Wetmachine Blog: Memology

Meme-spreading and mind viruses

Pussy Riot nails their theses to the doors of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

You may have heard of the recently concluded trial in Moscow of three members of the feminist-politico punk rock collective known as Pussy Riot. (I first heard of Pussy Riot through Amnesty International, whose mailing list I’m on.) The trial has concluded, and now Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samoutsevitch await the verdict, and presumably, sentencing, on August 17. They face up to three years in prison for the crime of “hooliganism”. They’ve already spent six months behind bars, some of which time they were on hunger strike. From Wikipedia, here is an account of their action which brought them to their current incarcerated state:

On February 21, 2012, as a part of a protest movement against re-election of Vladimir Putin, three women from the group came to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, crossed themselves, bowed to the altar, and began to perform a song. After less than one minute, they were escorted outside the building by guards. The film of the performance was later used to create a video clip for the song.

In the song, the group asked the “Theotokos” (Mother of God, i.e. the Virgin Mary) (rus. Богородица Bogoroditsa) to “drive Putin away”. The song also describes the Russian Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow as someone who believes in Putin rather than in God. Kirill showed open support for Putin as a candidate before the presidential election.

I urge you to read the closing statement from Ms. Samoutsevitch. It is a document of great subtlety and insight, and read by a woman of obviously great courage. Below the fold, a few observations on this closing statement.

Read More »

Also posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen — another economical reposting

Don’t know why I’ve fallen into a Wetmachine non-posting funk; trying hard to get back in the swing of things. But even though I haven’t posted anything in a month or so, I’ll be Dang-blasted if I’ll let St. Urhu’s day go uncelebrated here. Attention must be paid, after all.

I don’t think I can say it any better than I did last year, (or the year before. . .) so without further ado, our best Wetmechanical salute to brave St. Urhu, who drove the grasshoppers from Finland, the land of my (some of) my fathers. And mothers.

Grasshopper, Grasshopper, buzz off why don’t ya?

That special time of year, when St. Urhu’s day elides into the name-day of St. Padraic, is again upon us. Longtime readers know that here at Wetmachine we have a special place in our hearts for this great Finno-Irish-American festival–mainly on account of I started this site and I’m a Finno-Irish American, of which there ain’t too damn many offer dere, as my late Grandfather “Pop” used to say.

 

Ode to Saint Urho

Ooksie kooksi coolama vee – Santia Urho is ta poy for me!

He sase out ta hoppers as pig as pirds – Neffer peefor haff I hurd tose words!

He reely tolt tose pugs of kreen – Braffest Finn I effer seen!

Some celebrate for St. Pat unt hiss nakes – Putt Urho poyka kot what it takes.

He kot tall and trong from feelia sour – Unt ate kala moyakka effery hour.

Tat’s why tat kuy could sase toes peetles – What krew as thick as chack bine neetles.

So let’s give a cheer in hower pest vay – On Sixteenth March, St. Urho’s Tay!

P.S. The Irish, sure, will take care o’ temselves on the morrow; of that I’ve do doubt.

Also posted in General, infotainment, My Thoughts Exactly | Comments closed

Micro-Atrios Post to Say I’m Still Here and just you wait, because shit is fucked up & bullshit.

As I’ve mentioned earlier once or twice, one of my favorite bloggers is Atrios of Eschacton (you can google him up as easily as I can put in the links). He blogs about politics and economics, mostly, with some cultural analysis and commentary on urban planning and transportation from time to time. I like that many of his post are what I call dog-bark yelps; one of his typical blog titles (followed by a link to some distressing news about the state of our nation (USA) is “Shit is fucked up and bullshit.”

I have a lot I want to blog about. So much that I get in my own way and trip over myself and end up posting nothing for distressingly long hiati (hiatuses). I have bunch of things half0-written & queued up, but I think my next post will be about some of the remarkably subtle and insightful things my friend Geraldine Brooks said the other night in an informal talk about the American Civil War in general, and her novel March in particular. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about the Civil War lately, and about how it was the result of 76 years of putting off until tomorrow dealing with the fact that slavery was incompatible with the ideals on which the country was founded.

In 2012, the whole world is, it seems to me, in a situation akin to that of the nation of the United States of America was in 1858 or so. There is a great reckoning to come. Where slavery was the great obvious problem to be resolved in the Civil War, the issues now before us are pan-human economic justice and survival of the planet Earth as a habitable place for all of us. The probability of a happy resolution of both of these issues will be apparent by how the SOPA/PIPA abomination fares in the U.S. Congress, and whether the XL pipeline is built. These will be crucial indicators –which is not to say determinants–of where we are and whither we are tending.  In the USA it became tragically apparent that the solution of the problem of slavery (and with it the preservation of the Union) could not be solved without war, war and death on a scale barely conceivable at the time and still hard to comprehend today, 150 years later. But something vastly worse awaits us if we keep putting off until tomorrow the problems that now confront us.

