"but...but...the Spectrum is for educational purposes Mum! Honest, look it comes with a game called Chess and Scrabble!"
Ping pong, Pacman, Defender, Elite, Sabre Wolf, Manic Miner, Jetset Willy, Tekken Sensible Soccer, Mario, Sonic, NHL, PES, Fifa, COD, Forza, Dirt, Bubble Burst, Candy Crush, Donald Trump, Mickey Mouse... Never affected me in anyway whatsoever, thinking back, I still haven't handed in my Technical Drawing homework due in 1985. "Argghh, just one more go mum."
I grew up with a commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. I use to play games obsessively, especially Elite but it never impacted my social and family life. Apart from a bit of cop killing and drug, slave and alien artifact trading here and there I have grown up to be a well rounded member of society
I seem to be the only person in public spaces sitting staring into space, thinking without a device of some kind. Looking at other people using their phones, it seems that we're at the point where they're virtually programmed to reach for their phones as soon at every conceivable opportunity without even thinking about it. Often going through the same cycle, checking text, mail, news. Seems the whole concept of independent reflection has gone out the window.
If you're into Game Development in Python and Android, read on.
“There’s no point trying to tell yourself that darkness changes nothing; maybe she believes that, maybe she doesn’t, but in any case it’s wrong, because darkness happens, it fills a space, and it could also be full of something like the way a drawer is full of silverware, or the earth is full of insects that scatter in panic when you lift a rotten log, even though darkness could also be a balloon, a balloon filled with black air.”
In “Replacement” by Tor Ulven
Because of its brevity and yet countless fathoms-deep complexity coupled with what is not easy text I tend to consider “Replacement” as an example of a novel that sifts the casual reader from the committed enthusiast. In the same vein as “Heart of Darkness” by Conrad and “Wild Highway” by Bill Drummond & Mark Manning in terms of seriousness of theme in a small expertly packed parcel, but providing a rather more difficult text to engage with,“Replacement” is an significant novel on many levels.
“Replacement” carries a matching authorial mood of darkness that is perhaps the seeds of meta-fiction; you are aware that the style of the telling of the tale is intricately woven into the fabric of the tale itself. The clarity and simplicity of the authorial voices in the two books above-mentioned is not present and you, the reader, are called upon to grapple with the text as part of the experience the book is offering up. And it's a hell of a lot shorter than “Moby Dick”.
If you're into Mundane Fiction, read on.
‘In Blade Runner, also, it is an authentic relationship to Being that is taken to be what essentially ensouls both humans and replicants. Such is the import of Roy Batty’s famous final soliloquy:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-Beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.”’
In “Philip K. Dick and Philosophy - Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits” by Dylan E. Wittkower
I just wanted to say that in my opinion any attempt to construct a coherent interpretation pf Phil Dick’s universe is missing the point. To be able to to construct a Weltanschauung of Dick’s writing we should focus only on philosophy. In all of Dick’s fiction time and causality are of the essence. The point is that, once time and causality become malleable, there is no hope of forming a solid, consistent interpretation of events in Dick’s fiction. That leads to our questioning the Nature of Reality. The focus shifts from epistemology - the problem of knowledge - to ontology - the way different realities are produced. This shift, according to Brian McHale, is precisely what defines the transition from modernism to postmodernism. In its resistance to coherent interpretation, "Ubik" is similar to certain more "literary" works of the 60s, for example the “nouveau romans” of Robbe-Grillet, or Richard Brautigan's "In Watermelon Sugar". (Granted these are very different stylistically). Is it because Dick is writing SF that so many assume the incoherence is sloppiness rather than a deliberate rhetorical strategy?
I think Robbe-Grillet was perhaps deliberately, not just stylistically, trying to put thinking and theorizing about the art of writing into the structure of his novels to create novelty, as writing, which he called “Noveau Roman”. I don't know what Brautigan was trying to do, but Phil Dick's subjects and concerns about reality weren't about writing per se, but about living. I don't think he was trying to deliberately create a new kind of writing or novel. That doesn't mean his works are narrowly interpretable, but many, many SF novels have time travel, space/time warps, and so on, but are interpretable. Interpretations or readings are just perspectives which aren't meant to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Reasonably consistent interpretations are possible, such a everything-is-perfect's Jungian analysis. Works like Phil Dick's makes people want to interpret them and present many overlapping and partial possibilities of interpretation and perhaps ultimate impenetrability.
If you're into Literary Criticism on Phil Dick, read on.
