On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’

wiener_godandgolem

While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the history of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Englishers) who had introduced the term Cybernetics as “the study of control and communication in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, and that title immediately caught my eye. Studies of the interaction between science, technology, and religion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folklore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. [...Read more...]

No Control: on The Wasp Factory

thewaspfactory

Few novels compelled me as much to immediately write my thoughts down as The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Usually I enjoy novels a lot while reading them (or not), but quickly dive into a new one afterwards. In this case, I felt the need to spend some words on it before moving on. I’m pretty sure this means that the book has some sort of clarity and compactness of style that brings across its messages very directly. I sure wasn’t the only one reading The Wasp Factory this month. Banks passed away after a battle with cancer on June 9th, and a number of my online friends and acquaintances made a grab towards his debut novel, like I did. [...Read more...]

Living Through Our Errors

vital_error

It’s been a while since I wrote anything serious about literature, but recently I was reminded of an essay I wrote in 2008, about the question of authorship in the cyberpunk works of Kenji Siratori. I never did anything with the piece at the time, but felt it was interesting enough to brush it up and give it another chance. In short, I question how we should apply the “death of the author” as proclaimed by Roland Barthes to literature that provokes strong questions about the nature of its own author. [...Read more...]

2012: A Year in Books

Lori Nix - 'Library' (2007)

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway. [...Read more...]

Right Up Yonder

södergran_mirror

Throughout human history, in art and religion, we find a longing for deliverance, the view of a promised land just out of our current reach, whether somewhere else on some part of (mythologised) Earth, or in a world beyond. [...Read more...]

Science Stories: The Mythology of Evolution

cover

Most people will be at least passingly familiar with the ‘war’ between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ that has been a central theme in the history of the West in the past few centuries. My quotes are intentional because each of these concepts is far more complicated than common usage would suggest. The problem is: most, if [...Read more...]

FATALE & the History of Salomé

FATALE-herodiaswatchesoversalome

This is the third time I’m writing about a digital work by Flemish duo Tale of Tales, and that alone says something about the capacity of their releases to inspire discussion. I started with the peaceful MMO The Endless Forest, and also did a short bit on The Graveyard. Continuing the chronological trend would leave The Path as my next subject – arguably their best and most game-like work – but writing about that fascinating psychological horror piece still seems rather daunting. Instead, I’m sticking to the slightly more manageable FATALE and exploring a bit of what it has to say about the figure of Salomé and how she’s been treated throughout history. [...Read more...]

The Viewpoint of Eternity

time scale

I came across the schema below in Olaf Stapledon’s book Star Maker. The book in general made a very favourable impression on me, as you can read in the short review I wrote on Goodreads. However, this one bit in particular I wanted to highlight on this blog, as it speaks directly to the title, [...Read more...]

Haunted by the Past: Retromania and Fear

wicker

Ein Gespenst geht um… Hauntology is one of those buzzwords that get thrown around in an attempt to put a finger on certain cultural trends. Deriving ultimately from Jacques Derrida, in reference to the opening sentence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto, the term nowadays is used to refer to the ‘ghosts’ haunting our culture; [...Read more...]

Mythic Fantasy: Pages of Pain

denning_pagesofpain

What a chimera of a book this is. It has one foot in plain old fantasy, with quite a few battles, some spell-slinging, and a hero on a quest. The other foot is deep in myth. When I first read this book, around seven years ago, I didn’t quite get it. I was already quite familiar with Planescape, the Dungeons & Dragons setting that forms the backdrop for this novel. However, in the novel, I found little of the vast vistas and wide-eyed wonder that typified the setting for me. Instead, the book’s narrative is almost completely confined to a labyrinth, which offers only a few passing glimpses of all the imaginative places that make up the Planescape multiverse. However, upon a second reading and some brief reflection, I think I now see what Denning tried to do here. [...Read more...]