Friday, November 30, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words - Part 4

Festival was Al's idea back in, ah... 2025. We would have stayed just another local gang of AR artful dodgets with a local reputation, a manifesto, and a video-channel, but it was Festival which took it first national, then European, then global.

It was the Field of Dreams approach – he approached the Council about giving him the use of a couple of blocks of practically derelict streets in Digbeth for a “street festival and augmented reality happening.” He claimed he had speakers – Bruce Sterling, Josh Fielden, Ommiah Hanssen, who hadn't accepted yet, some of them didn't even know they'd been invited yet. But that was Al – he always acted as if he had everything or nothing to lose.

He had the backing of the half of the city's artist community who thought he was the new Warhol – the other half hated him, naturally – but I think what must have swung it was the support of the AR-techs and Fab-Labbers up at the University, who jumped at the chance to test out their kit just down the road. They were respected, they made money for the city, in collaboration with them we wrote 3 or 4 of the core apps that underpin what we understand as augmented reality today.

So, we got a green light and off we punks went went. 


Inviting the gamers and cosplayers? It was a no-brainer. The artists gamed, the gamers were customising their look with AR and carrying on their games in real life, and the cosplayers coded for a day job and were using the new tech to spruce up their look. After all, to use the classic example, it's hard to rock a Chun-Li look when you're a 6'5 bloke from Bournville. We'd been known to turn up to gigs and parties en masse as characters from our favourite Final Fantasies, so, y'know, this was our scene. Clo and Jake especially, they could go even to the most purist back-to-nature LARPers you can possibly think of and say, “Trust us, this is going to be awesome.”


So, come June 2025, I was relieved – Steampunk Messiah was I – to discover that we'd got 5,000 people (at least twice our target) to a weekend of phantasmagorical events. We got old Man Sterling and, ah, Neil Stephenson as the marquee speaker on Sunday night and as many chin-stroking workshops about data and Derrida as the theorists could wish for. For the rest of us, there was Lovecraftian suspence gaming, Lankhmarian inn-character inns for mass-participation, and, and the artists had just outdone themselves with the immersive spaces.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 3

Shit. Dan tried to remember which data laws or shared reality conventions he might have might technically infringed in the past month or so, but through the throbbing headache he could only access not so much a memory palace, more a memory hovel. Then, he looked them over more closely and relaxed. These two – a rangy Sikh bloke and a smaller bearded ferret of a man - had standard police issue tablets and visors, which meant they were hip to the flow of crime data. Conceptual art-crime, not so much.


As a rule, the rank and file police didn't know what to make of Festival. As with any display of public enjoyment and unorthodoxy, they were torn between wanting to do some good old fashioned repression and taking a low profile approach to policing the event out of sheer incomprehension as much as anything else.

Typically, the end result was somewhere in between the two – on the one hand a couple of outrageous arrests of augmented LARPers or cosplayers for illegal weaponry (“but it's rubber officer! And half of it doesn't even exist in this reality”), on the other hand enjoying having their photo taken with steampunk Sherlocks or slave Leias.

AR-masked taser-happy drones assaulting superficially innocent citizens were decidely out of their pay grade.

We're making enquries with anyone who was involved in the Malloy circle, Mr May. Thankfully, for an apparently subversive movement you were awfully keen on publicising who your artpunks were.”

I hate that term. Cyberpunk; Steampunk; Seapunk; Artpunk; ah Great Dismal, so much to answer for. Anyway, we were inspired in so many ways by the Surrealists, who were the most tribal, most self-publicising moth- ah group you could possibly imagine. Issue 12 of La Revolution Surrealiste had photographs of all their members on the front cover like a rogues gallery. We did exactly the same when we wrote our first manifesto. Artpunk was a name the media gave us”

Do you … have any ideas who is doing this?”

Well, in the modern police force, Mr May, we have two main approaches. One, we send in the forensics and data-gathering teams to the crime scenes to search and scan everything with a fine tooth comb. We cross-reference the information we have – drone vendors, drone users, witness statements – and we hope the algorithms turn up three bananas.”

And the second?”

Why, Mr May, while we wait for the backroom boys and girls to live out their Grissom fantasies, we turn up in the wrong places and the wrong times and ask difficult questions in an effort to find out what's going on. And that” he added almost as an afterthought, “is where you come in.”

