Looba and Titus a new short story by James Reich has been published by LitroNY.
You can read the story HERE
Voigt-Kampff, Philip K. Dick’s extension of Alan Turing’s test of human-machine equivalence in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), is so overshadowed by its mechanical presence in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation of the novel that one of Dick’s greatest ironies tends to go un-interrogated. Dick’s choice of the name is not arbitrary: the Germanic Voigt-Kampff is a compound derived from an antiquated usage for ‘farm steward/landowner’ or manager, and ‘struggle/fight’. Voigt also puns ‘Vogt’ in the sense of ‘overseer/bailiff’. It’s a classic Dick joke which refers to the jurisdiction and trials of the novel’s bounty hunter Rick Deckard, owner of the eponymous electric sheep. The novel, establishing a posthuman equivalence of animal, human, androids and ‘electric sheep’ in all their forms is about the elliptical journey from Mein Kampf to Voigt-Kampff, the encroach of fascist and totalitarian modes, and eugenics. Establishing that equivalence or underlining ambivalence is vital to Dick’s quasi-pastoral anti-fascist discourse. The animal reference is of course deliberate, as is the description of Voigt-Kampff being developed from a prior test “devised from the Pavlov Institute in the Soviet Union”. Implicit in the struggle of Deckard as both shepherd of his domesticated electric sheep and of the escaped Nexus-6 androids, is that this is also a literature of holocaust and confinement where the decolonized Earth and the colonized Mars are binary nightmares. It is a narrative of reflective barriers and traps. The androids are killed inside the confines of Deckard’s car, inside a claustrophobic elevator, within an office, a stairwell, and the final kippelized apartment.
The novel opens with Deckard and his wife Iran arguing over the settings of their Penfield mood organs, prosthetic devices that will confine and dictate their dispositions throughout the day. The machine is a Penfield mood organ – Pen / Field. Considered properly, both Voigt-Kampff applied to the androids and Penfield applied to humans, ironically erase human/animal-android boundaries as Dick contemplates a more posthuman sympathy. All of the characters in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are products of the “flattening of affect.” The discriminating feature of humanist empathy, achievable only through mechanical interface – fusion with the Sisyphus-like entity Wilbur Mercer – is revealed by Mercer’s absurdist pop culture anti-type, the android Buster Friendly, to be a metaphysical “swindle”. (A mercer is both a type of German ‘shepherd’ dog, and if derived from French is a textiles salesmen; Mercer sells the false fabric of reality. One can go too far with these things.) Here’s another of Dick’s great jokes: Mercer, described by the androids as susceptible to abuse by any “potential Hitler” is revealed to be less a metaphysical being than a pataphysical being in the alcoholic form of Al Jarry – a deliberate reference to Alfred Jarry, whose 1902 novel The Supermale is one of the ur-texts of android/posthuman literature.
I will be in conversation with Anne Germanacos, author of In The Time of Girls and most recently Tribute, at Collected Works Bookstore, Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tuesday October 28th. “In her masterful second book, Anne Germanacos gets right down to the elemental: the single line. Tribute is a work of prose–novel, essay, experiment in narrative?–created from distinct lines, a work of continual shape-shift and exhilarating motion. Tribute chronicles the daily life of a woman whose mother is dying and who begins to see a psychoanalyst, a woman who lives among lovers, sisters, and children, across continents and their conflicts (New York, San Francisco, Crete, Cyprus, Israel/Palestine). The book that results offers us both her story–forcefully sensual, vibrantly lived–and, through its bold form, her complex relationship to story.” Read more at Anne Germanacos.com
It’s ninety years since André Breton — re Surrealism and the extravagant possibilities of ‘marvelous’ literature — wrote: “At an early age children are weaned on the marvelous, and later on they fail to retain a sufficient virginity of mind to thoroughly enjoy fairy tales. No matter how charming they may be, a grown man would think he were reverting to childhood by nourishing himself on fairy tales, and I am the first to admit that all such tales are not suitable for him. The fabric of adorable improbabilities must be made a trifle more subtle the older we grow, and we are still at the age of waiting for this kind of spider…” In 2014, the fact that ‘virginity of mind’ is being retained further into chronological adulthood is evident in the dominance of Marvel/DC franchises (10 DC Comics movies are slated for 2016-2020), intertextual TV crud like Once Upon A Time, and Grimm, the spate of forgettable fairy tale adaptations that included Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, and the capitalist triumph of young adult fiction as a manufactured marketing category. We’ve got the wrong kind of spider, man. According to Publisher’s Weekly “55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 — known as YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44, a group that alone accounted for 28% of YA sales. And adults aren’t just purchasing for others — when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78% of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading.” This represents many things, primarily that Breton’s surrealist ache for a challenging imaginative literature for adults has been largely defeated by the anodyne placebos of young adultism as the most prosperous antidote to 19th century versions of realism, and the comfortable bourgeois trust in mimesis. Of course, this arachnid writing that Breton proposed did exist, has existed, and does exist, under the floorboards and tiles. Yet, the result of such pervasive young adultism in our culture is that childish things are not put away, but have spread like unruly grout to fill the cracks where an imaginative avant-garde should be, spread by a trowel of materialist nostalgia, and boredom. The problem, at this point, is that this suspended adolescence, this chastity club-pledged virginity of mind, threatens us with a point where new writers become suspended kidults writing downward and backwards, in a bathroom without spiders.
