Now Zero – July, 2022

Deconstruction

I think the sirens in The Odyssey sang The Odyssey,
for there is nothing more seductive, more terrible,
than the story of our own life, the one we do not
want to hear and will do anything to listen to.

– Mary Ruefle

The Writing

I got my first bit of feedback on SYTI this past month, and it was very encouraging. This friend isn’t necessarily a reader of sci-fi books, but will read my work because she’s a great friend and super reliable (I think she’s maybe consistently been the first person to get back to me with feedback on every big project I send out). She was, however, a big fan of Anne Rice’s books when she was younger, and she seemed genuinely excited about my SF vampire novella, which is great, and helped me feel a little more excited again as I gear up for the next draft. Just waiting on further feedback from one or two more people – that way I can see if they have the same issues, or entirely different ones.

She wasn’t sure about the opening couple of chapters, and neither was I to be honest. Overhauling those could be a big job, but it’ll be worth it.

I mentioned Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution last month and one thing Watts does is write additional stories in the universe of his novels and publish them on his website (sometimes directly, sometimes after they’ve been published in a magazine). I’d already planned to write a direct prequel story to SYTI, but this month I scratched out some notes on some other potential stories I could write in the world. There are always multiple projects I want to be working on, but I’m considering planning out the rest of the series SYTI belongs to…

Another thing I did this month was spend a few days collating all of my loose story and writing notes into Obsidian. There are countless notes programs out there, but I went with Obsidian mainly because it’s not cloud-based, subscription-based, or proprietary – it just sits on a bunch of text files that are formatted in Markdown and ties everything together neatly for you.

I’ve got a few projects where I have so many notes that I didn’t think it was worthwhile moving them into Obsidian – they’ll go into their own Word/Scrivener docs when I’m ready to start work.

Generally my way of making notes in the first place is to email them to myself – which is handy because you can do it from any device you’ve currently got your hands on, and if you’re trying to do it in bed, you can turn your phone brightness way down, instead of needing to turn on a light so you can write in a notepad. Having a folder in your email client for a project is a pretty good way to keep track of everything, but when it comes to loose ideas and random snippets, I needed something a bit more organised.

Nothing Here Newsletter

And all the rest

I found out the other day that a friend is taking over Interzone Magazine – Good luck, Gareth! I’m keen to see the magazine continue to grow and evolve, and I’m certain it’s in good hands because Gareth is a super knowledgeable, hard-working, and passionate sort. The interviews with SF authors he conducted for Intermultiversal were some of the best I’d read (and experienced, as I was one of his early test subjects), and the only downside I can see to Gareth running Interzone is that he won’t have time for the podcast too.

Alright, it’s been a big week, and I’m tired, so I’ll leave it here. Look after yourself, look out for those closest to you, and be prepared to throw bricks at cops for the sake of civil rights, human rights, and queer rights. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Now Zero – June, 2022

It’s all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is.

 – Lon Milo Duquette

The Writing

I got the current draft of SYTI off to my beta readers early in May and have done a pretty good job of pushing it out of my mind while I wait (patiently – other people have lives of their own) for them to get back to me.

The hunt for an agent continues with OS.

I wrote the first chunk of a collaborative novella I’m writing with Marlee Jane Ward, who’s brilliant Orphancorp series is well-worth a look if you’ve not taken my suggestion to read it before now. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the project yet because it’s early, but I’m excited to see how it develops. Part of the impetus for wanting to write it is that Marlee has struggled to write since the pandemic (and the isolation of Melbourne’s lockdowns), but when she does write her work is as brilliant as ever. I’m hoping that a collaborative project will help her get back on the horse, and I just want to see what comes from our combined styles, foci, obsessions, experiences, etc. I’m hoping we might have a first draft by the end of the year, but I’m also going to sit back and let Marlee take the time she needs.

