Bruce Sterling's Distraction, the Internet, and Media Manipulation

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Who would ever have thought that internet bots could be programmed to spread disinformation, especially to sew political dissent? Oh yeah, Bruce Sterling did a couple decades ago in Distraction. In the context of the 21st century, it doesn't seem like much of a revelation,  an alarming number of people have a mixed-up read on reality, judging what's real as fake and what's fake as real. Sterling had it right, people are equally impressionable and manipulable, and email, a message delivered right to you, is a perfectly engineered medium for social engineering hacks. People have been falling for mail fraud ever since the pony express took to the trails, accepting as truth messages that forecast the end of the government or the end of Christianity, morality, liberalism, whatever.

Dr. Adder by K.W. Jeter | Cyberpunk and Boundary Transgression

K.W. Jeter's Dr. Adder

K.W. Jeter's Dr. Adder, originally written in 1974, prefigures Cyberpunk fiction by nearly a decade and does so thoroughly, giving characters mobility through using underground sewer space usually off limits, using a primitive form of cyberspace to extend the individual beyond his normal reach, and viewing the body as meat to ignore, abandon, or enhance. Like later Cyberpunk, drug use also figures into Dr. Adder. Drugs allow for immediate psychical mobility, altering perceptions and thoughts, taking individual consciousness far beyond the normal experience.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 | Misinformation and the Media

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 takes part in an odd paradox. It's a book about the danger of banning books that get banned a lot--a whole lot. Yeah, Fahrenheit 451 has been on library blacklists since it was first published in 1953. You'd think the banning would have stopped somewhere in the 21st century, but it hasn't. Librarians are coached about which books to ban from day one of their library studies. Librarians-in-training receive a time-honored blacklist of every classic book that should never find its way into the hands of a pliable mind. Along with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain's Huck Finn, and James Joyce's Ulysses, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is one of the great whipping boys of the puritanical mission to cleanse society of corrupting influences. Yes, sadly, Western society has a long tradition for casting out its best thinkers: think of Galileo and Socrates, or, better, think like Galileo and Socrates and watch as the rank and file hurry to build a pillory to contain you.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein | Human and Social Monsters

Victor and his creation
Victor meets his creation, finding more of himself reflected back than he desires.

In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley offers humans as real monsters. We are the society that offers up the parts to create Victor’s monster. Indeed, the animated monster is merely a reflection of all our worst parts, eyes that covet, one hand to steal, one to kill. Though Victor refuses to animate the female monster he makes as a mate for the monster, the latent threat is that the horror she represents is already fully formed, ready for animation. These monsters merely mirror frightening elements we conceal in our own selves, elements unleashed and at work in the world and elements still in the process of formation.

Ernie Cline's Ready Player One, Cyberspace, and Society

cyberspace is every space

Consider Ernie Cline's Ready Player One (2011), my sci-fi friends. Most of the narrative takes place in the OASIS, the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. The OASIS is not all that different from the matrixes and cyberspaces of cyberpunk literature. The OASIS is a virtual reality ready world. People dial in the world over to use infinite, yet, immediate space. And the OASIS provides an escape from bromidic and squalorous reality; yes, dataspace is exciting and pretty! It's got neon colors. It's got design based on origami-like complexity that appears simplistic. It's got badass computer hackers, coders, gamers, and gender-bending, identity swappers.

Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Egalitarian Societies

Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein

Robert Heinlein believed that in a democratic society everyone should participate in the protection of the nation's sovereignty. Heinlein's everyone is a universal everyone. Men and women alike, so Heinlein believed, should have a mandatory term of service in the military. Heinlein's Starship Troopers follows this mandate.

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess | Science Fiction Analysis

Books received
Famous Men Who Never Lived (2019). K Chess. Tin House Books.

Famous Men that Never Lived by K Chess

Famous Men Who Never Lived (2019) by K Chess tells the story of outsiders in America, those with minority and immigrant status. In our own 21st century America, the outsider is made to feel unwelcome. Trumpian chants for a border wall might as well be chants of hate for outsiders. Border wall chants confirm that our democratic government has been co-opted by a bigoted agenda to create lasting edifices of division. All those chanting for a wall would do well to study the result of widespread xenophobia in our country's history or in the history of world nations. Hint: stepping away from international leadership roles usually weakens economies and allows strongmen to rise.