Shit is still so fucked up and bullshit. Damnit, Atrios, you are so right on the money.  Anyway, this is a place-holder diary entry to say happy 2012, and may we all be happy and prosper until the Mayan calendar ends and methane plumes erupt from beneath the arctic seas and the permafost melts to a depth of 20 metres and earth becomes Venus.  I’ll try to post more soon. I expect my tone will become increasingly abolitionist and strident as time passes, but let’s hope that it all works out.   Leave  a comment! Let’s get 2012 of to a nice, friendly, low energy start!

 

 

 

Also posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", General, I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Cyberpunk Pioneer John Jurek’s nanotech-powered programmable KaeLF Skin finally arrives

Photo from Endgaget of nanotech "artificial skin"

Jurek's KaeLF Skin seen in the wild

 

I see from Engadget that some wacky scientists at a “defense”-related (quasi?)-governmental research laboratory have invented a “cyberpunky” electronic skin using nanotechnology:

Researchers working for the Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab have figured out how to create relatively inexpensive “electronic skin” comprising carbon nanotubes enriched with semiconductors. Their process involves an enriched single walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) solution embedded in a honeycomb pattern of hexagonal holes. . .

The article goes on to say that this is a development reminiscent of the novels of William Gibson et al. But Gibson’s not the cyberpunk author that this story brought to my mind. I thought of John Jurek, whose 2000 self-published novel KaeLF Skin was about just such an artificial skin and the various fun and vicious uses it could be put to.  If I remember right, Jurek’s KaeLF Skin was invented at a quasi-governmental research lab — perhaps even Berkeley itself; I can’t seem to find my copy of the book right now to fact-check. But in any event, much of the book concerns Berkeley Laboratory-type doings. The Engadget article could have been ripped from KaeLF Skin’s prologue, that’s how close Jurek’s book is to this story.

I forget how John and I discovered each other’s books, but since we had both written and published cyberpunky thrillers based on nanotech themes, we agreed to do a book swap: he sent me an iUniverse (printed) copy of KaeLF Skin and I sent him a copy of my Acts of the Apostles.  He wrote a glowing review of my book for the Midwest Book Review,(alas, since confined to oblivion), and an abbreviated version of that glorious review for Amazon. I wrote a positive but somewhat less glowing review of his book and posted it on Amazon. After that we exchanged emails for a few months, and I remember that he was pretty down about the poor reception that his book gotten– like most self-published novels KaeLF Skin didn’t sell many copies and got few reviews.

My original review of KaeLF Skin, which I posted on Amazon, is below. Read More »

Also posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly, Wetware, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

My David Mitchell Cloud Atlas Problem

Picture of a Russian nesting doll

The Structure of Cloud Atlas

I see that the Wachowski brothers are making a movie from David Mitchell’s metafictiony novel Cloud Atlas. From PurpleRevolver:

Based on David Mitchell’s best-selling novel, Cloud Atlas is an epic story of humankind in which the actions and consequences of our lives impact one another throughout the past, present and future.

One soul is shaped from a murderer into a saviour and a single act of kindness ripples out for centuries to inspire a revolution.

The independently financed film will be co-directed and written by the directors/writers of the hugely successful Matrix trilogy, Andy and Lana Wachowski and Perfume director Tom Tykwer.

The guys who made the Matrix movies, which are all about Philip K. Dick-type reality-within-reality-within-reality self-referential story-systems, taking on Cloud Atlas seems to me perhaps a pretty good match (so long as there are no techno-orgy scenes). But the prospect still makes me a bit antsy. (Even setting aside the elephant-in-the room Keanu question.) Will they find the emotional heart to the heart of the story, or go for the whiz-bang-slo-mo-bullet-dodging effects?

Mitchell’s book, which I enjoyed, is structured like a matryoska doll. It’s got six or seven narratives, each written in a different style, that enclose each other like parens in a Lisp program. The first (and last) story is in an archaic faux Daniel Defoe style; it gets interrupted midway through, where the next story, an epistolary novelette told in letters written by a jaded modernist English composer and leech living in Belgium between WW1 and WW2 begins; that tale gets cut in the middle & succeeded by the first half of hard-boiled Raymond Chandler-style noir detective story. There’s also a far-future science fiction tale, a surreal Kafkaesque fable and one told in a kind of pidgin.

There are hundreds of reviews of Cloud Atlas out there on the net that will tell you all you want or don’t want to know about the near-virtuosic literary technique Mitchell employs (or shows off) in the service of his tale.