I’ve started planning work on two projects that could both be short comic series (my understanding is that anything longer than 4 or so issues is unlikely to get picked up unless you’re a known quantity, plus I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew). One would be comedic, in the same vein as an old collab project, the other would be a synthesis of Killing Gravity and Repo Virtual in some ways. I’ve been writing notes on this project for a couple of months now, and that comparison only occurred to me today. In some ways I worry, but it’s a different story, different world, different medium, it’s just that I’ll also be treading some familiar ground. It’s odd what we find ourselves drawn to again and again.

My contributor copy of Phase Change arrived and it looks/feels great. The contents are pretty amazing too.

Buddies without Organs

We’re currently on a MH hiatus. I won’t say more now except that I hope we’ll be back to it soon. Working on this podcast with Sean and Matt has been a real highlight of the past year or so for me.

Nothing Here Newsletter

And all the rest

There’s some people I really respect who spend a lot of time on twitter actively promoting the work of other people – finding and boosting great works in the SFFH space, while keeping their own self-promotion to a minimum. It’s not something I can really do – I struggle to read new books in a timely manner (I pre-ordered Cassandra Khaw’s latest and still haven’t cracked it open eight months later) – but I do make an effort to give detailed feedback on manuscripts for people in my close circle/s. I don’t know how much reach I would have in terms of promotion, but I feel confident in my ability to pick out the issues with a book and be able to advise people on ways to address them. And also why those issues are issues – why and when some writing rules are necessary and why and when others can be disregarded – because sometimes a concept/rule/guideline won’t click until it’s been explained.

Also, I finished reading Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution the other day which is, unsurprisingly, brilliant. I wish I’d picked up Blindsight the first time I’d heard it mentioned as Watts has quickly become one of my favourite authors working today (and possibly that last caveat isn’t even required). He has a number of short stories as well as 4 entire novels available to read for free on his website.

I think that will do for now. Pretend I said something hopeful and gently encouraging here, because we could all do with a bit of that these days, couldn’t we?

Phase Change – Available to Order

I just wanted to share this briefly – I got my contributor’s copy of Phase Change, and it is a hefty slab of hopeful energy futures, coming in at a bit under 450 pages.

It’s available for order now via the Twelfth Planet Press website, in ebook and paperback. Even if I wasn’t involved I’d be excited about this book – it’s exactly the sort of fiction we need for the current moment.

Catastrophic climate change sparked by the fossil fuel industry leaves us no choice: we must decarbonise. To create another world we need different narratives. With visions spanning from transhuman planet-hopping through post-cyberpunk paranoia to solarpunk ecotopianism, this collection dislocates our present energy regimes to imagine energy transitions and futures in all their complexities. These are stories of phase change.

Paolo Bacigalupi • Eugen Bacon • Carmel Bird • Grace Dugan • Thoraiya Dyer • Greg Egan • Tom Flood • Andrew Dana Hudson and Corey J. White • Sid Jain • John Kinsella • Rosaleen Love • Andrew Macrae • Nick Mamatas • Paul Graham Raven • Simon Sellars • Cat Sparks • Molly Tanzer • Ben Walter • Jo Lindsay Walton • Wendy Waring • David Whish-Wilson • Jasper Wyld

‘Wildly imaginative, heartrending, furious and hopeful, the stories in Phase Change are a reminder of science fiction’s vital role in helping us imagine a new and better future.’

— James Bradley, author of Ghost Species

‘From transformed planetary ecologies to transhuman altered genomes, from ubiquitous drone surveillance and widespread mass extinction to prison abolition and a people’s history of ecoterrorism, Phase Change is your handbook for the next century (and beyond).’

— Gerry Canavan, editor of Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction

Now Zero – May, 2022

Mandela’s Sermon

Blessed are the dehumanized
for they have nothing to lose
but their patience

False gods killed the poet in me. Now
I dig graves
with artistic precision

Keorapetse Kgositsile (2002)

This month a poem instead of a writing quote.