I have been invited to write an introduction to Barry N. Malzberg‘s BEYOND APOLLO, the Campbell Award winning science fiction novel being reissued in 2015 by Anti-Oedipus Press and D. Harlan Wilson who did such fine work in reprinting Malzberg’s GALAXIES earlier this year. As Harlan Ellison said: “There are possibly a dozen genius writers in the genre of the imaginative and Barry Malzberg is at least eight of them.”
Glenn Branca and the Lost History of Cyberpunk
James Reich, Published by Fiction Advocate, May 29, 2014
I first connected to the Internet in 1998. There was nothing hip about it, no mirrorshades, no chilled Kirin, no hacker’s cant, no rude-boy antagonism against the frozen walls of malefic corporations, but merely weeks of frustration waiting for a freelance Dell engineer wearing greasy blue overalls to inform me that my machine had been shipped from the factory with its modem already burnt out. In my apartment, the engineer held the device up to the light, a cloudy patina of carbon wrapped around it, as suspect as O.J. Simpson’s black glove; planned obsolescence making its end run. He unwrapped a new modem from a foil packet, checking it for scorch marks. With this hardware replaced, I returned to the inexorable negotiations of early dial-up and an uncomprehending telephone operator at British Telecom. My admittance to cyberspace required a dozen hours of listening to Vangelis loops as hold music, “Chung Kuo” with its anticipation of Blade Runner.
But, this was not the Tokyo-ized, Hammett-hacked sprawl of transnational prosthetics, nor the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll of William Gibson’s “consensual hallucination”. Of course it wasn’t. Gibson’s fiction of the early eighties, published in Omni, was the map that preceded the territory. Even in the 1930s, before his pulpy serial The World of Null-A, had made the transition fromAstounding Stories magazine to hardcover, A. E. Van Vogt (quasi-Scientologist, and Alfred Korzybski acolyte) had declared “the map is not the territory.” In turn, postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard hacked that notion. In 1998, the actual aridity of the virtual territory was still remote from the glamor of the map drawn by science fiction writers. Yet, my early explorations of the Internet connected some things that continue to fascinate me. At the time, I was working as a bookseller and those wages and a new credit card purchased both the computer and an important visit to London twelve months earlier. What did the Internet have to say about music?
Read article in full at Fiction Advocate.
ON THE BEACH – Dali, Ballard, Neil Young and Cadillac Ranch
James Reich, First Published by The End Of Being, August 21, 2011.
(Extract) Pelham’s images for the Penguin reprints present arguably the most authentic and sympathetic realizations of Ballard’s fiction in book jacket design, and his beautiful image for The Drought of the tail end of a yellow Cadillac part-submerged (submersion is Pelham’s motif for the series as it is for Ballard in general) into the desert of the real is, in my view, the finest of the series. Ballard’s relationship to surrealism, and to Dali’s Persistence of Memory is well-documented: it appears, for example, in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), and is frequently referenced during Ballard’s interviews and non-fiction directly and indirectly. Speaking of the European scene in an interview with V. Vale and Andrea Juno for Re/Search in October 1982, Ballard said: “Here, surrealist painters have an enormous influence on, say, record sleeves, paperback jackets – you get pseudo-Dali landscapes, Yves Tanguy semi-marine drained beaches, Magritte-ish displacements of things. Here the impact is colossal on advertising.” Pelham’s submerged yellow Cadillac, its futurist/nostalgic tail fins and sunlit chrome appeared in April of 1974. The greatness of Pelham’s image lies precisely in its post-surrealist grasp of ‘the end of chronology’ as a trope in Ballard’s catastrophe fiction. It is a pop art Disintegration … Uncannily, Pelham’s yellow Cadillac in the sand resurfaces in July 1974 in psychedelic poster artist Rick Griffin’s cover art for Neil Young’s album On The Beach. Psychedelic art, even in a generalized sense, is indebted to surrealism, and this image makes specific use of its currency. The image and angle of the Cadillac tail in Griffin’s surreal photograph are strikingly close to Pelham’s illustration, and this is also the work that further binds Pelham’s work to Ballard’s fascination with The Persistence of Memory.