Morris pointed to the two of them. “You Virgil, me Dante. Right now my best guess is that only another artist would threaten at least nine other artists. It's not our only line of enquiry, but it's the one I'm going to look into, with your help.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video of the week: Dordeduh - Dojana

Romanian black-folk-pagan metal act in surprisingly mellow mood on a hillside. Fabulous.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 2

The critics accused the Malloy circle of making a Romantic cult of augmented reality and they were right, up to a point. We were Futurists too, but it was the bunny slopes of Romanticism which got people paying attention.

'Romantic' was a name that each of us inner circlers at that time would have borne with pride. To understand that, you have to remember what we were kicking against in our everyday life. A city which had been designed and desecrated by successive generations of incompetents – ugly as sin, as cheap as a cheap thing, as user-friendly as a Latin smartphone, with its fingers in its ears to the future. It needed more than beauty, however you define beauty, but beauty was a startt.

When Alasdair suggested that the city skyline should incorporate mountain views from Caspar David Friedrich paintings, he was getting Shocked of Sutton's attention to make a point. Not that the city's Great and Good had no sense of humour – that would be shooting fish in a barrel. But that Birmingham needed to think big in a new way, away from corporate dumbassery or peak oil rabbit-in-the-stream fatalism that once prevailed in these parts.

As a blank canvass for beauty, with a surface reality of crumbling post-war infrastructure and latter-day quick-up quick-down cowboy-jobs overlaying neglected Victorian strata, the city needed us. Who wouldn't want to make this more beautiful. And, lest we forget, more meaningful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 1

Caveat: all this is first draft, and doesn't mean I'm satisfied with it as it stands yadayadayada traditional anxiety.
A square mile of assembled pirates, ninjas, pirate-ninjas, steampunk gentlefolk, elves (always with the elves), dwarves, halflings, furries, otaku, otherkin, cosplayers, spacemen, Kryptonians, Trekkers, true black metallers, Vikings, eloi, elohim, sidhe, Earthseed, Black country folk and other costumed strangenesses.


Flanagans has adopted a Waitsian veneer – trouble's braids are part of the dresscode, you can play pool with midgets at all hours until the notional rain stops, and all the barmaids were augmented prison tattoos.


Wearing AR-visored sunglasses at night, he looked like a Reid brother trying to impersonate the Rat Pack.


“And why is Bigtrak's precocious nephew buying me drinks?” he asked, as the barman concluded a extensive round of stirring, shaking and mixing to deposit a dubious off-yellow concoction in front of him. “There are,” he added, “easier ways of getting my attention.”

“No there aren't, Danny.” the doggy drone demurred.

“That's right”, Danny agreed cheerfully, taking a large swallow of his cocktail with evident satisfaction.


I've been tasered
A 'non-lethal' weapon for use by the monopoly of force brigade against the fractious First World proletariat
Iii'vve beeen tassserrred
Illegal, of course, but an easy concealed carry for the street for when the knife lacks that je-ne-sais-crackle of a thousand volts pumped through the nervous system
Bottle lightning charge
Shoot-to-stun weapon with absolutely no side-effects. Nooo sirree.
I'vve beeeeen tasssserrrreeeeddd
Grinning paramilitary salespeople talk out of the side of their mouths about exceptional cases and collateral damage


I'm not blogging because I'm writing

I'm doing the bunny slopes version of NaNoWriMo, having ground out 10,000 words in 20 days, with the aim of completing a full 50,000 word first draft by the end of 2012.

As per October's posts, the story is about augmented reality, and what it means to have ever more sophisticated technological means of escapism at a time of social disorder (and potential collapse) in the near future. What if techno-escapism + human organisation = paradigm shift social evolution? With a cast of steampunks, cosplaying zombies, elf cults, performance artists and policemen.

All of this means I need to ration all  my writing energies for the story, so any actual writing here will be concise to say the least and probably consist of extracts from the work in progress.

I will pick up the (mainly) metal threads from earlier this year and start posting videos of things that interest me here, though, now that I am fully wired for sound and vision at home again after 6 months techno-fast after my laptop speakers blew.

Also - photos - I can do that!