The Writing

Edits finished on SYTI and I sent it out to my beta readers. After some hefty cuts I got it down to 42k which is still too long to technically count as a novella. Oh well, that’s a problem for future Corey.

Usually I get about 24 hours of pride at being finished followed by a week of depression (because I’m not working on anything and therefore not being productive and not living up to my own expectations? I dunno, but there’s a reason I’m in therapy), and this time was no different. Less obvious this time around, but a definite low mood. I give myself a couple of weeks off after finishing a big project, so tomorrow I should be back at it, planning the next thing (actually potentially 4 next things…)

One niche genre I love is that of ‘broken man breaks bad men to rescue an innocent’ – think You Were Never Really Here (film over book, but both are great), Galveston (book over film, but both are great), Man on Fire (the Tony Scott film), and others that aren’t quite worth the mention. I finally came up with my own take on it, which also feeds on a sci-fi element I’ve been wanting to use for a while now, so I’m excited to bash something together for that. I’m thinking it’d either be a 20k word novella, or a 4-issue comic. Been meaning to write a comic for years, so maybe now is the time…

I saw Everything, Everywhere, All at Once over the weekend, and it’s a brilliant film, likely the best sci-fi action comedy ever (and not just because I can’t remember any other films with a proper dose of all three), but the annoying thing is that the way it uses the multiverse overlaps with some of my tinkering for a multiversal spy series I’ve been slowly growing over years. I don’t know that it really matters because the breakthrough I mentioned in the last update should make the idea different enough from Everything… but it’s always annoying to get beaten to the punch. Though I have to say the film’s approach to comedy was something I never would have considered, but when you’re talking about literally infinite universes it would be a missed opportunity not to have fun with it.

Buddies without Organs

On this episode, the buddies revisit Fisher’s blogpost “Terminator Versus Avatar” and explore its extended implications for the contemporary.

nothing here newsletter

Latest batch of issues from the NH team.

And all the rest

I mentioned seeing a movie, which in this instance translates to a visit to the cinema for the first time in over 2 years. I know that many people have been happily out in the world for months already, but I’m still approaching things with trepidation (and a mask). It’s a difficult balance to strike, and I’m aware that there are people who would think a trip to the cinemas now is still reckless even as the majority seems primed to pretend that things are “back to normal” even with daily case numbers telling a very different story. I thought this piece at Scientific American was interesting and useful, even as it’s geared toward the American context.

One of the key points that stuck with me was this:

She considers community risk high when there are more than 50 weekly cases per 100,000 residents. When the risk is lower than that, Jetelina—a healthy, young boosted person—feels comfortable taking off her mask indoors. “I will say it’s taken a lot of time for me to be comfortable with that,” she says. “Once transmission rates of those indicators start increasing a bit, I’m putting my mask back on.”

And despite the relief people may feel, we’re still at figures much higher than 50 weekly cases here in Victoria. The good news though is that the cinema is highlighted as a safe venue due to the high ceilings, so I don’t feel like I’m being careless with my close ones and community more generally.

If you’re struggling as much as I am with striking that risk balance, have a read over that piece because it’s probably going to be clearer than whatever messaging you’ve been getting from your government.

I’m going to call it there for now. I’m tired. Everything is tiring.

Now Zero – April, 2022

It is to be remembered that all art is magical in origin – music, sculpture, writing, painting – and by magical I mean intended to produce very definite results.
 – William S. Burroughs

What results are you trying to produce?

The Writing

First update is one I’ve already posted about here – the TOC has been announced for the Night, Rain, and Neon Cyberpunk Anthology, including myself, Ian McDonald, Tim Maughan, T.R. Napper, and many many more. It should be a fantastic collection of modern cyberpunk, and preorders are open now – paperback and limited edition hardcover.

Secondly, the cover has been revealed for the Phase Change Anthology, which will feature a story by myself and Andrew Dana Hudson, as well as some other brilliant authors including Greg Egan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Eugen Bacon, Andrew Macrae, Simon Sellars, Cat Sparks, and many more.