Read the full article in The Archive.
H.P. Lovecraft, Herbert West: Reanimator, and Boxing
April 25th, 2014
Of the grotesqueries depicted in Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator, beyond the ambivalent reclamation by the Anglo-Saxon war dead of Herbert West the Aryan “scientific automaton”, the “ice-cold intellectual machine”, the most appalling is the appearance of the boxer Buck Robinson, “The Harlem Smoke.” Lovecraft shuffles through his routine racist clichés: “He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon.” Robinson, who is the most chthonic of the reanimated, is also a cannibal, and a child-killer: “Looming hideously against the spectral moon was a gigantic misshapen thing not to be imagined save in nightmares – a glassy-eyed, ink-black apparition, nearly on all fours, covered with bits of mould, leaves, and vines, foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a snow-white, terrible, cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand.”
Buck Robinson’s white opponent is Kid O’Brien. O’Brien kills Robinson in the match. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi makes the point that O’Brien has a “most un-Hibernian hooked nose” suggesting that the Kid is a Jewish fighter posing as Irish, as Joshi puts it: “to capitalize on the fame of the great Irish-American boxer of the 1880s, John L. Sullivan.” Joshi is missing a trick here. Lovecraft’s serial was published in the early 1920s, the boxing match is set in 1910, and by footnoting the speculative identity of O’Brien and ignoring the historical reference in the opposite corner, Joshi covers up Lovecraft’s more virulent racism. Into the corpse of Buck Robinson, Lovecraft injected a more contemporary and resonant reference: Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. Johnson, the Galveston Giant, held the title from 1908 – 1915. The white opponent, Kid O’Brien, is not a remote reference to John Sullivan, who effectively retired in 1892, but to one of Johnson’s rivals: Philadelphia Jack O’Brien. Johnson and O’Brien fought in May 1909; Johnson retained the title after a 6-round draw. The episode in the serial of Herbert West: Reanimator where the death and reanimation of Robinson/Johnson occurs is titled Six Shots By Midnight.
Lovecraft, spiteful bastard that he was, vengefully recast Johnson as a titanic child-eating Saturn, after Goya. It has become customary to excuse Lovecraft’s pernicious racism as a symptom of his era, as if he lacked agency in that regard. To let Lovecraft off the hook so easily is to suggest that he had no opportunity to be influenced by the abolitionist movement, by the arguments of the Civil War, or even of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. No, Lovecraft was a post-bellum northerner who aligned himself with the gentleman fascists of ante-bellum romance. Through Herbert West, the Great White Hope, Lovecraft expresses the very contemporary racism of Jack Johnson’s detractors.
Ceci n’est pas une livre… This is not a book. It is an algorithm. D. Harlan Wilson’s trilogy of Hitler: The Terminal Biography; Freud: The Penultimate Biography; and Douglass: The Lost Autobiography are Magrittesque artifacts. Certainly not biographies in the conventional sense of the genre, these titles may not be, strictly, books, whatever those are these days. They are experiments in deconstructing the supposedly cynical matrices of literature in the Internet age, where units are defined and shifted algorithmically, by guilty—sometimes arbitrary—associations with other books, and what Wilson calls Superior Authors. This last part, Wilson admits, is flawed: “Blurbs don’t sell books.” What does sell books is metadata. To wit: falsified metadata.
Read the complete review at The Rumpus.
JAMES REICH: BOMB-BLASTING THROUGH THE AGE OF NUCLEAR FOLLY: Interview by Frank Browning
February 5th, 2014
Valerie Solanas plainly made a deep impact on the English novelist as he was constructing his blindingly brilliant and horrifyingly comic novel, Bombshell, a road story framed around a fictive lover and devotee of Solanas who has committed herself to cutting up and destroying America’s nuclear power industry. Not everyone of course may find it comic. Its comedy rests in the bloody details of the duel between men’s greed and the Gods’ folly as his self-trained anti-nuke feminist terrorist Cash, born in Chernobyl during the 1986 meltdown, hops in one stolen car or another from New Mexico through Texas, the Deep South, Washington and finally Manhattan in pursuit of the nation’s most powerful nuclear oligarch. Along the way Reich’s Faulknerian prose rides us through an encyclopedic history of nuclear testing folly from Los Alamos where the story starts through the unguarded French blasts in the Sahara to Cash’s own ghastly birth town.
Read the complete interview in The Huffington Post.