Aug 30 2012

Re/Search’s V. Vale Seeks Next Burroughs, Ballard, Lamantia… Ken Goldberg Interviews William Gibson

""){ ?> By R.U. Sirius, V. Vale



V. Vale, the great publisher of Re/Search, has sent out a very thoughtful essay wondering who is predicting the future as well as William S. Burroughs and J.G. Ballard did (particularly Ballard, I think) and calling everyone’s attention to an upcoming appearance by William Gibson in San Francisco.

EDITORIAL FROM V. VALE: “Mirror Mirror On the Wall, Who’s the Most Prophetic of Them All?”

It is difficult to survive and transcend the loss of one’s “father” [figures] — in my case there were three: William S. Burroughs, Philip Lamantia and J.G. Ballard. Philip was an authentic American Surrealist poet and first-generation “Beat” luminary — he read at that very first public reading of “Howl” at the Six Gallery at 3119 Fillmore Street/Filbert-Greenwich Sts, SF, Oct 7, 1955. Mr Lamantia was my first mentor. William S. Burroughs I didn’t meet until fall of 1978 when he came to San Francisco to read at the Keystone Korner in North Beach next to the Police Station. J.G. Ballard I corresponded with beginning in 1978 when I finally got an interview with him by proxy for my Search & Destroy #10 (incidentally, still available in a low-cost reprint from the original negatives). That same issue featured Burroughs on the cover; photo by Kamera Zie, who worked at City Lights, as I did.

When J.G. Ballard died April 19, 2009, I looked around and wondered who could replace him. He was a magnanimous, generous, spontaneous, unpretentious, publicity-avoiding ORIGINAL whose darkly imaginative literary output seemingly contradicted the ultra-polite, warmly humorous manner in which he treated people who visited him (including me). I was fortunate to be in his presence (and tape-record him) a number of times — in San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto (?), and at Shepperton, outside London, near the Thames river where he took frequent après-lunch perambulations. By sheer luck I managed to tape-record both Burroughs and Ballard just months before they died…

Needless to say, nobody has yet “replaced” the above three deceased mentors. The nagging question is: Who are the people alive on the planet who are predicting the future as well as Burroughs and Ballard? The so-called CyberPunk writers (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Richard Kadrey, Rudy Rucker; who else?) are alive and penning miles of sentences — are they still the “zeitgeist” of now? Is there a zeitgeist of now, besides “Things Fall Apart” and –? Maybe we all need to attend the Extreme Futurist Festival

We have long supported Survival Research Laboratories in their noisy machine performances divining a rusty, improvised-technological future in the perhaps money-less, state-less, more robotic- and drone-filled world landscape ahead of us. We’re reviewing the past 20 years, and an SRL associate comes to mind who has more or less selflessly curated dozens (maybe hundreds) of futuristic, bursting-with-ideas presentations by the crême-de-la-crême of cutting-edge thinkers, scientists and artists — most of them free; no admission charge — at U.C. Berkeley. That would be Ken Goldberg, who has been studying the future for several decades. Anyone heard of telerobotics? To quote, “Telerobotics is the field of robotics concerned with the remote distance control of robots using wireless connections, tethered connections, or internet connectivity via human input. Ken Goldberg, a pioneer of telerobotic art and his collaborative installation “Memento Mori” can be seen as the first telepresent, internet-based earthwork controlled by minute movements of the Hayward Fault in California and transmitted continuously as a seismic data stream to an embedded audio visual display.” [!]

To read this entire essay, go here.

  • By Julian Bond, August 30, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

    Gibson has a good rant about how “Now” has contracted. In the golden age of Scifi it was 5 years or so. Now it’s more like 5 months. And that rapidity of change is making the business of future prediction, even near future prediction too hard. Consequently (in the tomorrows parties sequence) he doesn’t write about the future any more but about aspects of the present. I have this mildly cynical feeling that nothing much futuristic has happened since about 1975 and we’ve spent the last 35 years just filling in the details of an already fully formed future. I know things like internet, rave culture, Brazilian anthropomorphic Syncretism have made it a very different place, but even they were somewhat predictable and inherent in what was around in 1975.

    As for favourite near-future SciFi, Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod. And the magical realism of Lucius Shepherd. I’d like to include Doctorow and Sterling but while I like them and admire them, I’m not entirely convinced. Zeitgeist and Little Brother had moments of genius but I no longer like the writing.

    Will we look back on the late 80s-early 90s cyberpunk movement as a “Golden Age of SciFi” to rival the Late 50s-early 60s? Or at least the late 60s of the New Worlds crew that spawned Ballard, Moorcock, Aldiss, Disch, Spinrad.

  • By Bill Hicks, August 31, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    “Mitt Romney would stick his tongue into the anus of a dead opossum and suck out its rotten guts if he had reason to believe that opossum had swallowed a quarter in the last five years. His wife once ate an 18 month old infant through the bars of its crib. These people are monstrous, maniacal Plutocrats whose cloven hooves leave cracks in the ground wherever they tread ; from these cracks the sulphurous reek of Hell Itself emerges to sicken livestock and make birds fall dead from the trees.”

  • By Stenz, August 31, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    While I agree with most of the sentiments, Mr. Hicks, opossums typically have a lifespan of only about two years.

  • By anonemouse, August 31, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

    To answer their question: William Gibson wrote the world as it is (we live in a Gibsonian universe), Charlie Stross is writing the future as it will be (once Google Glass is publicly available we will essentially live in the “Halting State” world), and Peter Watts has written the future as we hope it won’t be (the background of “Maelstrom” is ‘things fall apart’, but much more interestingly than usual, and worryingly believably in a world that features interesting diseases like “totally drug-resistant tuberculosis” and “antibiotic-resistant syphilis”).

  • By Klint Finley, September 4, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

    I suspect that many of the most relevant writers of the 21st century, those who can escape the allure of the “official future” and think originally about the world we live in, are working outside the anglophone world, but I have little idea who or where they might be.

    Perhaps they’re emerging from nations facing great turbulence, such as Greece, Thailand, Egypt or Honduras. Or maybe they’re from one of the emerging superpowers, Brazil, China and India, who are starting to see the world and its possibilities in an entirely new way.

    Or maybe they’re from some pocket of the world that we (well, I) don’t think of often, like Bhutan.

  • By Rachel Haywire, September 4, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    This is a great read. It is us to us to carry on the message while bringing something new to the equation. We underestimate ourselves as a generation. There have been so many brilliant writers before us and we now seem to be at a cultural and intellectual halt. We have to rock the boat in one way or another if we wish to untangle ourselves from that version of the future.

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