“ ’Are you saying that ecological balance has been achieved through the collapse of the consumer society, media and democracy?’ ”
In “The Algorithm of Power” by Pedro Barrento
The idea that authors have to know science to write SF is laughably reductive, comically self-important, Mr Science Degree probably, and just provably untrue, as non-scientists Ballard or Banks demonstrated, as but one of many. You can describe a technology without knowing how it works, as a character this might work better than any attempt at omniscience... depends on the book! Exposition can be narcotic but often needs resisting.
We've got 6, no wait 7.5, soon to be 10-11 billion people all shitting in the ocean (metaphorically), we've got all kinds of other problems besides global warming. Fixing global warming would just get us on a path to be able to even talk about the root causes (late-stage capitalism and overpopulation) that we can't even mention today without freaking people out. Mostly, but we could get along with many more people if all those people weren't operating under the belief that their lives will only have meaning if they have MORE. The economic system/cult we are busily exporting around the world puts very near zero value on all the valuable things in the world like human life and nature and water and air and our very biosphere, while making greed and waste and obsolescence and evanescent zeroes in bank computers the highest possible aspiration for any human culture. With our values so screwed up, we would still be slowly murdering the planet with a far lower population.
No, the idea of the novel as a piece of esoteric, self-indulgent showmanship aimed at making the reader feel part of some occult intellectual elite is dying a welcome, although belated, death. Barrento's novel is anything but.
If you're into Portuguese SF, written originally in English, read on.
If you don't use clay tablets, please read this.
"'I am Ubik. Before the universe was I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be. ‘“
In “Ubik” by Philip K. Dick
This would feel like a meaningless read indeed if it wasn't, in fact, a very FUNNY one, full of a dry humor. In Ubik the characters are taken in such a subjective maze of crumbling reality, unexpected time-travelling and personal doubts, that it becomes a materialization of the absurdity of the human condition, in the form of an exhilarating fiction. If you are not into the humor of Kafka and Borges, it makes perfectly sense that you are not sensible to Dick's one. What makes Ubik a wonderful read still today? Dick didn't nail everything too tightly to the plot. The result may seem a potpourri but his worlds live and breathe. If he were writing now this book would make him a rebel and, given what he was like, would give most editors / publishers gray-hairs. It also begs the question (of others in the genre): Can you really do that?
I think the current fascination with Dick seems tied to the fact that most of his most popular books have dystopian or control themes. The other worldliness, or just around the corner-ness, of his stories, make it seem fictional, therefore enjoyable, yet also real and possible. I had been seeing a resurgence in sales of his books a couple of decades ago. This is just a speculative thought, but I wonder: If we had really been reading him for a spooky window into the future, then that means that the "seeds of the future dystopia" already started back then. Nixon had been around in Dick's time, but Reagan and the Republican nasties was their second coming. AI was only just poking its nose into things. 2000 was around the corner. Was Dick one of our clues to the future?
If you're into SF, read on.
The one faithful film adaptation of a PKD story I'm aware of was the Linklater version of A Scanner Darkly. All the others take a major conceptual element of the story's basic premise, but then seriously alter the narrative in ways that often make them very different thematically. I really liked the Linklater film, too, because I think the "slavish" recreation of the story does a far better job of presenting the ideas that Dick had in their full nuance and depth than any other film version of his work ever has.) Most other adaptations of his work (there are some I haven't seen) tend to fall far short of that, which is really a shame. I mean, Blade Runner (the 1982 version) is a great movie. I like it a lot, but the novel has layers of philosophical depth that the film just doesn't get anywhere near. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is one of Dick's many explorations of what was clearly his favorite philosophical topic, namely "what is the difference between reality and an illusion?" The movie is reasonably accurate in its representation of the basic plot points (a police officer hunts for escaped androids from space colonies, who are illegally living on Earth and posing as humans) but doesn't even attempt to probe the weirder, but more thought-provoking elements of the story--e.g. that the human race is actually going extinct, and that the robots' brains are distinguishable from those of humans by the robots' inability to feel empathy toward living things.
If you're into SF, read on.