Below the fold, my David Mitchell Cloud Atlas problem. Read More »

Also posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Pynchon, Hofstadter, David Foster Wallace and Me: Note on the Frustration of Trying to Create a Pre-Singularity, Post-Postmodern Literature

A little while ago I put out a tweet on twitter asking for advice about how to make my books known to readers who gravitate to writers like Stanislaw Lem, Douglas Hofstadter, Vladimir Nabokov (Pale Fire in particular), Borges, Pynchon, etc.

Of course my tweet had a purpose and a meta-purpose; the purpose was to actually solicit ideas about how to make my book known to readers of those authors, and the meta-purposed was to advertise my books to people searching for tweets on Pynchon, Borges, Pale Fire, etc. In other words my question was merely a hook into which to insert keywords — a cynical, albeit widespread, practice. In fact, my trolling for tweet-stream readers was my primary aim, I suspect. I didn’t really expect much in the way of answers, or at least of original answers.

But one fellow replied with words to the effect, “Blog about those authors and what you find compelling about them, then tweet about your blog post. People will follow the connection to your novels.”

Now, that is not a dazzingly original suggestion, but oddly enough it turns out that in my hundreds of posts here on Wetmachine and elsewhere, I’ve hardly ever written about what it is in literature that I think is important, and what I’m trying to do with my books.

So, below the fold, a few observations.
Read More »

Also posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Wetware, Writing | Comments closed

Remembering Tom West, the Original Geek Rock Star

I was saddened to learn of the passing last week of Tom West, the engineer/hacker who was the main focus of Tracy Kidder’s 1981 book The Soul of a New Machine. Tom was 71. Boston.com published a nice obituary; there were also notices in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other places.

From the Boston.com article:

 

Thirty years ago, Tom West was thrust into a category of one, a famous computer engineer, with the publication of “The Soul of a New Machine.’’

Tracy Kidder’s book, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and is taught in business classes and journalism schools, chronicled Mr. West’s role leading a team that built a refined version of a 32-bit minicomputer at a key juncture for the computer industry and his employer, Data General of Westborough.

The book’s success turned a quirky, brilliant, private, and largely self-taught man into a somewhat reluctant guru.

 

I call Tom by his first name because I knew him, and that’s what I called him. In fact for a short while early in my career I worked quite closely with him — at the tail end of my four year stint at Data General.

As Soul of a New Machine amply demonstrates, West was a compelling figure. Everybody agrees he was quirky and brilliant; some people have mentioned his  being difficult or “prickly”. I have to say that I don’t remember a prickly side to the man. He could be abrupt, sure. Direct. Economical of speech. But if he had a temper or was harsh or unfair, I either never saw it or have since forgotten about it. I just remember that I really liked him.

Although I can’t claim to have been great friends with the man — I don’t know if he would even have remembered my name — he made a deep impression on me. When I wrote the novella Cheap Complex Devices in 2003 — about twenty years since I had worked with Tom West at Data General — a quirky, brilliant and (I think) extremely funny character named Tom Best showed up all through it. I can’t take much credit for Tom Best’s funny lines, however, since I stole most of them from Tom W. Read More »

Also posted in Hardware, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Wetware, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Cage Match! Late to his Own Funeral!

So today’s my day in the Blog Tour De Force Cage, and I overslept! Oy! What a way to start one’s mixed martial arts career! So, without further ado, here’s a big hello and best wishes to my esteemed opponent Kimberly Kinrade and her poignant story, poem, dream collection about a love gone violently off the rails, Bits of You & Pieces of Me.

Blog Tour de Force Cage Match

Hope I don't get my lights punched out

Representing me in the ring is my Acts of the Apostles, a nanopunk biopunk cypberpunk thriller in the “Neal Stephenson meets Flannery O’Connor and Michael Crichton and Joseph Conrad” tradition, or as Hemos said on Sashdot oh so many years ago, “What Tom Clancy would write if he were smart”.

I’ll update this post as the day goes on, after coffee, but I think I’ had better get this up on my site soon, lest I lose this match by default!

Everybody who comments here today gets a free ebook version of Acts. Be sure to leave me an email addy. One lucky reader gets ebook versions of all three of my books, and a signed, printed copy of any one of my titles. More anon! Let the pummeling commence resume.

UPDATE 4/21: My day in the cage is over. I’m grateful for all the love in the comments. It was quite a showing of support. Alas, I did get my ass pretty roundly & soundly kicked by new Champeen Kimberly, but all in all I’m happy with the turnout. I’ll be sending out coupons today to people who posted yesterday. You can redeem them for a free ebook version of Acts of the Apostles from Smashwords.com in the ebook format of your choice. Free ebook giveaway is now over; if you missed out feel free to buy a copy. They’re cheap!

