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Messages - Roko's Modern Basilisk

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1
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 22, 2017, 12:24:50 pm »
Our protagonist is the late bloomer in a group of pre-teens of eastern european ancestry -- all the parents are colleagues, professors of math or science at a nearby university. Our protagonist notices that, one by one, each of his friends stays home sick from school for nearly a week, coming back several inches taller, much more interested in academics (and uninterested in their earlier obsessions), and with completely remodeled bedrooms and a completely new wardrobe. He suspects that some of his friends might actually be getting replaced by aliens; his parents dismiss this. After all his friend group has been "replaced", feeling lonely, he suddenly has an insatiable craving for paper. Feeling strange, he stays home; his hair and fingernails fall out, and he can't keep himself from eating them (along with all his clothing and all the books he owns). He begins vomiting a thick foam of fibers, as body parts begin falling off. Feeling like he's dying, he nestles in this bed of fibers. A week later, he emerges, several inches taller and with a greater interest in academics.

(This Cronenberg-does-R.-L.-Stein-does-Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers premise is based on an in-joke that used to exist at the Institute of Advanced Studies, that because so many really transcendent minds in mathematics all came from the same small area of Prague, they must have had a shared Martian ancestor.)

2
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 06:05:09 pm »
While playing with a shortwave radio, our protagonist discovers a broadcast that narrates events in his life, from a limited omniscient view from his perspective, an hour before they happen. With the help of a friend, he determines it is being broadcast by an unlicensed ham transmitter and bounced off the moon -- leading to major distortion and to the broadcast being available at certain times of day. They use this information to triangulate the location of the transmitter, which they determine is barreling across united states highways eastward at sixty miles an hour, never stopping, moving from the west coast to the protagonist's location. The time of its projected arrival coincides with a new moon.

3
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: Post-Irony (& The New Sincerity)
« on: March 18, 2017, 02:52:19 pm »
The levity of irony can also be used to decouple people from direct connection with the object of concern.  People actually competing with each other about who cares less. Dangerous territory.

Decoupling people from direct connection with the object of concern is, I think, a core part of the utility of irony when used for positive ends. It becomes dangerous when it's not paired with empathy, but that's less a problem of too much irony and more a problem of not enough empathy: the lack of empathy has to be present in the first place in order for competing for irony points to actually begin to occur in a situation where empathy matters. (I.e., ironic performative racism isn't going to be popular with people who have deep concerns about racism, even if they would otherwise be willing to use an ironic stance in other situations, but those people will also take an ironic stance toward racism in a way that isn't a performative and 'ironic' embrace.)

4
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 12:56:15 pm »
After a batch of a popular soft drink is recalled because of a production mistake causing it to have poisonously high levels of strychnine, some of the resulting deaths have unexpected consequences: the drink was extremely popular among a clique associated with a private bittorrent tracker, who have become revenants, their bloated corpses no longer paying rent but still using superhuman strength to defend their hoard of pirated movies from anyone who gets too close to their building.

5
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 12:52:11 pm »
A forensic pathologist with a fraudulent degree owes her success to her telepathic connection with maggots -- a skill she is reluctant to use because it fills her with a short-term craving for decaying meat that grows more intense each time she connects with them. When she is assigned to performing the lab work for the investigation of a brutal and very active serial killer, an internal conflict comes to the fore as her desire for career advancement vies against her fear of eating the evidence, and she must begin to confide in a coworker to help keep her urges in check.

6
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 03:12:40 am »
A young man encounters logistical problems related to the fact that, everywhere he goes, large numbers of crows congregate. In his childhood he didn't realize the scope of the problem because, attached to a military family, he rarely stayed in the same town for more than a year. However, after getting his own apartment and a job, he found that many structures in his home town cannot handle the weight of thousands of crows perching on them. The stench of crow corpses (caused by so many crows perching upon other crows that they are crushed) is also a problem. The crows, despite their interest, maintain a respectful distance from him, but coworkers and friends are not safe from building collapses caused by abnormal crow congregations, and nearby ecosystems are disrupted as all local crows migrate to a small area, ceasing to eat (or do much of anything, other than watch).

7
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 03:05:49 am »
A girl wears dark glasses because she believes that her pupils transform their shapes into words representing her true feelings. We never discover whether or not this belief is true.

8
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 18, 2017, 03:05:06 am »
A whirlwind romance is cut short because unbeknownst to one party the other is unable to avoid the urge to return to her grave at sunrise.

