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…

BwO: Nomadology – The War Machine: Culture War slash The Discourse

Now I’m going to go somewhere completely unrelated. I shouldn’t be surprised that in D&G’s essay about the war machine they somehow managed to succinctly describe culture war online discourse, but goddamn if this doesn’t sum things up.

Similarly, feelings become uprooted from the interiority of a “subject,” to be projected violently outward into a milieu of pure exteriority that lends them an incredible velocity, a catapulting force: love or hate, they are no longer feelings but affects.

To me, this is talking about the way that, at this current point in our cultural conversations, people too easily project their own feelings about a particular piece of art – whether those are positive feelings the person wishes to defend, or negative feelings they wish to reify and attack in the form of other cultural commentators. Now, that projection wouldn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but the word here “velocity” ties in to a thread that D&G will pick up later where they’re talking about the difference between weapons and tools. They suggest that speed is the defining aspect of a weapon, and gravity is the aspect that defines a tool. They don’t really define what they mean by gravity here – or if they did, I missed it – but I think that ties in perfectly with this little cultural tangent that jumped out at me here.

Shooting off a tweet or a twitter thread is fast, and anyone who’s spent any amount of time on twitter knows it can be a weapon. On the other hand there’s gravity, which I take to be the serious and measured consideration of a piece of art or culture – allowing yourself to be caught up in the gravity of it, to consider it on its own terms, consider how its gravity interacts with your own, and not simply react with speed, basic love or hate.

There’s another section later on:

In a sense, it could be said that […] thought has never had anything but laughable gravity. But that is all it requires: for us not to take it seriously. Because that makes it all the easier for it to think for us […]. Because the less people take thought seriously, the more they think in conformity with what the State wants. Truly, what man of the State has not dreamed of that paltry impossible thing — to be a thinker?

This certainly seems to tie into the culture war discussions around art, and that seemingly innocuous phrase that has served to flatten the very idea of cultural criticism: Let people enjoy things.

People are allowed to enjoy whatever hollow pap they want, but the sentiment is also used to discourage criticism and conversation that might focus on a piece of media’s flaws – particularly ideological ones. You only need to look at the involvement of the US military in the production of Marvel films, and the way the ideology of the films is in support of US imperialism and hegemony to see how something as seemingly wholesome at first glance as “let people enjoy things” is actually the death knell for both challenging art and vital cultural criticism.

And it’s that final bit that really grabs me – “what man of the State has not dreamed of that paltry impossible thing – to be a thinker?” Just think of all the lib-brained takes being churned out by the commentariat week after week – all these people who consider themselves to be true thinkers but who unquestioningly regurgitate the ideology of the State. Maybe it’s always been this bad, but D&G certainly feel prophetic here.

BwO: Nomadology – The War Machine: The Deep State

Here’s one chunk of my notes on Buddies without Organs Episode #8: Nomadology. Episode and all the related goodness is at the BwO website here.


There’s one last bit I wanted to quote from, because again it seems like a perfect summary of the world of the past few years, held in the thrall of US military hegemony.

The war machine reforms a smooth space that now claims to control, to surround the entire earth. Total war itself is surpassed, toward a form of peace more terrifying still. The war machine has taken charge of the aim, worldwide order, and the States are now no more than objects or means adapted to that machine. This is the point at which Clausewitz’s formula is effectively reversed; to be entitled to say that politics is the continuation of war by other means, it is not enough to invert the order of the words as if they could be spoken in either direction; it is necessary to follow the real movement at the conclusion of which the States, having appropriated a war machine, and having adapted it to their aims, reimpart a war machine that takes charge of the aim, appropriates the States, and assumes increasingly wider political functions.

That line “a form of peace more terrifying still” is really evocative. I’ve spent my entire life living in peace-time while people in other parts of the world have experienced nothing but conflict. It’s another bastardisation of that classic William Gibson quote: peace is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.