It’s an interesting debate about SF being written by mainstream writers, and whether it is still SF. Most of the early examples are female writers who coupled SF and feminism. Atwood, LeGuin, Lessing, Octavia Butler (who also brought in race topics, of course). Whether you see them as SF or mainstream really depends which editions of their books you pick up. And it really doesn’t matter either way, they were (and are) just good. When it becomes embarrassing is when mainstream writers start playing with SF tropes but don’t have the skill to carry it off well. At the moment I’m reminded of that point in the eighties when mainstream white pop acts started rapping – embarrassing to say the least. You can tell when an artist has a real grasp on the tradition they are working in. You don’t expect classical musicians to be able to play rhythm and blues without at least listening to John Lee Hooker for a while, yet mainstream writers go stumbling into the depths of Hard SF territory without apparently reading any of what has come before. Fair enough if they can do it, but if Cormac McCarthy and Winterson are any guide it seems that they can’t. What’s “rebellious” about conforming to current expectations and ideology? Stereotypes and political correctness are two sides of the same coin, treating characters as statements or representatives and not as individuals.
Quite apart from believing there is space for pure entertainment, I also do not believe that interesting, challenging work usually comes about as a result of a writer sitting down and consciously thinking “OK, I’m going to tackle this important topic”. Writing is more often a process of exploration and discovery, with a lot of unconscious input. As a provision, I would also suggest that the expectation that writers must “treat characters as statements or representatives and not as individuals”, reliable narrators or not, is also a presumption and taste of our own particular time, place, and culture.
Why “must” this be so?
If you’re into SF-done-right, read on.
I humbly declare this book to be the greatest literary work of mankind. If you don't learn Greek (worth it just to read this Meisterwerk, never mind the rest of the immortal trove of Greek literature) you can read it in so many translations that have become classics in their own use of the English language, Fagles and Murray, just to mention two. Oh, what the Hades, let's throw in a third, not just for its brilliant translation, but also owing to the exotic character behind it: no less than Lawrence of Arabia.
The Homeric poems were sung in a less-enlightened time, in comparison with the later Greek tragedies, and with the later epics too. Apollonius' Argonautica was composed, post Greek Tragedy, and his audience would have been, no doubt, familiar with Euripides' Medea. Questions such as how justice and revenge affect societies were addressed by Aeschylus in the Oresteia; likewise, the reception of the anthropomorphic gods, and their pettiness, was raised by Euripides in Hippolytus and the Bacchae. Furthermore, the real nature and brutality of warfare was also raised in the Trojan Women. Throw in how one state views another state, and questions of racial identity, and you have The Persians by Aeschylus, and Medea by Euripides. Additionally, if you include Philoctetes by Sophocles, and the issue of how youth should conduct themselves is also raised. If you consider, too, Ajax by Sophocles, and you find that the bloodthirsty myths of an earlier age are filtered through questions that C5 Athenian society faced. What is better, the brute force of an unsophisticated Ajax, or the sophistry and rhetorical arguments of Odysseus in Ajax? By the time we arrive at Virgil, and The Aenied, brutal events such as the death of Priam by Neoptolemus in Aeneid Book II, are tempered with a more enlightened approach. Neoptolemus is condemned for killing Priam, and rightly so, as mercy is important, and exemplifies the Romanitas of 'Sparing the humble, and conquering the proud'. However, Aeneas doesn't show mercy in his killing of Turnus at the end of Book XII.
If you're into Greek Literature, read on.
For me, the key to Faustus is his interaction in Act V, Scene I with the "old man". The old man gives us Marlowe's theology:
“Yet, yet, thou hast an amiable soul,”
—even after Faustus has made his deal with the devil and used the power he got for the previous 23 'years' and 364 'days', Faustus's soul is lovable. Just repent! Faustus replies:
“Where art thou, Faustus? Wretch, what hast thou done?
Damned art thou, Faustus, damned: despair and die.”
Echoing the stories of Cain after his fratricide and Jesus on the cross, Faustus insists on his damnation. The old man contradicts him:
“Oh stay, good Faustus, stay thy desperate steps.
[. . .
…] call for mercy and avoid despair.”
The old man leaves, and Faustus speaks out his dilemma:
“I do repent, and yet I do despair.”
Mephistophilis calls Faustus a "traitor", and "arrest[s his] soul / For disobedience" — don't doubt the keenness of Marlowe's irony, or sarcasm —, and Faustus repents of his repentance —irony! sarcasm! —, and gets his final wish, to see "the face that launched a thousand ships". While he's going on about how he'll "be Paris" and get Helen—does Faustus not remember how that turned out??—, during his poetry the old man returns to the stage. When Faustus leaves, intoxicated with sexual love for Helen, the old man, before defying the devils who've come to take his body to fire (but not his soul), says of Faustus:
“Accursed Faustus, miserable man,
That from thy soul exclud'st the grace of heaven,
And fliest the throne of his tribunal seat.”
