Thursday, July 11, 2024

Talking "sonic fiction" and Futuromania in LA (and beyond) - July 17


I'll be making a guest appearance at the Sci-Fi Short Story Club, discussing "The Sound-Sweep" - one of a couple of acutely imaginative tales involving music of the future dreamed up by J.G. Ballard.

The event, hosted by Los Angeles Public Library, is loosely tied to Futuromania - which features a extended essay about the ways in which science fiction writers have grappled with the challenge of imagining the future forms and functions of music.  So in addition to "The Sound-Sweep" and Ballard's work, the discussion will encompass the broader subject of the interface between s.f. + music

The book club meets by Zoom, so I can see no reason why - beyond issues of time zone differences -  someone who doesn't live in LA could attend, if they fancied. 

This free event takes place at 6 pm PDT, on Wednesday July 17th. 

Reading J.G.'s 1960 story in advance is helpful if you wish to participate in the discussion, but not essential. 

Sign up here. 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Keen on chatting about necro-futurism

Here I am chatting with Andrew Keen for his show Keen On - about Futuromania, future-music, AI, and the intersection of science-fiction technology and retro culture - what you might term  (well, what I did term - a trial run for a coinage) necro-futurism.

I had a great chat with Andrew about a dozen years ago when Retromania came out - that time I went round to his HQ in San Francisco, sitting in a TV-style studio - so it was cool to bookend with this conversation, albeit this time done remotely. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Futuromania events - Brighton June 20 evening / Rough Trade West, London June 23 3pm

 Two upcoming Futuromania events

Brighton, Thursday evening 20th June 

Dead Wax Social  - 18 A Bond Street

Hosted by Resident 

Doors open 7pm /  event starts 7.30 pm

In conversation with Fiona Sturges

+ book signing. 

Tickets here 

London, Sunday afternoon 23rd June 

Rough Trade West 

130 Talbot Road, W11

Event starts 3 pm

In conversation with Günseli Yalcinkaya (Dazed)

+ book signing 

Tickets here

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Bring the Noys / Kapital fellow, that Jameson

Benjamin Noys with a review at E-Flux of Fredric Jameson's new book Inventions of  A Present

"Jameson argues that our present and our future are saturated by history and it is this increased historicity that makes the novel, all novels, historical. At the same time, he can also assert that “all fiction approaches science fiction,” due to the fact that all our futures “begin to dissolve into the ever more porous actuality”.  The contemporary novel is both the historical novel and science fiction, as both past and future have saturated the present. The present is a bloated moment, full of the past that cannot be integrated and a future that is not being born...."

The review has some gentle jibes at  the Great Man - like this backhanded compliment 

"We sometimes feel Jameson has read everything"

That does capture the sensation of omniscience that seeps from the prose - the long, winding, (over-)extended sentences...  the concatenation of clauses and parentheticals... allusively laden.... 

Also a dig at thLondon Review of Books style of review (most of Inventions of A Present consists of these), which Noys characterises as a

"peculiar genre in which the book is not so much assessed as re-presented in a gesture which often replaces reading the book. It is a time-saving device presented in the mode of capacious intellectual engagement"

What's striking as you read the review -  mirroring the book itself - is the tangle of temporalities. 

"This diagnosis and sense of impasse is surprisingly Nietzschean. The saturation of the present by historicism echoes Nietzsche’s “On the Use and Abuse of History for Life,” in which the historical overcomes our present. 

The notion that the future is dissolved into the present is also close to Nietzsche’s attempts to invent a future and his increasingly violent proclamations of a leap into the future. Jameson’s tone is more measured and, of course, he is trying to remain within Marxism. To be Marxist, we must explain why we cannot integrate history and why we cannot see the present as a dynamic path to the future. 

"While obviously wrong—not all contemporary novels are historical and not all contemporary novels are science fiction, and how could all of them be both?—his statements are ones we try to puzzle out."