But the other thing that I find interesting about this section is that it implies that it’s actually the war machine that won the battle against the State, whereas throughout the rest of the essay I was reading it in terms of the State and its military institution. But when you look at US imperialism it’s easy to see how the war machine won – how it appropriated the State and not vice versa – again epitomised by 20 years in Afghanistan. So instead of the war machine, this section might make more sense if you consider the deep state – not the deep state of QAnon, but its original meaning: The military-industrial complex and its web of lobbyists, bought politicians, and media sycophants.


Chess / 3rd Generation Warfare vs 4th GW

Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles. But what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, whereas chess is a semiology.

This puts me in mind of 3rd generation (or perhaps earlier) warfare versus 4th. Rules-based warfare as envisioned by the State (if you don’t play by our rules that greatly favour us, we’ll claim that you’re cheating [read: a terrorist]), versus the true chaos of warfare as envisioned and lived by guerrilla fighters.

BwO: Nomadology – The War Machine: Smooth Space vs Striated Space

Here’s one chunk of my notes on Buddies without Organs Episode #8: Nomadology. Episode and all the related goodness is at the BwO website here.


One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire “exterior,” over all of the flows traversing the ecumenon.

This seems especially relevant today, with the technocratic desire to quantify, label, and then be able to monetise everything. Technocrats continue to sell us the vision of smooth space – that their products, their data, their dark designs, will make our lives easier and better, but that hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen, because in practice they are actually more heavily striating our lives than ever before. They believe that they can fully understand nature, the world, humanity, and individuals if only they were able to gather enough data, but our world doesn’t work like that.

Some people nowadays are too eager to criticize this numerical organization, denouncing it as a military or even concentration-camp society where people are no longer anything more than deterritorialized “numbers.” But that is false. Horror for horror, the numerical organization of people is certainly no cruder than the lineal or State organizations. Treating people like numbers is not necessarily worse than treating them like trees to prune, or geometrical figures to shape and model.

But then if that’s the way Deleuze and Guattari’s State is manifested in the current moment, then it’s worth considering what they have to say about the nomad, and see what lessons we might be able to learn from nomadology. Bear with me with this next quote, but I think it captures dichotomy of the sedentary and the nomad really well.

sedentary space is striated, by walls, enclosures, and roads between enclosures, while nomad space is smooth, marked only by “traits” that are effaced and displaced with the trajectory. […] The nomad distributes himself in a smooth space; he occupies, inhabits, holds that space; that is his territorial principle. […] Toynbee is profoundly right to suggest that the nomad is […] he who does not move. Whereas the migrant leaves behind a milieu that has become amorphous or hostile, the nomad is one who does not depart, does not want to depart, who clings to the smooth space left by the receding forest, where the steppe or the desert advances, and who invents nomadism as a response to this challenge.

To me, this distinction between the migrant and the nomad really speaks of adaptability. Our ability to embrace true nomadism is being stifled by the State and Capital’s efforts to enclose everything, but the nomad’s strength is in clinging to the smooth spaces – perhaps the spaces the state has abandoned.

I’m a sci-fi writer, so I can’t help but think of this thread in terms of climate change, and the huge numbers of climate refugees we’re likely to see in our lifetimes. But as the State retreats to its fortresses, what opportunities might remain outside those walls for the nomad? I don’t have answers, but I think the climate nomad is a compelling figure – someone who shuns the striated spaces of the State and instead seeks to reterritorialize the spaces left behind.

BwO: Nomadology – The War Machine: US Military in the Modern Day

Here’s one chunk of my notes on Buddies without Organs Episode #8: Nomadology. Episode and all the related goodness is at the BwO website here.


It’s probably not surprising that in so much of this discussion of the war machine and the state, I’m put in mind of US imperialsm, particularly the past 20 years of the so-called War on Terror in the Middle East. With the recent situation in Afghanistan, a lot of people have been referencing Vietnam, so let me do the same. With Vietnam it was truly the US going to war – the draft meant many young men were sent to fight regardless of their own feelings about that war or war in general, it was a highly televised event broadcast into American homes every night, and it weighed heavily on political discussions and elections all throughout the years of the war.

