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Punk’s long dead.

Yet I have come to suspect these punk derivatives signal something more than the usual merry-go-round of pop culture. These punks indicate that something is broken in our science fiction. Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better—but not so much better that the author can’t write a sequel. The 1980s have, in a sense, never ended; they seem as if they might never end.

[…]

We are still, in many ways, living in the world Reagan and Thatcher built—a neoliberal world of growing precarity, corporate dominance, divestment from the welfare state, and social atomization. In this sort of world, the reliance on narratives that feature hacker protagonists charged with solving insurmountable problems individually can seem all too familiar. In the absence of any sense of collective action, absent the understanding that history isn’t made by individuals but by social movements and groups working in tandem, it’s easy to see why some writers, editors, and critics have failed to think very far beyond the horizon cyberpunk helped define. If the best you can do is worm your way through gleaming arcologies you played little part in building—if your answer to dystopia is to develop some new anti-authoritarian style, attitude, or ethos—you might as well give up the game, don your mirrorshades, and admit you’re still doing cyberpunk (close to four decades later).

Lee Konstantinou on postpunk.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I am endlessly, endlessly cynical about anything with the suffix -punk attached to it, because to me it immediately flags someone as not learning a single damn thing from history.

You know what killed the punks? Like, the original ones?1 Capitalism. That’s always the failure mode of punk; it always sells out, or is appropriated. It’s turned into a marketable aesthetic, into thousand dollar handbags, into liberal communist propaganda for bougie middle-class kids who want to play in the sandpit of rebellion while not, ultimately, doing anything to change a system they know2 will benefit them in the end. And, okay sure. You could make that argument about everything—we live in a late-stage-capitalist hellhole, et cetera—but the fact that we apparently keep recycling this one particular failure mode over and over and over again, with an apparent utter lack of irony, is just frustrating.

Think up a new suffix, kids. Please. And stop retreading the same old paths dressed in different clothes. Trust on this: if you want to get somewhere different, you’re going to have to walk into the scrub.

  1. “Punk’s not dead!” Yeah, okay. And the fact that catchphrase has been around for almost as long as punk itself tells you… what, exactly? []
  2. Or hope. []
2019-02-04T11:42:15+11:007th July, 2019|Tags: books, pop culture, sff|

Ai!

What’s this? A mascot for a (semi) secret new project? Ooh…

Also: yes! I actually inked something! And then cell-shaded it! I, like, never do either of those things but… this turned out okay? There are a few spots I’m not happy with and might revisit eventually before [SPOILERS REDACTED] but, other than that… whee! Crab-robot person! Their name is Ai! Because lawlz obvious jokes.

2019-07-05T12:13:46+10:005th July, 2019|Tags: books, csfg, my art, sff, unnatural order, writing|

New books for June 2019!

New books! Mostly my haul from Continuum, plus one Kickstarter reward, and one book from Japan. Titles include:

  • Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish
  • Alison Evans, Highway Bodies
  • Marlee Jane Ward, Welcome to Orphancorp
  • J.S. Breukelaar, Aletheia
  • Amanda Bridgeman, The Subjugate
  • the remaining B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth collected volumes
  • the Over the Edge core rulebook
  • a touristy artbook of demon and ghost ukiyo-e works I bought from a museum in Harajuku.

Also, if you squint, in the top left of the image you can see the box of Werewolf: the Apocalypse character sheets from the game we haven’t played for like a year because half the players decided to have a baby. Pfft.

2019-06-18T10:19:49+10:0018th June, 2019|Tags: books, comics, tabletop rpgs|

Big Google.

Okay, so… on the one hand this is a decent look at the extent of Google’s creepy data profiling business. Which… sweet.

On the other, it starts with this:

When lazy journalists are pessimistic about Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, they say stuff like: “Even Orwell couldn’t have predicted that we’d willingly bring Big Brother into our own homes.”

And I’m not sure exactly how ironic this is supposed to be because, um actually? Orwell did predict that. Like, he literally predicted that; it tends to get missed in most of the pop culture understanding of 1984, but the telescreen is a consumer good. That is, Party members buy them and voluntarily install them in their homes. Remember the antiques store guy whose house Winston camps at has an offhand comment about how he doesn’t own one because he never bought one, and it’s mentioned in the book that most proles (non-Party members) don’t have them at all? Like, it’s not the most obvious detail and people tend to elide it because of the whole “BIG BROTHER = COMMUNISM!!!” angle—which is also a bad take,1 incidentally—but it totally is there.

So… yeah. Orwell: Still Even More Relevant Than You Think (2019 Edition).

  1. Oceania is ostensibly a socialist state and it does treat “the capitalist” as its ultimate class enemy. But Orwell was a disillusioned socialist himself, and he was more writing about how elite class interests subvert the ideology for their own power than making a critique of socialism per se. In other words, Oceania’s economy is supposed to look more like the one of Franco’s Spain or Hitler’s Germany, i.e. fascist, than anything that would make Marx nod in approval. []
2019-06-07T14:36:36+10:007th June, 2019|Tags: books, pop culture, tech|

Hugos Homework: Best Novel.

So, better late than never I guess; the Hugos packets came out a while ago, but neither being the most organized nor the fastest reader, I’m only getting around to going through them now.

So. Starting with the novels. First off, full disclosure: I no-awarded this category under my own personal protest rule of doing so in any category in which all finalists are American. Partly because of this, I didn’t full read each novel, instead gave them a “first fifty pages” check, which is how I decide on all my reading; basically, a book has fifty pages to either grab me or turn me right off. If it does neither, it gets put aside in the “not for me” pile. Actual reactions to each work on the list are below but, spoiler alert: my NFM pile has just gotten much taller…

(more…)

2019-06-03T10:20:58+10:003rd June, 2019|Tags: books, books read, fandom, hugo awards, sff|

Two quick updates!

Update Ye Firste: Print books

Because I finally got around to it, print versions of Liesmith and Stormbringer are now available for direct-from-me ordering, for those of who who don’t want to/can’t/whatever buy the Amazon versions.

Update Ye Seconde: Continuum

Apparently Continuum is, like, next week? Yikes.

As per usual, I will, indeed, be there. I’m currently scheduled on between zero and two panels:

  1. Superhero Burnout, Friday 9:30pm.
  2. Post-Capitalist Societies, Sunday1 5pm.

I say “between zero and two” because there’s currently contentious around both of them for various reasons, but failing massive… failing, that’s where I’ll be, if anyone feels like listening to me blather in public.

Update: Okay, not so much with the superheroes. The tl;dr is the panel was split between people who agreed with the premise (i.e. yours truly) and those that didn’t. I was interested in the panel in the context of it being a place to gripe about the genre in general, and the hyper-commodification of it in e.g. the MCU in particular, but in the end that wasn’t where things were going, and it felt like keeping things as they were was just going to get… emotionally fraught for all involved. So that’s a peace out from me on that one.

  1. I know it says Saturday in the program, but it got moved. []
2020-05-12T08:35:10+10:0030th May, 2019|Tags: book news, books, cons, continuum, wyrdverse|
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