Listen, I know that there’s a pretty good chance that you (yes, you!) are some kind of policy wonk who only reads Wetmachine for the insight & analysis of all things FCC/Net Neutrality/media hegemony/First Amendment provided by the inimitable Harold Feld.
And there’s also a pretty good chance that you don’t give a care about Harold Feld’s wonky analysis, because you read Wetmachine for Howard Stearns’s stunning and out-of-nowhere insights into software development in general and 3-d collaborative virtual-world software in particular.
Or maybe you’re a Gary Gray groupie. Stranger things have happened. Maybe you even come here to see what I might have to say.
Or maybe, like those men who were busted at the suburban New Jersey bordello a few years ago, you just happened to be here because you pulled your car into the driveway to make a U-turn & got trapped when the fuzz showed up. Maybe you were googling for “Ted Williams’ Frozen Head” and wound up reading this instead.
I don’t care.
Wetmachine readers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, even non-policywonk walks of life. Whatever. All is cool here. One love.
But you all should click on the above video, dammit. And you should chip in at least a buck to support Creation Science, the nifty new novel by moi, the Ur-Wetmechanic. I’ve been bringing you this site for 8 years now. Ain’t that worth nothin? Show me your love! At least watch the flippin video! It’s short!
N.B. Even if this is your first visit to Wetmachine, you can still show me your love. Click on the video! Join the family!
So there’s this site called Kickstarter, and it’s supposed to be used by artists and writers to raise money to support specific artistic endeavors. Because I am out of my mind and don’t have a brain in my head, I have undertaken to write another novel, this one another thriller along the lines of Acts of the Apostles. It’s called “Creation Science”. So, today I launched a Kickstarter project to try to raise some $$ to support me as I do it.
As I documented in my kickstarter project blog, I’ve already had a near encounter with Murphy’s Law, but for the moment, (with some help from Wetmechanic in chief Gary Gray), things seem to be back on track. (Thanks, Gary!)
Below, my project description. But please do go to the kickstarter site, and if you have any love at all for me or even for Wetmachine, chip in a dollar or two. Even better, chip in a dollar or two & help me spread the word.
Creation Science, already about 1/4 written, is a technothriller about scary science– like designer DNA, brain hacking & mind control, computer viruses and biological viruses. It’s about the phony politics of the so-called war on terror, it’s about fundamentalism and anti-science, about transhumanism and hypercapitalism and other modern delusions, and it’s about decent people trying to save humanity from itself.
In it you’ll find the stuff of all great thrillers: conspiracy, duplicity, double-crosses, dispensational Christian fascism, misunderstandings, confusions, car crashes, megalomaniacal villains (in and out of government), explosions, gunplay, Russian Mafias, neuroscience, coincidence, mysterious islands not far from Cape Cod, information theory, disease cowboys in Central Africa looking for the cause of Lassa Fever in the 1970’s, Jane’s Addiction, Mission of Burma, love, regret, remorse, nostalgia and sex. So Creation Science is a thriller. But it’s not just a thriller. Like many writers of thrillers, I get the science right and I get the technology right. But unlike most writers of thrillers, I aspire to create literature.
This is what Andrew Leonard of Salon said about my book “Acts of the Apostles”: “it’s also a book infused with a sensibility that you don’t normally expect a ”hard science fiction“ novel to have: real emotions, real heartbreak and a real sense of the craziness at the core of the human condition.” And that’s exactly what I’m going to try to put into Creation Science too.
A few years ago Wetmechanic Gary Gray and I interviewed my pal Cory Doctorow, the peripatetic author, hep cat, technogeek, futurephiliac, etc, etc, in the lobby of a hotel in Boston. We podcast the interview (in 3 parts) here on Wetmachine. (I’m too lazy to look for the links now, but you know how to use that search tool.) Anyway, Cory’s a good guy to interview because he has lots and lots of interesting things to say and he’s friendly & good natured. But conversations with Cory are half-duplex. (A term that any ancient geeks reading this post will remember. But for you young’uns I’ll explain: in full duplex communications, both ends of a link can send and receive messages. In half-duplex, one party sends and the other party receives. What I’m saying is that Cory is smart and nice and funny and interesting, but he doesn’t listen to a fucking word you say. (Or, in any event, he doesn’t listen to a fucking word *I* say.))
My favorite part of our conversation is where we’re talking about the costs and benefits of societal change, especially change brought about by technological advances. We’re talking about the possible end of the art form known as “the movie” as we know it today. What if digital duplication and peer-to-peer technologies make it economically infeasible for a studio to invest the sums necessary for a “real” movie like those we’ve become accustomed to for three quarters of a century or so (think: Lord of the Rings)? Cory makes the observation that with the Protestant Reformation came the end of the era of great cathedrals: because of the Reformation, no more grand cathedrals will ever be built. Cathedral-making is an art form that died because it had to die. But in exchange for that lost art, Cory says (I’m paraphrasing from memory), we got the Reformation. And then he asks “Was it worth it?”
If you listen closely, you can hear me responding, “that’s an interesting question.” (I know you’re not going to go find and listen to the podcast, but just pretend, OK?) Indeed, I thought it was a very interesting question. I was actually thinking about the costs, in blood and war and terror and murder and rape and rapine and starvation and hatred and blind tribal ignorance, that came with religious wars that accompanied the Reformation. And I was thinking about the mysterious awe-inspiring beauty of the (admittedly somewhat perverse) art form of the cathedral. And I was wondering, for the first time, what might have happened to the art form of the cathedral if the Reformation had never happened. I’m a technophobic & nostalgic guy, after all. I was thinking, “what if ever more and more beautiful cathedrals had been built?”
