorists, to be followed by the greatest of all military parades: the Parade of Steel will celebrate our declaration of war on the People’s Republic of China…God Bless Russo-America!”

Background art by Ed Reibsamen