"Puzzle out" indeed

Something is being called for to get "us" out of this "impasse" 


"If the function of the master collapses, then the enigmatic statements become so much nonsense and we wonder why we ever cared. Jameson’s statements teeter in this space"

Saturday, June 8, 2024

"We Are In the Future" (Italian Futurism - a '90s resurrection)

via this Dissensus thread on Roman techno  

itself triggered from this article at Urbanomic about a "dark continuum" of Italian hardtechno 

itself drawing on this Matt Anniss  feature for RBMA from a decade earlier

Sounds Never Seen - love this label name. 

Lory D very much a parallel operator to The Mover + PCP.

And indeed later, towards the end of the '90s, rematerialises up on Acardipane's Adrenachome label

Back to the start of the '90s, to 1991:

Interesting, the shift - within a single year - from "We Are In the Future" to "We Were In the Future" 

Does this show how fleeting these moments are - how quickly the future-rush can give way to technostalgia, a sense that it's already slipped away?


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Softcore Futurism


"Close your eyes / kiss the future / junk the morgue"

The "morgue" bit does remind me of Marinetti's museums-as-cemeteries line

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Futurists (slight return)

some earlier thoughts on the Futurists

1/ Futurism contra the Museal (from Retromania)

Punk seems hostile to museum-ification on account of its iconoclastic contempt for the past.  With rave, it's the movement's orientation towards the future that should really repel the dustiness of the archive's embrace.  The punishing minimalism of early techno especially--music stripped to rhythm and texture, a true art of noises--recalls the spirit of the Italian Futurists circa 1909-15. As much as I love history and poring over the past, there's a part of me that will always thrill to, and agree with, the Futurist manifestoes, which showered scalding scorn over "the passéists":  antiquarians, curators, tradition-loving art critics.  Italian Futurism was a response to the spiritual oppression of growing up in a country that pioneered tourism as time travel (for it is nearly always the past of a country you visit on vacation, at least in the Old World), a land covered with magisterial ruins, venerable cathedrals, grand squares and palaces, the monumental residues not just of one golden age (the Roman Empire) but of two (the Renaissance).   

Futurist leader F.T. Marinetti's founding manifesto proclaimed "we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians. For too long has Italy been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We mean to free her from the numberless museums that cover her like so many graveyards….  Museums: cemeteries!... Identical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another." Continuing  the sexual imagery, he ranted about how "admiring an old picture is the same as pouring our sensibility into a funerary urn instead of hurtling it far off, in violent spasms of action and creation."  To venerate artworks from the past was like wasting one's élan vital on something inert and decayed; like fucking a corpse.  

Marinetti imagined setting fire "to the library shelves" and redirecting "the canals to flood the museums" so that "the glorious old canvases" bobbed "adrift on those waters". What would he, writing in 1909, have made of the state of Western culture a hundred years later?  The last decades of the 20th Century saw what Andreas Huyssen has called a "memory boom", with a surge in the foundation of museums and archives being just one facet of a culture-wide obsession with commemoration, documentation, and preservation

2/ on the dodgy side of the Futurist imaginary / Futurist libido (from The Sex Revolts)

For Devo, the uniform was a shell holding in the squishy mess of the body's interior, like armour.  The proto-fascist imagination is riddled with an envy of  the machine, its invulnerability and impenetrability.  Being a good soldier  means mechanising your responses, becoming a cog in the killing machine of the army.

Similar longings and loathings throbbed in the writings of the Italian Futurists and the British Vorticists, two early twentieth century art movements  with fascist tendencies.  Wyndham Lewis, chief Vorticist theoretician,  worshipped machines for their dynamism and hygiene, and recoiled from  the 'naked pulsing and moving of the soft inside' of organic life.  'Deadness is the first condition for art,' he declared in the novel Tarr (1918).  'The second  is the absence of soul, in the human and sentimental sense...good art must have  no inside.'  Good art betrayed no sign of its fluid interior; it was all 
exteriority, stark lines and sharp contours. For Lewis, the formless goo of biology was a threat to reason and the detached artistic eye.

