it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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Justify your existence

Re: current events. If you ever needed an illustration that it's not about differing political ideologies, but about choosing up sides and wearing armbands, the Californian Republican brouhaha over Arnie being "too nice to Democrats" would be it in technicolor.

If you ever needed an illustration of political hypocrisy and thinly-disguised racism... well, Hillary isn't doing herself any favors with the self-righteous wanking over the Dubai port thing. Not, mind you, that I am blind to the irony of W.'s desire to kick the asses of all the Arabs except the ones who are willing to offer him and his cronies money. Oh, and quit lying, George. Your nose is big enough. (Reuters wins the headline war: What didn't the President know and when didn't he know it?)


I've gotten through the first four chapters of the page proofs for Blood and Iron. You know, the fiftieth time you read a book, it's really hard to concentrate. I did find a leitmotif, though. There's this ongoing thematic thing with chains, and Carel keeps getting bird imagery. I think I'll pretend I meant to do that.

Hell, maybe I did. At this point, who can remember?

Nothing worse than reading your own five year old prose, by the way. Unless it's reading your own ten year old prose.

The rest of this blog post is truepenny and netcurmudgeon's fault. Specifically, I think there's not enough wankosity infesting the club scene blogosphere currently, so I'm going to attempt a feminist critique of the Singularity as SFnal trope. You may all sneak out quietly now, but please don't let the door bang.

When I first moved to Las Vegas, I used to burn my mouth a lot when I wasn't thinking carefully about what I was drinking, because the air is so dry that you often can't see the steam rising from a cup of tea. After a while, I learned to hesitate, and check the temperature of the air over the fluid with my lip. This isn't something I ever decided to do. Rather, my autonomous systems figured it out for themselves. Because they're smarter than you think they are.

The meat does a lot of our thinking, in other words, when the more advanced electrical systems are busy. An MIT a-life researcher who I quoted in Hammered holds the unpopular perspective that a good deal of our thinking (our consciousness, our sentience) is emotional rather than rational. Chemical, if you will, rather than electrical.

truepenny pointed out at Boskone that the idea of the Singularity is at its heart a denial of the body, and it occurred to me that that could be read, from a feminist perspective, two ways. One, that sex becomes irrelevant, or--and here's the bit I twigged on--that if you squint just right, what you're left with is a very Augustinian (and thank you netcurmudgeon for just the right word) refutation of the flesh. In this way, autopope's notorious turn of phrase, the rapture of the geeks, is exactly right. The weak/evil/flawed/excoriated flesh is scoured away, and what is left is divine, improved, elevated, incomprehensible.

Transcendent, if I may.

There's a bunch of talk about how SF has to address the idea of a Singularity to be relevant, which to me is bullshit. Augmented intelligence, techshock, sure--but we've been dealing with that as a genre for the last hundred years. Which is why I like Charlie's one-way-gates (the Strossian singularity) as a more useful idea than the Vingean posthuman singularity. (I'm pretty freaking posthuman to a sixth-century Northman, yanno?)

Basically, it's a lovely idea, and there's been a lot of very good SF written about it, but I think allowing this idea of posthumanity to become The Defining Dialogue of "serious" SF is a mistake. (Of course, I'm not much for SF as predictive--we keep missing the big ones, after all, so I don't see why that should change.)

But then, there's this drive to define SF as Apollonian, in contrast to the purported Dionysian bent of modern fantasy, and to thus elevate SF, and I think is some ways that's one element of the whole posthuman thing. Because a Singularity is nicely Apollonian. Augustinian. Anti-feminist, if you accept the idea that women's fiction tends to be more concerned with relationship and the negotiation of life and that women are more concerned with the messy bits of being made of meat.

Boy games are still privileged over girl games, in other words. Even when the games are intellectual.

Of course, I don't for half a second think that the male writers playing posthuman games are intentionally setting out to devalue "female" (please note the scare quotes) values or perspectives. I know Peter and Charlie and Cory and so on, and a less gender-bigoted bunch of guys would be hard to find. (Actually, one of the things I really like about Cory Doctorow, and a symptom I suspect of how giant and shiny his brain really is, is that he can manipulate "masculine" and "feminine" communication styles with equal facility.) What I'm saying is that if you come at this thing from the right angle, it looks surprisingly like the old logic-trumps-emotion, Apollo-trumps-Dionysius, male-trumps-female, SF-trumps-Fantasy, mind-trumps-meat argument.

This idea of the meat-puppet as somehow different from and inferior to the mind, rather than the two being an integrated and seamless whole: it's so pervasive in our culture that I think we forget to question it... but there are cultures that could not conceive of the mind without the body. Which is what I mean when I say that the Singularity in its Rapture of the Geeks form is Augustinian... but then again, what if it's not a case of the rancid flesh and the incorruptible soul? What if it's a package deal?

It doesn't fit our Western cultural preconceptions, of course. But then, our current Western cultural preconceptions have deep roots in Thomas a Beckett's stinky hair shirt and Calvinist doctrine, the mortification of the flesh for the glorification of the soul.

And that's interesting to think about, from a perspective of regarding unquestioned assumptions.

Snippet I'm probably not going to be able to resist putting in the end note for The Journeyman Devil:

"History is not narrative, alas. And Elizabethan political and theatrical history is less narrative than most. To paraphrase Velvet Brown, the facts are all tangled up together and it's impossible to cut one clean.

This is a work of fiction. While there are any number of actual facts enmeshed in the web of its creation, it should not be treated as representative, as a whole, of my opinion on any particular historical theories or opinions. Nor should my suggestions regarding additions to the seemingly endless litany of Christopher Marlowe's suspected lovers be taken seriously. It's vilest calumny, all of it.

Well, except the part about Edward de Vere's proclivity for transporting choirboys across international boundaries for immoral purposes. That's the gospel truth. He was sixteen; his name was Oracio Coquo. "I knew him, Horatio--"

...okay, that was uncalled-for."

Tags: club scene, revision wingeing, writing craft wank

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