Friday, September 27, 2013

2H2K - February 2050: The Slab

“The Falls” at Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, Nevada (2011). [Photo by Michael Light] via Design Observer

[The following is the 2nd short story in a series, the overall project is introduced here; the first story is here; the third is here]
David felt like he had an iron bar passing latterly through his chest. The bar wasn't a romantic metaphor, it was a feeling. Closing his eyes, it took shape; about as big around as his heart, and heavy. David could feel the bar’s weight, as clearly as if it were held in his hand. The most gruesome part of the bar was it’s length. It was longer than his chest was wide. Long enough that the bar extended beyond his body, protruding invisibly through his biceps. Like Frankenstein's neck bolts writ large, he thought. David knew what it was: a chill. In his mind's eye he saw it extending from the sides of his arms as two cylinders. He felt it pulling warmth from his heart, radiating it uselessly into the desert air.

2H2K - February 2050 - And its Discontents: An Introduction

Abandoned Spanish housing estates (Photographs by Simon Norfolk/Institute) via The New Yorker
[Part 2/12 - Return to Part 1/12]

I like to date the beginning of modernity to August 3rd, 1492 - the sparking of the Colombian Exchange that Charles C. Mann writes about in his 1st and 2nd books so persuasively. This was the moment when the relatively densely urbanized Europeans made contact with the long isolated Americas, and set off a global trade in plants, animals, diseases, technologies, and ideas. Many of the founding works of modernity were laid down in the opening years of the Exchange: Michelangelo’s David (1504), Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513), Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia (1516), and Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517). It was the moment that gave rise to the densely urbanized world we live in now. And 2050 is the moment that will give rise to what comes next, what comes after modernity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2H2K - January 2050: LoaneRs

Carnegie Library (1913)
[The following is the first of 12 short stories, introduced here.]
Little Jo watched David as he barked commands at a cloud of invisible avataRs - or at least invisible to her. Her phone was dead, the only image she could see in her frames was a light indicating that they were searching for a connection. Little Jo couldn’t see what her fiancĂ© was hearing or see what he was seeing; but she could imagine: the persistently polite, but helpless, scrum of telleRs, cashieRs, and operatoRs. And even though she couldn’t see his face from where she was standing, David’s frustration filled the large front room of the rental shop.

2H2K -January 2050 - Object Orientated Speculative Fiction: An Introduction

My sculpture, Die Die Die (2003), set just about where Frank Gehry's Downtown Guggenheim was slated to go.
This past spring I started a collaborative project with my friend Greg Borenstein. Greg came to me with an image: one of my sculptures scaled up until it dwarfed the New York skyline. Because of my interest in urbanism and SciFi, he wondered if I might work with him to imagine an urban future. While I had no idea this project was coming my way, I was immediately ready with two preconditions: No flooded cities and no dystopia. Not because I don't believe in Climate Change, or I because shit isn't horribly fucked up and might get much worse, but mostly, because in the realm of SciFi both mean streets and flooded streets are cliche. And while I am well aware that near-future predictions are some of the hardest to make (and for SciFi authors, some of the hardest to make convincingly), I had a very particular bracket of time I was interested in setting our project within. There are a number of demographic trends, all converging around the year 2050, that could easily make the second half (2H) of the 21st Century (2K) the most remarkable period of modernization we have seen yet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Political Economy of Zombies: An Introduction

Google search "Dawn of the Dead" 
Today is the 2nd anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and coinciding with the debut on Blu-ray of Brad Pitt’s zombie apocalypse epic, World War Z. This is an entirely arbitrary coincidence, except for the fact that the literary site, The Airship Daily is publishing a piece I wrote equating zombies with anti-capitalist revolution, and the zombie apocalypse with utopia; admittedly strange bedfellows - but not absurd. [Update: Felix Salmon wrote a terrific post in response to the essay for Reuters and David Graeber gave it an amazing endorsement via twitter.] Both neoliberalism and zombies are everywhere and unavoidable, and both mean something, something about us and the times we live in. The essay that The Airship has posted is plenty long, but I thought I’d post here a bit about why I chose to write about zombies: a genre, that growing up, I had actively avoided.