For Cory, of course, it was a rhetorical question, not a real question, and the answer was “yes”. Yes, losing the art form of the cathedral was an OK price to pay in exchange for the Reformation. Cory didn’t even hear, much less respond to, to my ambivalent response. He just steamrollered right over it. Of course the trade-off was worth it. Of course the new art forms that arise when old art forms are killed are “worth it”. The emergent art forms will offer new and unanticipated beauty and splendid insights into our human condition. So, he said (paraphrasing again), the old art must die so that that new and even more profound art can emerge.
As my 4 long-time readers might guess, I was skeptical about this. For I am given to worrying all the time about the wanton destruction of culture in the name of a bogus and ephemeral “progress”. I’m very skeptical about “progress.”
But then I saw the video embedded below, which I found on Spocko’s website — (and Spocko, in fact, actually discovered it on Cory’s own site Boing Boing). And now I’m starting to think, “Cory was right.” Not because this video is more beautiful and satisfying than (name your favorite movie (or cathedral)). But because this is a new art form. It’s shocking. It’s breathtaking. But it’s not shocking in the elitist “Épater la bourgeoisie” sense. It’s shocking because it’s so entrancing and fun, while at the same time implicitly raising a thousand deep questions (and I don’t even speak Korean). It’s just so unexpected, so friendly, so welcoming and so beautiful that I really can’t find words to respond to it. Sure, it’s just a little music video, and Lord knows a music video is not a new thing. But for now, tonight, this one feels to me like someting really really big. As big as the Iranian revolution on Twitter; or, more precisely, it’s an artistic exploration of the possibilities implicit in that revolution. And a big part of the reason for that is that it’s so human, so un-Godlike, so small.
UPDATE Below the fold, a minor elaboration. UPDATE 2 On Ultrasaurus, Sarah Allen blogs about this post. I like what she has to say, and am impressed that she went back and actually listened to the interview.
How long before TERRORISTS hijack and marry these two technologies and we find ourselves ATTACKED by swarms of GIANT RADIOACTIVE WASPS possibly with toxin that predisposes us to CONVERT TO ISLAM???
I can see only one solution: put all wasps under administrative control of the Department of Homeland Security, and instruct the NSA to monitor all of their communications.
(P.S. Attentive long-time readers of Wetmachine may wonder why I, and not Gary Gray, posted this story. I can only respond that I don’t know. However, I did suggest it to him, and he did not pick it up. Does that strike anybody else as suspicious?)
Well, with the help of my esteemed collaborator and amanuensis the bon vivant man-about-town Gary Gray, I’ve put up a kindle book version of The Pains over on the website of the borg Amazon.com. IMHO the kindle version is not as cool as the paper version–among other lossage, the illustrations are all gray scale, not luminous color (or colour, as Sir Cheeseburge Brown, the illustrator, would have it) but on the other hand, at $4 a pop it’s not a bad deal.
If you have a kindle and are feeling flush, why not buy a copy? You’ll help a struggling (and I do mean struggling) genius, and also get a fun book, for less than the price of whatever you can get for $4.01.
From an article in New Scientist entitled, I fecal matter you not, “Rise of the rat-brained robots”:
. . . the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature. We know this because the network of neurons is connected at the base of the pot to 80 electrodes, and the voltages sparked by the neurons are displayed on a computer screen.
Normally this kind of story is the province of furtive Wetmachiner Gary Gray, but Gary hasn’t posted anything here since his wedding day some months ago. Which could mean anything, just say’n. In the meantime I’ll do my best to assume his wetmachine slack. I’m proud to say I was his Best Man, and the attendant responsibilities last a lifetime, what-what?
And furthermore, long dormant wetmechanics have been known to pop up and chirp, after a long sojourn underground, just like N-year locusts. With Greg resurgent, can Gary be far behind? Or David? Or, yegods, Peg or Christian? My advice? Stay tuned. Rat brains in jars controlling machinery have prortent! I swear I believe it!
Well that was a fun and significant weekend. Gary Gray, (known in some parts as variously Wetmachine’s “quiet Beatle”, Wetmachine’s Cowboy Neal, Wetmachine’s Scotty (“I can no make Wetmachine go any faster, Captain, the di-lithium crystals are already overheated!”), etc, ) got married to the lovely and talented Marcia Levin. As I can attest with some confidence, having been best man.
According to this article in the Montgomery Advertiser, “To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama”.
You must check out the photo.
When you do I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as did Pvt Hudson and Ripley: “Blast off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
SHOUT OUT TO GARY GRAY: This was your story, man. I saw it on the ex-of-Curl list, which I know you read too. So where was you? Ping below to let us know you’re OK, OK? Because this is a Gary story if ever there was one.
As mentioned here, Cory Doctorow (“world’s most wired human” etc), recently spent an hour talking with me and wetmechanic Gary Gray. In part two of our talk you’ll hear Cory say, “what the mafia likes is high-margin goods” and “there is no more thankless job in the world than being the Pecksniff who tells people that what they want is bad.” He also waxes eloquent on: cathedrals after the Reformation: the collapse and possible restoration of the serendipitous market for books: the making of films suited to the economics of the internet, and more.
You’ll also get to hear me mumbling, muttering, interrupting myself, and being generally inaudible but nevertheless somehow compelling. As a bonus, Wetmachine fanboys and -girls (I know you’re out there!) who play close attention will even hear the legendary Gary making an observation about movies and symphonic music!
The book that I recommended to Cory was Illicit by Moises Naim. When I was referring to my own books, which you can find by looking to the left side of this entry, Acts of the Apostles is the first, more accessible book, and Cheap Complex Devices is the less accessible one that I wrote special just for you smart people. The book I have under development is called The Pains, and you’ll be hearing more about it soon.