I’ll post properly once preorders are up (I think it’ll be a Kickstarter), but the theme for the anthology is really interesting and solarpunk adjacent, so I expect a lot of great ideas and futures in this collection.

Meanwhile, edits continue on SITY. The second draft came in at just under 47k words, and I’m more than half-way through the third draft, which will be the draft I send to beta readers. Trying to be brutal in my cuts to get in under 40k, but I’m also working with pen and paper, so I won’t know until I make those edits in the doc.

[I actually had a great idea on the way back from my walk last night – it’s just a small addition to SYTI, but it has far-reaching and hopefully interesting implications for where I can go with the sequels. Don’t know exactly where the chips are going to fall, but it’s a new bone for my brain to chew on for a while.]

Once that’s off to beta readers I’ll be working on some new projects – most likely picking away at 3 collab projects while deciding which solo project is next. SYTI is the first in a series, and there’s a sequel to OS I want to write, but I also figured out a fresh approach for an idea I’ve been sitting on for years, so I’m newly excited about that. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed I’ll land an agent soon and have someone help me make these decisions.

Buddies Without Organs

In episode 3, the Buddies dive deeper into the work of Mark Fisher with help from special guest Amy Ireland. Falling further down the CCRU K-hole, we cover the multi-layered hyperstitional piece “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?”, belief and unbelief, Monarch conspiracies, the numogram, and more.

Amy Ireland is an experimental writer and theorist best known for her work with the technomaterialist transfeminist collective, Laboria Cuboniks. She has exhibited and performed work in Australia, the UK, Korea, China, Canada, and France. Amy currently works as an editor for UK publisher Urbanomic.

This week, the buddies step away from the CCRU (though maybe not too far) and turn their attention to a blogpost Mark Fisher wrote about Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut.

The buddies discuss the film and its representations of sex, desire, ritual, eroticism, conspiracism, and the dreary spectacle of Power.

nothing here newsletter

Latest batch of issues from the NH team.

And all the rest

We started a new chemo treatment for kitty after some bad news following the biopsy I mentioned last month. We probably only have a few months left with her, so we’re just going to love her and spoil her as much as we’re able in that time.

Not much else to report, really. Day job, writing, making time to feel like a human person with friends and loved ones. Maybe I should start talking about books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched recently. Maybe next time.

I’ve been spending less and less time on social media lately and I highly recommend it. Twitter is just such an echo chamber of outrage, “hot” takes, and posturing. Every day on there feels like Groundhog Day, but with a slightly different selection of topics and villains. The rare times I do go on there I’m using Latest Tweets instead of Home, and it’s a big improvement, but I still don’t see my engagement with the platform going anywhere but down.

That’s a pretty boring aside, but I mention it in case you need any encouragement to rethink your own sosh usage. If you need more encouragement, I found this quite interesting.

That’ll do for now. Until next time.

Night, Rain, and Neon – a Cyberpunk Anthology

Night, Rain, and Neon cover

I think I mentioned some news on the short fiction front, and here is the first of three that I can announce. I have a story, Digital Salt, in the forthcoming Night, Rain, and Neon anthology published by NewCon Press.

The story has some parallels to Repo Virtual, so if you wanted something new in a similar vein, this might tide you over, or if you wanted a slab of new cyberpunk from a bunch of fantastic writers, you could do much worse than this anthology.

From the preorder page:

Released on July 1st 2022, to coincide with the date William Gibson’s genre-defining novel Neuromancer was originally released in 1984, Night, Rain, and Neon is a collection of all new stories written by some of the sharpest and most insightful authors of cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk fiction around, curated by editor Michael Cobley.
 
