WARREN ELLIS LTD Articles.
THE WORST IS YET TO COME by Peter Fleming does what it says on the tin. It’s a set of thoughts and survival tips on… well, it all starts when Fleming goes, as many people do, to view a cupboard that someone’s offering for rent as an apartment in London:
That awful apartment told me something. Neoliberal capitalism had probably run its course, spawning progeny it could no longer protect itself from. The constellation of possibilities that once flourished in cities like London had vanished. There were no antibodies left. Capitalism was undoing itself at nearly every turn. A kind of neo-Feudalism was on the march. Perhaps we were witnessing the birth of post-capitalism after all, not a clean and better alternative to the system, but (rather paradoxically) a much worse version of it, one that will make the “Trump Years” look like a tiptoe through the tulips.
My theory is this. Most advanced industrial societies have actually outlived the principles of capitalism and are busy transitioning into something else. It is still too early to say what that “something else” might be. But we do know the break won’t be clean. So the post-capitalist future we should prepare for will be no classless utopia. The worst features of capitalism will be amplified and applied reductio ad absurdum, coalescing around the return of preindustrial norms of authority and an incredible polarisation of wealth.
Donald Trump, Brexit, the impending environmental eco-blitz (or what NASA calls a “Type-L” collapse given the role played by elites) and the prospect of another Radiohead album give the appearance that things couldn’t possibly get worse. And yet, I disagree. They probably will.
It’s cheerful, yes. It’s also great fun to read, free of jargon, and very clear about where it’s coming from and where it’s going. It is, in some ways, a collation and re-statement of a lot of themes that have emerged over the last while, but it has new ideas too. I am very grateful for a book of this kind that does not also do one all over itself about the genius of Karl Marx. Also, goddamn, any work of political economics that talks about WG Sebald has my immediate vote.
(And makes me need to re-read Sebald’s magisterial THE RINGS OF SATURN for the umpteenth time.)
Fleming suggests speculative negativity and revolutionary pessimism as tools for surviving the shitstorm to come. The latter out of Sebald, the former out of object-oriented ontology.
Speculative negativity helps us divine the ghosts from the future that are now wandering among us. For example, look at Lethal Automated Weapons (or LAWs) and AI-equipped military technologies. If there is any innovation in the economy today, then it’s happening here.
Revolutionary pessimism anticipates the nastiest surprises that a derailed civilisation has to offer, yet refuses the cult of futility… Collective misery and individual optimism are just different sides of the same coin. Revolutionary pessimism inverts the formula (i.e., generalised optimism and individual unease) to forge a radical hopelessness.
He appends this to one section, possibly just for the hell of it:
Society needs to be de-Twitterised and experience a Twitter-winter.
I have to note that it is a perhaps surprisingly funny book. Which is just as well, given that it lays out how things are not likely to improve economically or politically in the short term. Think of it as a book-long “get your own oxygen mask on first and remember your training.” Except maybe a little grimmer than the tone I like to strike in the sign-off. Under the chapter about capitalism as cult, for example:
Cults will use anything to control their members, from the greatest pleasures to the most acute anxieties. Sometimes it’s best to feel nothing and go numb. Political wisdom is knowing when.
It’s a passionate, furious, self-aware and oddly funny book about the darkness ahead – and, as in James Bridle’s recent NEW DARK AGE, about the dawn after the dark.
And, as you may have noticed, insanely quotable:
The only way to retain your integrity when using a mobile app is to follow Joseph Conrad’s advice to the letter: “I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice”.
I’m trying to remember to list the blogs I read regularly, as new posts pop up, in order to be able to map my end of the scattered archipelago that is the Isles Of Blogging.
The term “Isles Of Blogging” comes from Nabil Maynard (nadreck.me), who most recently has been talking about social media diets.
Paul Graham Raven writes at Velcro City Tourist Board, and he’s got a new note up today about a piece at the LRB, himself noting that bailing out of Twitter ” continues, years afterwards, to ache and itch like a botched self-amputation.”
Sign of life from old lag Matt Jones at Magical Nihilism, currently a roaming Google director (recursive).
K at neonlike.blue/notes found these gorgeous imaginary-architecture drawings that are like Schuiten and Peeters doing Tokyo Gotham.
From an ARC (advance reading copy) in PDF that I had to hit with hammers and Calibre to fit it properly into my Kindle, which was a huge pain in the arse (publishers, why is it that some of you easily offer a .mobi and some of you act like I’m asking you to squeeze coal into diamonds?), but worth it because it was a new Will Wiles novel:
In PLUME, Will Wiles both re-invents and murders the London novel, in a spectacular act of evil, surgical intensity.
I will eventually be talking about it in the newsletter. In the meantime, it’s out on May 19th.
Just wrote a blurb for Corey J White’s new book REPO VIRTUAL, which I finished reading the Advance Reading Copy of last night.
Cyberpunk’s critical update, for these mixed-reality days of dark money, livestreaming cults, machine gaze and life lived on the razorwire edge.
It’s not out until 2020, I think and it’s not available for pre-order yet, but here’s Tor’s page about it.
Just logging what I’m doing.
I am half a century old, and for more than twenty years of that run, I’ve had a public-facing presence on the internet of some kind. Most recently, I had a morning journal imaginatively titled morning.computer. But time, and working methods, and schedules, and life all act upon practices and plans. Writing in the mornings was a great leveller four or five years ago when I was travelling near-constantly. Today, I spend the first hour or two of my day staring blankly at the sky over coffee with soothing ambient music being poured into my ear canals in an attempt to stop my brain from flipping open the top of my skull and abandoning ship.
And yet. I find myself continuing to want a public-facing place on the net. I always say that I need to get ideas out in front of me so that I can see them properly, and writing not-fully-baked notions on a website is often the best way for me to do that.
Social media does not “get” not-fully-baked. Social media is useless for thinking out loud and exploring notions. Social media — bizarrely, given its nature — does not do context.
I start a new notebook every year. Notebooks have internal context. Notebooks exist only to think about things, remember things and preserve things for later consideration. This is a notebook.
Also, let’s face it, it’s a blog. Not fully elderblog, as it’s a fresh notebook. But it’s a blog, which is a niche activity. Not fully baked is a coinage of Simon Reynolds, from the days when we were all publishing and all reading each other. Now, we’re the Isles of Blogging, a scattered archipelago of desert islands and sea forts who throw messages in bottles towards the mainland. And signal to each other with mirrors.
I am half a century old and nowhere near the cutting edge of anything. I am fine with this.
A legible presence on the web is also important to me. Because I’m a working writer, involved in many things with long gestation periods, and disappearing entirely from human notice is not always the best thing for a career. Put bluntly, I need to be able to signal that I’m still alive.
I’ve been testing out various publishing systems and formats for the last few months, to settle on what I want to do and how I want to act for, say, the next three to five years. I think this is it. So I’m signing and dating the first page of the notebook.