This panel, moderated (with immoderate gusto) by James Patrick Kelly, featured Scott Edelman, Eileen Gunn, Gene Wolfe, and Catherynne Valente. John Shirley was scheduled to participate, but got stuck in San Francisco, where I can picture him flailing savagely around in the airport trying to get on any flight to anywhere! The premise of the panel was based on Michael Swanwick‘s contention that “modesty and a reasonable awareness of one’s limitations have no place in a writing career.” Yes, that’s the same Swanwick who declared at Readercon one: “With the possible exception of Gene Wolfe, I’m the best writer here today.” Thus egocentrism…
It is hard for me to imagine, but I am more than forty years old, indeed very close to fifty years! I know, dear reader, you will be startled to hear such a thing, since all you encounter on my blog are absurdities, and many seemingly juvenile links to old comic books and science fiction artists. But there is reason encoded behind the screen of disconnected trivia that you find here. In fact, I am arranging these posts into a secret code; nor would it especially please me to know that you have figured it out…the news is not pretty! These are clues, do with them what you will. But mind you, time and decades are flashing past like lightning! Like a cinder snapping out of a burning log in the fireplace, ride this moment like a rocket…
At first, the survey of political systems in Mack Reynolds‘ interstellar spy novel, Planetary Agent X, seems quite whimisical and superficial. There are planets full of anarchists, and planets crawling with feudalism, nihilism, socialism, and what have you. There are some playful jabs at democracy, individualism, and even the tyranny of the uninformed voters (a la John Stuart Mill). The tone is not as playful as Ron Goulart, but definitely not very serious either. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the protagonist, Ronny Bronston, is given a sarcastic lecture by his handler, the mysterious Tog Lee Chang Chu, on the disasters brought about by “industrial feudalism.” How strangely familiar!
Reading Clay Shirky’s latest thought-piece on the demise of newspapers poses for all of us the interesting question: what sort of social / professional / technological model will we develop to replace print newspapers when they all go belly up? Shirky makes a pretty solid demonstration of the facts regarding the transition from those inky presses (thrashing out miles of newsprint every morning) to a new paradigm, but he is careful not to speculate too precisely about what form that future paradigm will take. Indeed, the whole point he is making is that we are now living through a revolution in which print media is being overthrown. During these last five hundred years, the cost of print production and the profits made on the distribution of printed objects was tightly bound up with dissemination of knowledge, art, technology, and of information of all kinds. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the speedy exchange of digital objects of all kinds, the flawless reproduction of information-laden media objects is no longer bound to the burdens of physical products that must be moved through space. The near-frictionless pathways that our digital infrastructure provides, has creatively destroyed the entire centuries-old paradigm of manufacturing, selling, and regulating the rights for commerce for media such as books, recordings, images, at least in the material manifestions that we have come to know and love.
Attending Antonio Di Mambro‘s lecture last night at Boston Public Library, it was amazing to see the giant crowd that packed Rabb Lecture Hall. Who would have thought that an urban planning talk — stoked with dire warnings and gloomy facts — would bring out such a vibrant cross-section of the city? It is almost as if, after thirty years of vapid hand-wringing and self-gratifying acts of “green” living, the mass of architects, planners, designers, and technocrats are beginning to realize that if they do not actually change the way America is built starting immediately, that our cities are literally going to fall apart. Cities can only take so much pillaging by the greed heads, then they go belly up.
Thinking about Master Sheng Yen prompted me to run back over my own history of attempts at meditation, which dates back to the early 1970s and takes a ragged course up to the present day. It occurs to me that even without touching on the teachings themselves, just a brief note on the course of events might be an amusing trip for those of us who took similar journeys, or who might not have been born yet.
Reading Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service brings to mind the fact that struggle is never finished. Yes, we need to have some hope, we need to stand up and cheer every day when another decent, humanizing, and reasonable executive order is delivered by the Obama White House… and yet, we also have to remember that there is a reason why we still need change in the first place. The memoir by the unlikely hero, Raymond Mungo, and the ghost of his alter-ego, Marshall Bloom, is riddled with the brazen and ridiculous posturing of green college grads and their acid-dropping cohorts who are hell-bent on saving the world. And yet, it is also true to itself, to its own ingenuity, self-deceptions, and aspirations. In a way, their self-determination to create the alternate news service, the non-lapdog, non-suckup, non-yesMan, non-corporate shill news service; where independent bylines gathered together under a loose umbrella called freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was noble indeed.