“Back in the mid-80s William Gibson remarked that at one point he saw science fiction as a handy tool that he could use to pry open the cranium of the embryonic digital zeitgeist and do a bit of rewiring. Since then, numerous waves of tech, eco-awareness, politics, music, games, and smart gizmos (wearable and driveable) have washed over and through us. Our dwellings have gone from shells veined with broadband wiring to safehouses infused with plumes of wireless connection while our phones speak and ping and offer oblations to the greater networks that enfold us all.” – Michael Cobley
 
Come see what the near future might hold…
 
Contents:
Introduction by Michael Cobley
Hello, Goodbye – Stewart Hotston
Four Green Fields – Ian McDonald
All The Precious Years – Al Robertson
Forever in Scotland – Callum McSorley
Assets – Keith Brooke & Eric Brown
The Still Small Voice – Louise Carey
Mindstrings – Jeremy Szal
Tabula Rasa – Danie Ware
Collision Detection – Tim Maughan
We Appreciate Power – Gavin Smith
A Game Of Clones – Justina Robson
Accumulated Damage – Simon Morden
The Thirteenth Clone Of Casimir Ivanovitch – Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Elijah Of The 1000 Faces – Gary Gibson
VR Enclave – DA Xiaolin Spires
Digital Salt – Corey J White
Terms And Conditions – Joseph Elliott-Coleman
The Goruden-Mairu Job – T.R. Napper
About the Authors
 
Available as an A5 hardbacks and a special edition hardback, signed by all the authors, limited to just 100 numbered copies.

Preorders are open now.

Now Zero – March, 2022

Write every story as if it was your last, whether suicide note or proof of life.
– Steve Aylett, Heart of the Original

I’ve decided to start doing monthly updates here because whilst this blog might be quiet, I’m rarely not working on something. (I’m also considering an overhaul of the website that will push the blog aspect to the background, so we’ll see what happens.)

The Writing

Lots to mention here because it’s the first of these updates. First of all, over the coming months I will have news to share about stories in three different anthologies. One story was commissioned (a first for me), one is a reprint (another first), and one is a collaboration with Andrew Dana Hudson that he has mentioned on his newsletter.

OS, the novel I worked on from 2019-2021, is out on submission, though I haven’t been sending it out far and wide because I’m trying to find the right agent rather than just the first agent I can get. It’s a very different sort of book to my previous works. Materialist horror (specifically bodyhorror) with a heavy philosophical angle, and a narrative device I’ve not used before. I still have high hopes for this book, so fingers crossed.

Edits have started on SYTI. In some ways it’s a similar vibe to the VoidWitch books rather than OS or Repo Virtual, and it was a lot of fun writing the first draft. Second draft is going very well so far. Hoping to have 2nd (or 3rd) draft finished by the end of the month so I can send it to some beta readers. It is ostensibly a novella, but has stubbornly refused to stay under 40k words. Considering the amount of work I know the ending needs, I think the second draft could hit 50k words, so then it will be a question of whether it’s actually a short novel (would be a hard sell as most publishers want novels around 90k), the first half of a longer novel, or if I can trim it way back on the 3rd draft. I like the idea of the heavy trims to really hone the prose (I’m even thinking of re-reading Killing Gravity to see how I wrote so spare back then), but trimming the book by 20% might simply not be feasible. We’ll see. I’ll let you know in a future update.

Buddies without Organs

Buddies without Organs, now in visual format!

Last year, Buddies Without Organs explored the works of Gilles Deleuze. Now, in association with Zer0 Books, we are turning towards the lesser-known works of Mark Fisher.

Fisher is a writer we all already love, and we felt he’d be great to read together. We’re starting as we intend to go on with a oft-neglected post from the Hyperstition blog about the 1970s children’s serial, Children of the Stones — a series that Fisher suggests is an example of an underrepresented British sci-fi genre: “megalithic astropunk”.

This week, we continue our exploration of the work of Mark Fisher with an extensive interview with his friend and collaborator Robin Mackay.

