Thursday, February 22, 2018

Negative Valences V: Constellations

Altered Carbon's antinomian gaps are not as profound as those found in Neuromancer, and in this alone it represents a regression.  The latter, I argued previously, is spatiality embodied, a 'mapping' of a turn in post-humanity that fractures into a noir-ish haze remnants of conventional non-speculative storytelling.  The former is much more conventional but it does have a radical message at its core, one that revolves around the (female) body, and knowledge.  Both have become part of the Mass Cultural Genre System, having reached the screen, but what is entailed in that journey?

For A/C, a zero-gravity knife fight materialises, but this is one part you can tell was made up by the screenies because it rings a lot less true.  For the Matrix, there are fewer such 'tells', but the main most obvious one is just the difference the re-sleeving into cinema makes.  The brothers' magic is in the motion of constellations of bodies, in the timing of the visuals, the visual rhymes.  This really works, and it breaks down some established cinematic tropes at the same time.

Then there is the problem of the name, to which the idea of 'constellation' is related.  To fix the identities of, for example, stacks associated with proper names is to reify consciousness as something separate from the body.  This central conceit of cyberpunk belies its contempt for the (proper) name, it is rooting out the time-tunnels of identity, re-mapping, nay counter-mapping them into constellations, by which content recapitulates form. 

Is to say a cluster of words used to describe 'cyberpunk' formulate a series of related non-categorical pronouncements that are, I would argue, Lockean in nature.  They revolve around property, and the body, as such.  Is my own body my property?  In A/C you mortgage the skin you're in (if you're lucky).  If you're unlucky you just get the skin you're in. 

So, where Dick was Cartesian; the cyberpunks are Lockean.  This much I learned from Foster.   The Lockean 'punctum' has defrayed its cost against the future.  It seems it will keep going, perpetually renewed in a constant updating of forms, evolving, becoming new as though through sleeves re-applied.  This is fantasy.  In reality, in the contra-punctum, there is a certain design space, and it would seem to be filling up.  We need new tropes.

We turn to poetry post-punctum.  But we do so embedded in philosophy, by design.  I have argued before that the transcendental object of speculative fiction is race; but it can equally be theorised in terms of time, space, spacetime, technology, anthropology, gender, and politics.  This constellation of referents forms the scaffolding for philosophical speculative fictions.  Cyberpunk is exemplary in the arena of SF for embodying equally both its poetic and philosophical potentialities. 

Propertarians will, I think, rail at it.  They will rail at its rampant fornicating nakedness in A/C, at the sheer brutality of its representations in Matrix.  They will be hypocritical, puritanical, libertarian, individualistic, misogynistic, and all these will bleed together like neon in a vertical-architectural rainstorm. 

Permutations of poetic-philosophical SF must be allowed to roam free in the design space.  At the same time, identifications of unused portions of that space will lead to fruitful new productions, indeed whole new constellations.  We need to make more use of philosophy (I am an academic), especially that of Locke, Descartes, Wittgenstein, and Adorno.  From the point of view of existence, this has often been implicit until now.  Insofar as cyberpunk is postmodern, they're all in there.

Its the explicitness I'm after, the kind of thing we see in Roberts and Walton.  The poetry is there (explicitly), the philosophy outright.  The design space needs to realise its verticality, its being and becoming, its particulars, its granularity like a new planet in the field of the scope, one we've never seen before, in all its potential for life-form, habitation, symbiosis, compositionality, contrapuntality, and more.

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