Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sonograma interview / "science fiction politics" / tomorrow talk

Break out your Harraps Spanish to English dictionaries for here is an interview with me by the Mexican writer Angel Armenta for the Barcelona magazine Sonograma

Here's a little taster bit in English where I'm asked about the state and status of the future in music, are things as retromaniacal as they were the book was spurred into being....

"I think since I wrote the book there has been a discernible increase in music of  “future” talk, rhetoric about the future or imagery of the future. However often it seems to involve a kind of recycling of old (often 1980s, or 1970s) ideas of “futuristic.”

"When I listen to, say Holly Herndon, it is quite impressive as work, but it doesn’t feel unfamiliar – it feels like a fairly well established – a long established – idea of what futuristic or experimental music sounds like, how it operates.

"So it feels like the future has become a genre, in a way. A set of cliches, or at least thoroughly established tropes and images.

"In Hollywood there has been an increase in science fiction, whether it’s the dystopian Hunger Games images of the near-future, or the outer space dramas of Interstellar. 

"However being an old science fiction fan, these don’t seem so new – Hunger Games is quite similar in scenario to things like Frederick Pohl and CM Kornbluth’s Gladiator-At-Law, which was written in the 1950s. Interstellar is just 2001, A Space Odyssey, but not as good – convoluted, absurd. 

"These visions of the future again seems familiar – there isn’t a shock of the unknown.

"I almost feel like the concept of the future, in the arts, has maybe been exhausted. We used it up in the 1960s and 1970s, and then again in the 1980s, and finally with the techno-rave 90s. So it’s hard to get beyond the images and sounds that connoted “future” that were laid down in such abundance during those periods.

"The genuinely unknown, unheard, unseen before won’t be glossy, slick, sterile, shiny, or all those cliches of “futuristic”


Been following the discussion around Holly Herndon's new one with some interest  - appreciate the uptick in future-talk - her coinage of the phrase "science fiction politics"  - etc.

So in a vote of confidence in Da Phuture, I did buy Platform, even though hearing it on Spotify a few times it didn't really click.   Felt a bit clinical and overloaded... and yes, an agglomeration of future-y sounds from the last 20 or 30 years - glitch, Laurie Anderson, Enya, "Windowlicker"  - taken to a new pitch of density. Digimax.  

Listening some more on the big stereo, it's certainly impressive.... "sound design" wise, compositionally.... But I'm not sure I could quite describe the sensation I'm receiving as pleasure.  

Britt Brown's (highly positive) cover story in The Wire nicely conveyed her wonk-ish quality...  the sense of a technocrat looking for progressive solutions... (see this piece on 10 Radical Ideas - and Ideas People - That Inspired Platform)   -   She comes across a bit like how I'd imagine Chelsea Clinton is like... even looks a bit like her!

Still, as I say, it's good that the Future is on the agenda and, for a change, given this optimistic, can-do-this / we-can-do-better gloss rather than the usual dystopian cyberpunk-redux zzzzz   - blue eyes gazing boldly and unblinkingly towards tomorrow


Holly Herndon would be one of the heroes, the cutting-edge thinker types recruited, in Tomorrowland, wouldn't she? 

What a steaming mound of dung that was, eh?

A movie about the original conception and creation of Tomorrowland could actually have been interesting.... poignant if it followed its decline... 


My nine-year-old enjoyed it but my fifteen-year old pointed out that the plot makes no sense whatsoever.

Unbearably didactic too

The only good joke was the movie poster for ToxiCosmos 3: Nowhere To Go


  1. "Science fiction politics" - There seems to be a political mess going ion in the SF community at the moment regarding the Hugo Awards and the Rabid/Sad Puppies. Basically reactionary white guys complaining that they are being oppressed by not winning SF awards, etc. Some of these people are actual white supremacists. Others are unhappy that SF is more than adventures involving robots and rocket ships.

    Personally, I find the most interesting stuff in that Black Mirror / Her bracket - exploring how tech is changing our humanity in subtle ways.

  2. that's funny

    i'm not sure exactly what HH means by science fiction politics, i suppose the opposite of what Mark fisher calls capitalism realism - ie. politics based on the premise of fundamentally changing and making strange the world? at least not business as usual

    Black Mirror was so good, i was really shocked that something so intelligent and thought provoking and just well done could actually occur on British TV. Wasn't as crazy about Her though, can't remember why. Ex Machina also seemed fairly empty if slickly done. Under The Skin, though - loved it.