Last week, we dipped our collective toe into the blogosphere of the mid-2000s, discussing hyperstition, 70s pulp sci-fi and some of Fisher’s most enduring weird and eerie interests. Lurking in the background was Fisher’s role as a member of the Ccru, and who better to discuss this period of activity with than Robin Mackay.

Mackay is a philosopher, translator and director of the hugely influential publishing house Urbanomic. He also posts his own writings over at readthis.wtf. He has, since Fisher’s death in 2017, reignited interest in the work of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru) through the publication of their writings.

This week, we talk about the Ccru, Robin’s own work and interests, and also his more recent return to his collaborations with Fisher in the form of a newly haunted audio-work, By The North Sea.

Episode #3 just went live on the Zer0 Books Patreon – I’ll share a link to the public video next update. I’ve also designed a t-shirt based on Episode #3 – hopefully I’ll be able to share that too.

Nothing Here Newsletter

And all the rest

My cat went in for a biopsy yesterday. About twelve months after her cancer diagnosis the vet had some options for how to continue with her treatment, but without doing a biopsy, it would have been based on guesswork. She hates the vet more than my wallet does, so we never make these decisions lightly. She’s still recovering after the surgery.

That’ll do for now. Thanks for sticking around, for caring enough about my various projects to read this far. I appreciate it. There’s much I could lament about the past 2 years, but instead I’m looking forward to the next 2.

Be well. Look after yourself, and keep your loved ones close.

Where To Find Me

Just a reminder: Repo Virtual won the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Now that’s out of the way…

I’ve been doing a pretty terrible job of keeping this website up to date, but I most certainly have not been resting on my laurels (whatever those are). I’ll have some short-story related news to share – eventually – and movement on some new long-form works.

But in the meantime, I’ve also been keeping busy with:

Nothing Here Newsletter

At Nothing Here, we scour the internet so you don’t have to, and serve up a selection of interesting articles on culture, politics, ecology, climate change, the end of the world, and all that good shit. We’ll also let you know what books, films, TV, and music we’ve been enjoying, because, hell, sometimes you need something to distract from the endless parade of atrocities that is the 21st Century.

Each fortnight the team – Daniel C. Harvey, m1k3y, Marlee Jane Ward, Lidia Zuin and I – will come into your inbox with all sorts of stories across climate change, geopolitics, tech, science, space, labor, and economics, as well as bits of culture that are helping us keep going despite the above.

Buddies Without Organs

Buddies Without Organs is a podcast by Sean Oscar, Matt Colquhoun and Corey J. White — three buddies interested in the relationship between culture and philosophy.

We started off discussing the work of Gilles Deleuze in podcast form, but have since pivoted to a) video (though we’re still offering audio format too), b) the Zer0 Books Youtube channel, and c) to discussing the lesser known writings of Mark Fisher in The K-files.

This project is a lot of fun, and I learn so much reading through these texts and chatting to the buddies about them. I have no formal philosophy education, so come hear/watch me struggle to make sense of some really big, weird, and interesting ideas.

Oh Nothing Press

Creeper Magazine, MechaDeath, and now some t-shirt designs from yours truly coming under the banner of CRINGE.

BwO: The K-Files Episode 1 – Addicts of Control

After a pivot, the Buddies without Organs are now covering the lesser known works of Mark Fisher with The K-files – now in spectacular visual form!

I think I actually got through most of my notes on the Astrolithic Megapunk episode, but here they are anyway for reference and transcription reasons.


Fisher compares Children of the Stone to Burroughs’ Nova Trilogy, which is an interesting comparison largely because it’s not obvious at first glance. One thing that is readily apparent in a lot of Burroughs’ writing is that he perceives the universe to be an inherently hostile place, perhaps even anti-human. But that hostility is something completely different to what we see in cosmic horror. 

You can kind of sum up cosmic horror in broad strokes with two main ideas – the first being that there are horrors in this universe that are literally incomprehensible, and trying to comprehend them will drive you insane. The second idea is that humanity is insignificant. We are completely below the notice of the Elder Gods and other entities, and if they kill us in great numbers it will only be as a side effect of some other action.