The Futurists, too, repudiated the curvacious organicism and blurriness of Romantic art.  Umberto Boccioni declared: 'Poetry must consist of straight lines and calculus.' F.T.  Marinetti's The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (1909) could almost be a manifesto for heavy metal: 'We will glorify war--the world's only hygiene--militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.' His polemic ends at a bombastic pitch of priapic
triumphalism: 'Look at us!  We are still untired!  Our hearts know no weariness because they are fed with fire, hatred, and speed!... Erect on the summit of the world, once again we hurl our defiance at the stars!'  Like the speed-crazed punks, the Futurists disdained sleep, languour, gentleness. They wanted to break with nature in a violent gesture of severance, and impose themselves like a monument on the landscape.

 For the Futurists, the machine was the embodiment of an anti-natural but self-sufficient potency. They were the first to identify with the car or motorbike as an expression of virility. This emerges as a theme in rock'n'roll very early on--from Chuck Berry's and the Beach Boys' nonchalant cruising anthems to Steppenwolf's 'Born to Be Wild' (which contained the first rock usage of William Burroughs' phrase 'heavy metal'). More suggestive, however, is the case of Kraftwerk, whose first big hit, 'Autobahn', was a twenty-minute-long freeway hymn. One of the first groups to base their entire aesthetic on synthesisers rather than the 'dirtier' electric guitar, Kraftwerk's image was futuristic and technocratic.  They were the first full-blown example in rock of the desire to become machine-like (with the possible exception of James Brown's 'Sex Machine').

 But where the Futurists and heavy metal bands imagined technology as an expression and a reinforcement of their virility, for Kraftwerk, machines usher in a world where gender is abolished.  Their ideal being, the Man-Machine, was a sexless androgyne stripped of its animalism, possessed of
a superhuman grace.


'Meanwhile, down to our nerve cells, everything in us resists paradise.'--E.M.Cioran, Thinking Against Oneself

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Henry Adams contrasted The Virgin and The Dynamo as symbols for two incompatible realms of human consciousness.  With her divine passivity, the Virgin Mary stood for sacred mystery, a force once strong enough to erect cathedrals, but now fading from the world.  The electrical dynamo represented the dawning era of scientific mastery, in which men could become godlike through harnessing the forces of Nature.  A decade or so later, the Futurists exalted the same dynamic forces (electricity, speed) and explicitly identified them with male will-to-power and phallic thrust.

 Futurist rhetoric offers another version of Camus' opposition between rebellion and grace, or Adams' mastery/mystery dichotomy.  Rejecting Romanticism's quest for the lost state of grace in Nature's bosom, the Futurists extolled disrespect for Mother Earth....  F. T. Marinetti decried not only 'nostalgia' but 'the picturesque, the imprecise, rusticity, wild solitude': all the things that the mystical tradition in rock celebrates.  Ardently urban and secular, the Futurists pitted themselves against
the pastoral, poured scorn on the 'holy green silence'; they celebrated sharply defined edges rather than blurred borderlines.

     Rock'n'roll throbs with a Futurist exultation in speed, technology, neon and noise.  But there is another strain of the rock imagination that isn't madly in love with the modern world, but is instead nostalgic and regressive: psychedelia.  Defined in the broadest sense to encompass everything from the Byrds, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, the Incredible String Band, to Can, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine,  and ambient house--psychedelia is a resurgence of Romanticism's pastoralism and pantheism.  Above  all, psychedelia is the quest for a lost state of grace.


As mentioned by Stylo in comments, Channel 4's Club X and the preparation of futurist meal - 1989

Talking "sonic fiction" and Futuromania in LA (and beyond) - July 17

  I'll be making a guest appearance at the  Sci-Fi Short Story Club , discussing  "The Sound-Sweep"  - one of a couple of acut...