« on: February 26, 2017, 07:17:02 pm »
Recently read The Russian Cosmists by George Young, on account of Warren Ellis mentioning it in a newsletter months ago. It's a bit dry but worth reading if you have an interest in modern Russian philosophy, nineteenth century western occult movements, or transhumanism. It ties together all the people conventionally considered cosmists (with brief biographical sketches), along with De Chardin, Scriabin, Tolstoy, Steiner, & others whose ideas are similar but whose connection seemed historically tenuous, by showing how the ideas of Federov circulated and mutated within late 19th century Russian intellectual circles. It makes the case that there's a characteristically Russian stance toward philosophy that privileges community, praxis, and the rehabilitation of unpopular ideas, and that this position better represents cosmist thought than any particular details (which would change between thinkers). It also indirectly makes an argument for the potential for librarians (and other intellectual gatekeepers) to have an out-sized influence on history.
Also recently read Track Changes by Matthew Kirschenbaum, a literary history of word processing. Lots of interesting details in it. Mostly it focuses on the cultural impact that the mechanisms behind word processors had on the way literary authors thought of themselves and their own work (as opposed to distant readings of how the use of word processors might have concretely caused stylistic changes). Unexpectedly, there are almost as many evocative passages and turns of phrase in here as in The Russian Cosmists.
Finally, today I finished Transreal Cyberpunk, a collection of short stories co-written by Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. Despite the name, it doesn't contain much that would be called cyberpunk. It's mostly gonzo/bizarro fiction. I had read many of the pieces previously, but because this collects all of the pieces the two co-wrote in chronological order (and because it contains explanations by each of the authors about how each story was composed), I found this collection much more enjoyable than the individual stories within it. This collection contains some of the strangest stories I've ever read -- and I take care to seek out and read particularly strange stories. If you read and liked Semiotext(e) SF, this is a good companion piece. Also, if you're interested in Grant Morrison's concept of the hypersigil, transreal SF will probably be of interest: Rucker believes that by combining arbitrary particulars of one's own life with "SF power chords", he can produce significantly more gnarly & interesting stories. (I'm not sure to what degree I agree; Rucker is usually too daffy for me, though in this collection Sterling reigns him in.)