In Burroughs though the evil recognises us, and probably it recognises things in us we would rather not admit were true. It’s an intensely personal hatred aimed directly at you, and able to emanate from anyone, or indeed anything in your vicinity. The forces of control might be ubiquitous and largely arbitrary, but if they choose to target you, they will do so with all the intensity of someone bearing a personal grudge.

So in Burroughs, control is stifling, it’s dehumanising or even anti-human, it is a ubiquitous system that must be battled at every junction. In contrast, what we see in Children of the Stones is a seemingly benevolent system of control.

Beyond Hendricks’ need to feed on star energy, he seems genuinely concerned for his little human pets. He wants what’s best for them, and whilst there does appear to be a hollowing out of a person’s truest self when they undergo the happification process, they do still appear (outwardly at least) to be, well, happy. It doesn’t appear to be an anti-human system of control, but it is thoroughly anti-individual. It’s tied into a common thread in British Folk Horror – and Hot Fuzz – the overriding importance of The Greater Good.

The apparent benevolence of Hendrick in Children of the Stones is something that Burroughs never would have considered. For Burroughs, loss of autonomy or self is unconscionable – it is always an attack by a hostile alien presence that must be warred against.

But then in this dichotomy between the hostile and benevolent faces of control is also reminiscent of Matrix Resurrections versus the original movie. In the original movie Cipher was a villain because he was willing to sell out his friends in order to gain re-entry to the matrix, and in Resurrections it’s shown that maybe the choice to remain inside is understandable. Not good, or helpful, or healthy, but reasonable. And I think that part of the film is timely, because in the wake of the pandemic and the onrushing climate crises we’re due to face in the coming years, a lot of people will prefer to stick their head in the sand. Why walk away from Omelas when you can happily watch your Disney+, play Fortnite, get food delivered to your door by underpaid gig workers, and forget about the suffering child imprisoned in the city’s dungeon. These dystopian dreams of a metaverse peddled by Zuckerberg and others are simply the logical endpoint of this tendency toward blissful ignorance. It will literally obfuscate the myriad very real problems of the very real world for a clean and sterile corporate reality.

So back to Children of the Stones. The show was made for kids, and because of that focus it means the effects of the happification that we see are quite skewed – it makes children creepily happy, sociable, non-violent, and very good at maths. But it leaves the question of how it would actually affect adults, how would it alter their behaviours and beliefs, and would it turn them into perfect happy workers ready to slave away for capital?

It’s easy to imagine that in our age of economic precarity and massive wealth inequality, an adult might undergo a process like this if it meant they were freed from depression and anxiety, maybe guaranteed a decent job – and hell, even a place in an actual community, seeing as capitalism has done a great job of atomising our society.

And then that notion leads me to start thinking about technocratic control. Every week there’s a new start-up planning to use machine learning and invasive apps to make people better, more efficient workers. It’s tied to a pervasive idea that Fisher railed against in his writings, particularly Capitalist Realism – that whatever is wrong with a person is a) a purely personal failing and not a reflection of the increasingly hostile social systems they’re struggling to live under and b) fixable if we just have the right data.

Burroughs would find this horrifying – the perfection of the hostile and anti-human systems of control he recognised, predicted, or possibly seeded. What would he have us do? Smash the control images, smash the control machine.

As Burroughs wrote in Naked Lunch: “You see control can never be a means to any practical end. … Control can never be a means to anything but more control … like Junk.”

The people at the top have become control addicts, fuelled by technocratic ideology and bullshit beliefs like longtermism. They all see themselves as Hendricks-Petros, above it all, controlling the rest of us for our own good.

BwO: The (Main) Event

Here are my notes on Buddies without Organs episode #9: The Event. Get all the episode information right here.


