Last year at Readercon, there was an emotional dust-up over a sordid harassment incident, in addition to a scary and unexpected medical emergency for one of our favorite editors. At this year’s Readercon, we were spared this additional drama, and found ourselves sailing through a very mellow and enjoyable con. Of course, it was great to catch up with other fans and pros, like Alan Hanscomb, who finished his novel _Sharon of Two Salems_, and Mark Borok, Dianne Weinstein, and the whole Readercon gang; and also great to make some new acquaintances, like some writer named Seamus who was wearing a little black straw fedora, and a couple of mathematics and linguistics-loving commedia dell’arte performers. Most surprising for me perhaps, was to hijack a moment of Name Your LinkJohn Shirley’s time, reminiscing about his gigs at CBGBs back in 1980, where I saw him stripped to the waist and flailing around like a maniac singing “_I am electricity!“ Now that was a memorable night. Probably Shirley will scratch his head and wonder just who the heck I am and how I knew him well enough to be on the guest list… but I was gracious enough not to mention in public some of the other crazy shit that we both witnessed in Greenwich Village back then. Like Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice, those were some nutty times… _ So where did we go from here? Yes, the panel sessions.
On BoingBoing there is a link to this “hypnotic folk dance,” which only one commentator identified correctly as Nadia Nadezhdin’s ensemble Birch founded in 1948. (Thanks, Terry di Paolo!) However, it is worth pointing out that the name of this particular piece, Прялица, means “spinning jenny,” as in spinning of thread for weaving cloth. This should be obvious from the motions of the performers as they sit and twist the braids of the thread, and is reinforced by the threads strung over the stage, and the camera angles taken through the skein of strings. If you watch closely, you will also note that the patterns of the rotating group (when viewed from above) actually resembles different aspects of the spinning wheel, a technology that was much closer to the ordinary Soviet citizen of the 50s (when this dance was most likely performed). Other internal evidence to date this piece can be seen in the fascinating crowd scenes at the end of the performance. The giant klieg lights have fine molded vents and precision external gears. It’s rather difficult to guess at a date of manufacture, but they clearly look like post WWII, pre 1970s objects. But the image of these technical workers at the controls of great lights is a wonderful tribute to the socialist realism of the original futurists, a pure homage to Rodchenko, if you ask me!
It is rather hard to believe, but by pure chance the last three novels I read in sequence were all Metahistorical narratives - not in the sense of Hayden White or Gaian ecology… What I am referring to in the case of these three books is a Metahistory as a condition, or perhaps even a technique, for examining the inter-locking possible “worlds” which are branching off from one another at pivotal moments, like fractals in space-time. This may seem like a rather typical science fiction trope - that of parallel universes or multiple simultaneous dimensions - but strangely enough, the device was used in all three of these books in a particular way, which was to provide a narrative arc for the characters to experience another world the way things might have been, but weren’t, in their own worlds. Let me take them in the order that I read them, to explain.
How is it that my brother, Po, marooned out in the wilds of the high desert at Canyon Blanco is first one to tell me about the synthetic brain news? Here I am, wired up to the ears with wireless routers zapping me and servers buzzing underfoot…only a beer cap toss from a major data center…and as far as I knew I had a unique and unreplaceable hunk of gray matter floating in my skull. Sure it’s a little frayed around the edges, has its foibles, is a beast when it comes to cold starts on a winter morning, but still - after all it’s been through - it seemed a right decent old brain, as far as I was concerned. But now we know that these dweebs over at Blue Brain Project have already concocted a rat’s brain, and are madly tuning their skills to create a human brain within ten years. BBC Story Is it just me, or does that seem like it might not work out according to plan?
If life is actually lived, awareness begins to unravel the basic mystery of how the human race got this way. Then we begin to wonder, in the words of Mario Vargas Llosa, at what precise moment had
Reading the MOMA Book on Rodchenko, I was struck by Rodchenko’s diary entry about the early aviator Aleksandr Vasiliev. What must a barnstorming demonstration have been like at Kazan in the year 191