Compare that to 20 years in Afghanistan. There’s no draft, so the people going over to fight have volunteered to do so – though economic realities being what they are for many people, can it really be called volunteering? – and even then, more and more of the war was entirely privatised. It wasn’t a war fought by the American people – by the State – but rather by the State’s military apparatus.

A fact that many people likely aren’t familiar with is that even when the US does deign to sign on to various climate change agreements, they will always demand that the US military is exempt from any restrictions related to decreased pollution. In so many ways it is simply not held accountable to the State or the people it is ostensibly protecting.

The war machine is pure exteriority, taking funding from the polity, but otherwise having little or nothing to do with it.

It is not enough to affirm that the war machine is external to the apparatus. It is necessary to reach the point of conceiving the war machine as itself a pure form of exteriority, whereas the State apparatus constitutes the form of interiority we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking.

Now, the US military isn’t a true war machine in the D&G sense. “(What we call a military institution, or army, is not at all the war machine in itself, but the form under which it is appropriated by the State.)” As they say: “The State has no war machine of its own; it can only appropriate one in the form of a military institution, one that will continually cause it problems.” That seems a really interesting point to me – the state and the military are always at odds with one another – but still the State is convinced it needs the military, even as the military takes ever-larger pieces of the state’s budget, and even when that military might choose to one day become the state, as with many coups across the last hundred years.

The military institution is a highly regimented and striated hierarchical organisation, but it seems to me that in formal militaries, the true nomadic war machine comes to light in the ways units are able to conduct their duties under their own supervision. There is still a military chain of command, but if the large number of atrocities and war crimes committed by our forces is any indication, that command must seem very distant indeed. And that ties in to some of the other parts of this essay that seemed to me to be speaking of the experience of the war veteran.

If being a part of the nomadic war machine means moving over smooth space – literally, in many desert settings, but also mentally or spiritually, a space where the moral and ethical constraints that underpin society have been smoothed over by a set of increasingly-lax Rules of Engagement –then it’s no wonder both that the rigid hierarchy is required to keep these would-be nomads under control, and also that they so often struggle upon return to the striated space of real life.

Deleuze and Guattari write: “Trapped between the two poles of political sovereignty, the man of war seems outmoded, condemned, without a future, reduced to his own fury, which he turns against himself.” They go on to cite some examples out of ancient myth, but we don’t have to look any further than the many, many veterans who commit suicide upon return to the world. It’s not that their description matches every veteran, but it sadly covers many. Some survive by returning to the war machine – either the formal military institutions, or the private sector – some survive by an act of reterritorialization, becoming something other than a man of war.

Award-Winning

The Aurealis Awards Ceremony happened over zoom the other night, and Repo Virtual has won the Aurealis Award for Best Science-Fiction novel, tied with Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in That Country.

You can watch the full ceremony here – my acceptance “speech” (I had nothing prepared because I was up against an amazing slate and honestly did not expect to win) is near the end as Best SF Novel was the second last award announced.

I was pretty sure that Laura Jean McKay was going to win, as The Animals in That Country has been nominated for a number of awards and has also won Australia’s richest literary prize… but I never thought that I might win as well. For some reason it feels even more special to be sharing the award; maybe because joy is better shared, maybe because it’s a great reminder (to myself and anyone else that needs it) that publishing isn’t a zero-sum game.

I am proud of my work on Repo Virtual, but with its pandemic release it’s easy to feel that the book could have done better and gotten more attention if it had been released at almost any other time. So it really means a lot to me for the book (and myself, I suppose) to receive this sort of recognition. A lot of my depression and anxiety manifests as self-doubt and self-loathing, but it should be hard for my mind spiders to argue with this external validation.

Again, I’d like to thank the judges for finding Repo Virtual worthy of this honour. And thanks to the Aurealis Awards gang for all the hard work they do year in and year out – Australian SFF is a vibrant and exciting field, and they do a fantastic job celebrating that.

Thanks also to reviewers, booktubers, readers, etc who have talked up my work this past year, and reached out. It’s people connecting with the work that makes it worthwhile, so thank you for helping to spread the word. And finally, thank you to my partner, Marlee Jane Ward, who has been such a huge support.