Almost forgot to post my notes for The Event – most of these I didn’t get to in the episode (or only just touched on them), so hopefully there’s something interesting in here.

First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming

This is a very slight chapter so I’m not going to go on at length about it, but out of the three sections we planned to talk about on this episode, this one grabbed me immediately because it ties in to something I wrote in my novel, Repo Virtual.

I’ll start with a quote on the paradox of Pure Becoming:

[B]ecoming does not tolerate the separation or the distinction of before and after, or of past and future. It pertains to the essence of becoming to move and to pull in both directions at once.

Here we see that there is no single moment of becoming – every becoming is an event. Matt mentioned 9/11 being “an Event” in that is reverberates both backwards and forward in time – a great example because it’s one we’re all intimately familiar with, and because some of us can remember what, for instance, airports and flying were like before the introduction of the security theatre post-9/11.

So if you extend that further, you see that a person’s life as an Event – when you say someone died, that becoming started before they were born. Life is an ongoing process of becoming right until it ends.

One of the main threads of Repo Virtual follows the awakening of that world’s first true AI, and there’s a chapter where I did my best to try and imagine what that would look like – the process of becoming sentient and self-aware while trapped inside a digital system. In that section I wrote “There is terror in becoming.” I hadn’t read any Deleuze when I wrote that book, but this chapter resonates with where my head was at at the time. 

Becoming is not something that you do and then it’s done, it’s ongoing, and that on its own is frightening. People tend to be afraid of change to some degree, yet we are never not changing. We never stop becoming. We have to reconcile the terror and uncertainty of becoming with the knowledge that it is unavoidable.

Of pure becoming, Deleuze says: It moves in both directions at once. It always eludes the present, causing future and past […]. This to me – though I could be wrong – ties into the plane of immanence and particularly the opposition between immanence and transcendence outlined in Immanence: A Life. Immanence is the act of pure becoming – it is being the event, but transcendence is anything that interrupts or interferes with that Immanence.

Back to that quote: I wonder if pure becoming eludes the present because in that present moment you are becoming. Here Deleuze is emphasising the importance of the present moment (though I daresay that “moment” isn’t the right word there). In every moment of your life you are becoming, and that pure becoming ties directly to your past and also your future, but it’s only this pure becoming that matters.

On the one hand, I think you could take that to a self-help sort of place (and this isn’t the first time I’ve found what seems to be practical self-help emerging from the density of Deleuze’s writing). You could boil it down to “it’s only this moment that matters, this is all you can control. Don’t dwell on your past and don’t fret about the future, just embrace becoming.” And I think that’s good advice, even if it’s as trite as it is difficult to do. But looked at in a slightly more abstract way, it makes me consider the chain of events and decisions that led to this moment, and where this moment might lead further down the chain – it encourages a non-linear mode of thought. Becoming is an event, and as we’ve discussed, events are not discrete. They resonate forward and backward in time, they connect to other events in myriad ways.

3. What is an Event?

There’s a section right near the start of “What is an Event?” where Deleuze says:

Chaos does not exist; it is an abstraction because it is inseparable from a screen that makes something – something rather than nothing – emerge from it.

I hadn’t considered chaos in that way before, but it makes sense. When people talk about chaos – like in the context of a riot, for instance – the presumption is that there’s no sense or order to the proceedings, but chaos theory says the opposite. Everything that happens is caused by a trail of preceding events, even if those are impossible for us to measure or understand. Chaos theory is really saying that everything makes sense if only you can look closely enough to track every related event and find the ways they are interconnected.

This ties in to the recent Danish film Riders of Justice (yes, that title is fucking terrible, yes, if you see the thumbnail online, the image there is fucking terrible too, but it’s actually a great film), with the characters attempting to assign meaning to the meaningless and also to track chains of cause and effect. Otto at one point says that while such a chain exists an could be followed, it would go all the way back to the beginning of existence, and thus is impossible for the human mind to contain or process… which is sort of what I was getting at with the above…