Faustus doesn't crave knowledge: he goes through the catalogue of human expertise at the beginning of the play and finds, study by study, their futility, and turns to "necromantic books": "A sound magician is a demi-god."
If you're into 16th century literature, read on.
“Those who have taken Heminges and Concell at their word, hoping for some unmediated record of the authorial intent, have made a serious miscalculation. The writer, William Shakespeare, is not to be found in the Folio pages. The figure critics have embraced is an actor.”
In “Owning Shakespeare” by James J. Marino
Mediocrity has always ruled. And it still rules today, but in a different form. Someone once said that great poetry can no longer be written because we are now all democrats, aren't we? Mediocrity is good these days because it is 'democratic', not because it is aristocratic or Oxbridge elitist. But what we mean by "democracy" here is really bureaucracy. The plethora of creative-writing scholarships and courses promoting the most mediocre work is just one expression of this. For me, I think some of the great Shakespeare debates are side-shows (in Marino’s case the so-called “Sincklo/Soto Problem” in the play “The Taming of the Shrew”, or, should I say “The Taming of a Shrew”?) distracting us from the fact that mediocre values continue to be triumphant in our present poetic culture. I’m sure books and “problems” like these contribute to a true appreciation of Shakespeare unlike the ones dealing with the ill-reputed Authorship Question...Everyone is dancing round their handbags at this party... Once you get into the core truth of what Shakespeare is about - the philosophy, the language, the breathtaking understanding of human nature, the poignancy, you have to concede to a greater power somewhere within. Yes a genius, there's no other word, but surrounded by a core group to feed ideas, information, tales from Italy, the classics, translations (and works not yet translated). But there are so many questions and interrogations regarding Shakespeare: The Authorship Question I mentioned above, Who Edited the 1623 Folio, Who Shortened King Lear, etc.
If you're into Shakespeare, read on.
Word of Warning: What you're about to read might not make much sense if you don't have read the book. Read at your own peril...
Perhaps what Blake also represents to me is the “thou” in performance, on a threshold over which lay different spacial awareness, new, thee in triplicate state, digital long haul through double-number's realm - restoring boring patter to the even lie that led to this.
I cannot go on for very much longer, because Carol's shelf-life, at the bottom of a reject-pile, thee's words, alert the authorities to one's 'undercover' performance as thine own Songs of Experience and Failure, 'shit', you know how it is. Blake here, he did you feel injustice because it is all there?
Anonymity, rejection, failure. It's all you knew and experienced, as a prophet: not only unrecognised by the community in your own land of 'Albion', as their Prophet; but also viewed with bafflement, indifference, disconnection, de-friend quality in personal dealings with your fellow bards, more or less, wholly inconsequential; you have, like, 'zero' effect you, in Albion thine of a too, too soppy mug, sceptic tank, this beach, this hut, this sea, this dump, this fecking Portugal’s greater glory, God and Lady AD's words, offering tokens of animal sacrifice and conditions on a toilet by the lake where.
If you're into Poetry and Blake in particular, read on.
Is it possible for a journalist (or an author “who was once a journalist”) to cross the line? When someone gave me this book I wasn’t sure I’d read it. I’m not really into the gossipy side of politics. But because I was on a boat cruise on route to the Greek Islands everything sort of made sense...
António José Saraiva makes quite clear what’s wrong with this kind of book; a book of this kind chooses a bunch of people who didn't consent to be a subject, rather than the ones who did. If Miguel Portas were alive this kind of privacy violation would probably be traumatic and maybe involve legal action. He's dead, yes but ..is it not still better that Saraiva should just have found a consenting subject? (For my foreign readers, Saraiva claims Miguel Portas said to him that Paulo Portas, his brother, was/is gay).
I mean; are you interesting? Are you flawed? Is it ok for a book to talk about things you wished to remain private, and said in a private conversation, to be made available to audiences without your consent? If you are dead, is it OK then, and if you say yes, does it matter how it will affect other still living people who knew you and if you still say yes - should journalists assume its OK for all subjects just because some subjects would be OK with it? Audiences might not care about any of this, but how to get the story without doing anything defamatory or breaching privacy for the subject is what journalists question all the time. I do think it is a more complex issue than that when we are still dealing with the all-pervasive structures of the closet. Individual agency is not always what is keeping something secret in such structures. And I really don't think that one is right that people would have been shouting louder about journalistic ethics if the subject were a straight man.
If you're into gossipy politics, read on.