9
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: Post-Irony (& The New Sincerity)
« on: March 16, 2017, 08:00:07 pm »
What I'm saying is, despite their claims, they are in fact wholly sincere. They are just unable to imagine themselves being sincere about anything.

It's not the irony that's threatening. It's positions they would be holding regardless of whether or not they had an ironic stance to hide behind. That stance makes them feel safe, which makes them able to be more open (with themselves and others) about it.

10
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: Post-Irony (& The New Sincerity)
« on: March 16, 2017, 06:08:17 pm »
I don't like the way Wallace & many others suggest irony and sincerity are dichotomous. They're part of a cycle. Wallace suggests that irony has run its course and broken down everything it needs to break down (which makes me think that he's channeling Fukuyama: Seinfeld destroyed communism so now we can just be wholesome all the time), but the world is full of shitty ideas that need to be challenged, and an ironic stance is useful to the point of almost being necessary for challenging certain kinds of ideas.

The ironic stance is like the veil of ignorance: it allows us to observe ideas out of context and criticize them for their form rather than their effect. This is so powerful that it's almost equally capable of shredding good ideas as it is of shredding bad ideas. But, without it, all we have is identity politics without intersectionality.

Some problems are hard to see without stepping outside yourself and looking unsympathetically at the situation. Other problems are hard to see without empathy grounded in experience. Ignoring either set of problems leads to awful results, because the world is a mish-mash of soulless machinery and fragile human guts and understanding only one leads to breaking both.

Another nuance here is that there's no such thing as ironic enjoyment. If you're feeling something, that feeling is sincere, even if you feel it as the result of actions taken from an ironic stance. Someone whose self-conception is related to irony (which I think is the core criticism of New Sincerity: lifestyle irony, rather than an ironic stance in of itself) will see sincerity through an ironic lens, but while delusional posuers may be annoying they can hardly be considered a real threat. Basically, any position taken ironically is at least partly genuine and should be considered as genuine, because the idea that an ironic stance excuses actions taken under it has never held water.

11
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 09, 2017, 12:17:20 am »
Two ideas:
*a story whose villain is a weeaboo obsessed specifically with WW2 era Japan

Weeaboos cant be obsessed with WWII era japan because Japan only developed cutesie culture in the wake of being completely emasculated (I use that term not in any derogatory way, really) by US occupation in the wake of nuclear annihilation.

Weeaboos aren't necessarily focused on moe. (I disagree that moe developed post-disarmament as well; it clearly has precedent in pre-Meiji literature.) A westerner who appropriates the lifestyle of a mil-otaku is just as much a weeaboo as one who appropriates the lifestyle of a fujoushi, and mil-otaku (particularly those with an obsession with second world war era weaponry) are a pretty big force in the domain of even other japanese pop-media, hence why half the female characters in any given show are named after battle ships and why some of the best selling harem trash shows are about anthropomorphic fighter planes. (This even gets addressed directly with GATE, an awful yet extremely popular show about the JSSDF invading a medieval fantasy world with a squadron composed entirely of hikikomori NEETs -- and a show that is funded in part by the lobbying group currently attempting to petition the diet to amend the constitution to drop article five and bring Japanese military power back to imperial levels.)

12
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 07, 2017, 11:29:49 pm »
An alien invasion succeeds because, even though the UFOs are completely visible, nobody is willing to talk about them because everyone believes themselves to be going crazy.

13
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: March 01, 2017, 05:48:01 pm »
A My Dinner With Andre style story (i.e., two people talking for three hours) that takes place entirely in a foxhole during WWI, between a private who considers himself a poet and is guilty about having written pro-war material before enlisting and a corporal who has anti-intellectual sentiments and is concerned about the continued loyalty of his girlfriend back home. The two begin at odds, having to make nice because they are trapped together, but they eventually grow to respect each other. At the end of the film, just as they are about to become friends, a bunker-buster hits them and kills them -- making all of their character development meaningless.

14
Literate Chaotic / Re: ITT: Original Story Ideas
« on: February 27, 2017, 11:58:53 pm »
A heist flick with a twist: two teams are competing with each other to pull off the same heist, and each member on one team has a "mirror" version on the other team played by another actor who has been typecast as the same very specific role. (For instance, if one team has Vin Diesel, the other has Dwayne Johnson; if one team has Denzel Washington, the other has Will Smith.) Their lines are almost identical. They never meet.

15
Literate Chaotic / Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« 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.)

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