Also posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | 79 Comments (Comments closed)

Pioneering Fantasy Author Brian Rathbone talks with Wetmachine about the Future of Publishing

I met Brian Rathbone, author of the World of Godsland fantasy series,  on Twitter. I posted something relating to self-publishing, he answered, and pretty soon we were exchanging emails. I found that although I had learned a lot in more than ten years of self-publishing, there were lots of new trends that I had kind of missed. One of them being Twitter itself, which I was not making very good use of, and another being ebook publishing & distributing (when I met Brian, I had about 250 followers on twitter and he had 15,000. I had given away tens of thousands of free ebooks but sold only a few dozens of them). It was Brian who turned me onto Smashwords, which I now use to distribute my Acts of the Apostles to half a dozen ebook retailers, including Apple and Barnes & Noble. (See my interview with Smashwords founder Mark Coker here).

Brian is a very creative user of social media, and also of “podiobooks” — self-recorded audiobooks (which he explains below). He’s not only a good writer and creative self-publisher, he’s also an extremely nice fellow. I encourage you to check out his interview below the fold, and by all means, buy one of his books!

Brian joins the roster of luminaries interviewed here on Wetmachine about the future of publishing that includes Smashwords’ Mark Coker, Writer’s Digest honcho emeritus Jane Friedman, book designer extraordinaire Joel Friedlander, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks.

Read More »

Also posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

You’re Right, Bruce Sterling: I *am* the future of printed fiction. Let’s discuss at SXSW!

A few months ago I blogged about my ten-or-so year long [career|hobby| pipe-dream|unhealthy obsession] as an itinerant peddler of my self-published nanopunky cyberpunky biopunky novel and novellas. That post was called Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations.

A few weeks after I had posted this bit, the cyberpunk celebrity/novelist Bruce Sterling picked up on it, writing in an entry about me in his beyond the beyond blog entitled “The Future of Printed Fiction“. (Actually he didn’t write a blog entry about me — he copy/pasted my Wetmachine post and inserted into it a few oracular comments of his own.)

It’s all about being a make-do gypsy at the fringes of the web conference scene,” Sterling said in his prefatory remarks. “Gothic High-Tech, Favela Chic”.

I’ve been pondering that pronouncement (and others like it that he sprinkled through post by way of annotation) for a few months now (his post is dated October 14, 2010). Below the fold, I make an attempt at parsing them. I do detect a general tone of condescension in Sterling’s comments. Which, y’know, who cares. And furthermore I’m not even sure about that, that his comments are condescending. It seems like he’s making fun of me, but maybe he’s doing straight reporting or maybe he’s free-associating/scat-singing, like a jazz musician or person with Tourettes; I can’t really tell and anyway I’m not well-placed to judge, inasmuch as the subject is my life’s work. Mostly I’m grateful that Sterling blogged about me at all, because he has legions of fans & I got a nice jolt of web traffic and a mini-spike in book sales after he anointed me The Future of Printed Fiction. So thanks, Bruce.

In related news, both Sterling and I are slated to be in Austin, Texas next March for SXSW, the mega indie artist hipster conclave, at which event he will be giving a keynote talk to the multitudes and I’ll be on a panel (presumably before a much smaller and less adoring audience than Sterling’s) entitled “The Self-Publishing Novelist: Report from the Trenches

Since Bruce & I will both be at SXSW, maybe I’ll get a chance to chat with him & ask him what his comments meant. Or, maybe, just maybe, when I get to SXSW & plop myself down in a chair to listen to his opening address I’ll discover that I’m the subject of his keynote talk, which will be about nothing other than, yes THE FUTURE OF PRINTED FICTION & how I, Sundman is it! And I will find myself thereby catapulted into cyberbionanonovelist superstardom, right alongside Bruce Himself and William Gibson and what’s his face, who wrote Cryptonomicon and is now working some newfangled space-age post-fiction with my friend Nicki Galland and that other guy who wrote the book about little nanomachines taking over your mind — no, not Acts of the Apostles , the other one. Probably not, I realize that. But if you’re reading this, Bruce, and would like to join me for a cuppa whatever, please do  have your people call my people.

While I do confess to a bit of bewilderment about what Sterling is actually saying about me in his post, I think the gist is that printed (fiction) books are rapidly becoming “collector” artifacts for niche and rapidly shrinking communities of readers, like classic 35MM film cameras (Pentax, Minolta, Leica, Hasselblad. . .) that once commanded premiums in specialty stores and now go for a few bucks at flea markets.

Who knows, he may be right about that.

Read More »

Also posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register