#books I read in 2019 thread - I want to make a blog post of all of these at the end of the year so here are my notes so far:
#books Mark Fisher - Ghosts of My Life -- Three types of Mark Fisher readers: depressed, communist, and having good taste in music. As a depressed communist the pagecount bulk of this book felt like nodding along to interesting observations about things I had no clue about but could apply elsewhere, the essay about Joy Division and depression however was really good and will stick with me.
#books Laboria Cuboniks - The Xenofeminist Manifesto -- I super liked this. Was wary going in bc some guy told me he felt it was "kind of problematic" bc "accelerationism" but it seems to have much more in common with the Low Tech philosophy to challenge the idea that technology and scientific "rationalism" are inherently "progressive" and instead look at detourned uses of tech in the past and present. Pro web 1.0 and housewives making drugs!
#books Ali Smith - How to Be Both -- I always talk about bi subjectivities and the historical portion of this book is really "it"-- in her dealings with both men and women Francesco is never straight or gay, plus the ambiguous relationship to gender both protagonists have is a nice alternative to the frequent misogynistic/biphobic presumption that bi women somehow uniformly have a happy relationship to (hetero)femininity. And also it's just.. beautiful. lol
#books Butt et al. ed. - Post-Punk: Then And Now -- Starts off with a HELL of an interview with Lydia Lunch and from there you get a bit of everything: influences, production methods and the long lifespan of a specific moment of experimental practices... The integration of art with life, theory with music, visual design and performance with "being in a band" and so on was really inspiring to me, as I'm reconsidering what I want an experimental games/writing practice to be and do. HOWEVER--
Almost all of the contributors were very clear about HOW they managed to pull off such a varied and whole-life art practice and that was, squatting, free art schools, and collectively living off what they could get from grants and social security. So like, we gotta bring those things back or at least work on structures that provide similar benefits to foster that type of community and experimentation again.
#books Jenny Offill - Dept. of Speculation -- feels like you have to read it in one sitting (I did not, more like three. Intense and quick, some gasp-worthy moments, on being a monster. Hmm
#books Hamja Ahsan - Shy Radicals -- A loving pastiche of various forms of revolutionary writing, a revenge fantasy (maybe), an elegant exploration of why neoliberal capitalism often compels people to rout out or blabber over those who are shy, quiet, contemplative, sad... most importantly against "social skills" and integration. Funny, but extremely real.
#books Ursula K LeGuin - The Left Hand of Darkness -- This one was more of a struggle for me than The Disposessed, which I blazed through and loved, I had to go back and reread sections because I have trouble following changing perspectives and characters with multiple names and fantasy sci-fi words for things, and this book has... a lot of all of that. But I ended up totally loving Estraven and finding the world so interesting. I love the thoroughness of LeGuin's curiosity for her own fictional cultures
#books Simone Weil - An Anthology -- Marxist thought is scientific, of course, but the limits of empirical science are also thoroughly theorized. Weil's work offers interesting ways of dealing with these contradictions, rethinking what kind of world we want to work for not because it's provable but because it's good. I liked it a lot even if it was challenging and I sometimes disagreed with it...
#books - Russian Cosmism ed. Boris Groys -- Collection of writings by a group of utopian anarchists who heavily influenced both soviet sci-fi and the space program. General concept is to develop a speculative politics of biological immortality, deep space travel, terraforming and so on... Groys' intro and curation of the texts doesn't fawn over the writers as unrecognized geniuses (the writer of the piece arguing for mass blood transfusions died of... an experimental blood transfusion! and --
some of the arguments are what we'd today recognize as ableist eugenics.) but instead he provides context for the innovation and failings offered by an uncompromisingly utopian perspective (which some have argued the left currently lacks), putting texts side by side that move between the absolutely crazy and the crazily prescient.
@coleoptera I don't think we measure nowadays how much the eugenics pseudoscience poison was widespread not so long ago, you find it pretty much everywhere I find, no matter how progressive the source
(same as antisemitism really, they have a lot in common ideologically)
@emptyfortress yeah like... it was never super explicit in the book but a thing they talked about was using technological developments to fix or eliminate any bodily inadequacy or abnormality... on the one hand the book is so sci fi you can kind of see them meaning like, providing cool cyborg solutions for people who want them but of course it's also dangerously close to forcing people to be a certain way or sterilizing people who have problems
Ah yes, french and british early 20th century sci-fi has those too, there's more to them than that but it's hard not to see them as a convenient justification for colonialism.
(If I'm not mistaken russia had its own version of it at the time with "internal colonization" and "russification" in the caucasus).
Still worth reading though, shame it requires that bit more mental energy to weed out the bullshit
@emptyfortress Yeah! I think it is very worth reading for the overview of a school of thought that is both kind of unusual and kind of overlooked in revolutionary history, but it also has many of the problems of the time
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