ORIGAMY: Synthetic Biology Fiction

So I’m a bunch of the way through Rachel Armstrong’s ORIGAMY now, and here’s the thing:

There’s a field of rogue mutant hair transplants, and the hair field is grazed upon by a trip of transgenic goats, and there’s like five pages on the digestive processes of these goats, including shoals of microsquid that live in one of the four stomachs. And it’s brilliant.

If you’re not up for that: the book is about people who use chopsticks to tie knots in spacetime for travel purposes. And art.

Rachel is a synthetic biologist — I met her at a think-tank in Eindhoven a few years ago — and ORIGAMY is what happens when you let a synthetic biologist write a full work of speculative fiction. Possibly this practice will be banned after ORIGAMY is released.

It’s an incredibly dense piece of bizarre fantastika balanced artfully on a very simple structure, a journey of discovery, secrets and ancient threats. Parts feel like they’ve come from fable, or folk tales about strange circus people. In reading it, I’ve gotten through about ten pages at a time before having to stop and stare into space and process everything that’s just been dumped into my head. It’s like she freebased twelve novels into one intense concentrated rock.

ORIGAMY is a magnificent, glittering explosion of a book: a meditation on creation, the poetry of science and the insane beauty of everything. You’re going to need this.

It comes out on April 3 2018, and, afterwards, there will only be people who have read ORIGAMY and people who have not, and neither of them will be able to understand the other.

You can pre-order it direct from the publisher here, or through Amazon (UK) (US)

Recent Quotes 17feb18

Xefirotarch makes vampire architecture. The reasons for this go beyond the now well-known series of incidents at the group’s recent SF MoMA show, during which, over consecutive days in the spring of 2006, several children were left bleeding and traumatized by their encounters with the installation. Each claimed to have been “bitten” by its forms, but more likely the children had fallen upon one of its dangerous, fang-like angles, and left punctured by the sharp contours. One boy was hospitalized for nearly a week because of his injuries. The linear gash in his abdomen is now healing, but he remains adamant that the work lunged at him and not the other way around.

Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution, Benjamin H. Bratton (UK) (US)

Cohen got up early and studied the market at home before being driven to the office by 8 A.M. by a bodyguard in a gray Maybach. He arrived to find a bowl of hot oatmeal wrapped in cellophane waiting on his desk. His station at the center of the trading floor resembled a cockpit, with twelve monitors mounted in front of him.

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street, Sheelah Kolhatkar (UK) (US)

‘We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth?’

– The ‘pagan’ author Symmachus

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, Catherine Nixey  (UK) (US)

Reblog, Or: Little Radio Stations In The Night

On my newsletter last weekend, I wrote this:

Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to go full-bore blog again, like in the old days. Twitter’s only real use is as a notification system, after all, so you’d just pump out post links to it from your blog.  You know, the way people used to, when having a place for your own voice and your own thoughts was a good thing.

When I was in the swing of it, way back when, it was like the world’s most minimalist radio station. A Station Ident post to start the day, a Night Music or Closedown post at the end of the day, littered with whatever strangeness and wonder passed my screen in between.

I miss that long moment when the web seemed full of people doing the same thing, or thinking in public.  It happens in the Republic Of Newsletters, now. But it was nice to have all those little radio stations broadcasting in the night.

Yesterday, Reza Negarestani emerged with a website called Toy Philosophy, whose first post was entitled Returning to the Age of Blogging.

Now, my RSS feeds never went quiet.  I linked to a friend’s blog post the other day and he told me half the reason he posted it was to see if anyone was still using RSS!

I’ve seen the idea circulating for a while: come off the streams, own your own platform for your own voice and your own complete statements.  It seems like a reactionary step, from some angles. But maybe that great river, The Conversation, was, like every river followed to its source, a dead end. The resurgence of the Republic Of Newsletters may be one aspect of a return to the ocean, dotted with little pirate radio stations broadcasting through the night again.