winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

So, one of the things I've been up to in this long silence since posting regularly is getting caught up on my Vernor Vinge reading. I first got started reading Vinge a couple years back, picking up A Deepness in the Sky whilst traveling through Union Station. I fell in love with Deepness and kept meaning to read some of his other work, but found it oddly difficult to locate it in the local bookstores. At the beginning of the summer I picked up copies of Marooned in Realtime and A Fire Upon the Deep from Amazon. Marooned reminds me a lot of G.R.R. Martin's Dying of the Light (which I very highly recommend). I'm still reading through Fire, which has a lot of what I loved about Deepness: namely detailed consideration of the cognitive nature of alien life, especially the effects of alien bodies on cognition, as opposed to the "everyone's human(oid)" perspective familiar from Star Trek and most SF.

For those unfamiliar with Vinge, one of the major themes in his works is the idea of the Singularity. Much of this was novel when he was first writing about it, though it's a mainstream idea these days. There's been a lot of discussion on the technical, technological, and philosophical considerations behind Singularities; just google for transhumanism and you'll run into it. However, I just ran across a post by Elizabeth Bear which comes at it from, IMO, a more interesting direction: namely, analyzing the Singularity as an artistic movement in literature and analyzing it through the lens of critical theory, feminism, etc. I definitely believe that SF is, and has always been, a tool for exploring the current world around us and especially for trying to interpret the effects that current technologies have on social life; but the problems we're working out are not always obvious at the time. Perhaps the Singularity is now old enough that we can start to untangle all the concerns it was invented to address. Bear's posts (both the one I linked to, and the 2006 post cited therein) are a good start in that direction.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

Yesterday I had a spare moment and so I got caught up on XKCD and the other webcomics I follow. Not following tv, radio, or any other news, I've only just learned about Gary Gygax. I'm not sure why it's touched me so, to me Gary's just always been a name in the field. I was never enthralled by his work, I joined the game too old, after other names were bigger.

The idea of the reaper being held up for days, noone dying because of a game, deeply fills our wishes that somehow, somewhere, there is the hope of escape. The idea of death as bungling and incompetent, as bound by rule and tradition, is deeply amusing in the "ha ha only serious" manner usually reserved for geeks. Dark humor is a rare breed. It touches on the things we fear most, but people these days don't use humor as release, as self mockery, most use it only for denial.

Death, is everywhere, is in every thing. I've had more brushes with it than I care to talk about, more brushes than I often think about. I still hold out hope that transhumanism will arrive before I'm gone, but as I grow older I grow more accepting that death too will one day come for me. I do not fear death, it is missing the rest of the great story that I lament, not seeing the next plot twist, not seeing how it ends, how all the loose threads get tied up.

I sorely miss Portland, the city, the people there, the zeitgeist. Though I'd flirted with it before then, Reed was when I first got into roleplaying. After so many years away from CTY, Reed felt at long last like coming home. The year I took off from Reed most of my friends and gaming circle graduated and flung themselves to the ends of the world. Junior and senior years and the time since then I made new friends, found new gamers, but there was never that critical mass anymore and people seemed to leave Portland and leave my life as quickly as they entered it.

I worked at Reed for a year after graduating, and in that time I broke my ties to all the beauty and wonder of college. By the time I quit working at Reed I was completely disillusioned. Years afterwards I went back to the campus for some transcripts and I could feel the glimmerings of magic beginning to return to the place. Not my magic anymore, but a nostalgic magic, the magic you can see for other people and their first discoveries of life outside of their parent's houses. Though Reed was the greatest place for me at the time, I've outgrown that home just as by the time I left CTY I had outgrown that home. I still miss the magic of those years, but that's not the magic I need now.

In my time since Reed I would get fluctuations of friends and happiness. The Plum Tree was a fabulous home and I miss Karen (and Jasmine, Ryan, Lonnie...). Free Geek was a fabulous home and I miss all the spin-off groups of friends with their isolated interconnected dramas. The CAT was also a home to me, though it was always more distant, more professional, than I think of home being. And then there were the unnamed groups —with Eric, Amos, Antonia, Arlo, Serenity, Zeo, Candy, Schwern— the ones often more personal than the others. Portland's a small town, and yet, somehow I couldn't help but feeling lonely.

And now, this last year, I too have left Portland. Not having a car and being too overwhelmed by school I've not had any real chances to get out and explore Baltimore. Even still I've already noticed that Baltimore is a city of death. Baltimore used to be a big port city, but unlike Portland it's never figured out what to do now that shipping has changed. Baltimore's been in a state of decline for decades, the streets are riddled with potholes, the urban schools are destitute, the racism between the large poor class of blacks and the pockets of middle-class whites is overt. The liveliness I've found is like the liveliness of a town once the battlefield lines have moved one town back.

After a year here I've started forming new friendships, but like the CAT they're not the emotional friendships I miss. I'm still on mailing lists for Free Geek and the PIG list, every now and then I log into the CAT's irc. Somewhere I still hold hope of one day moving back to Portland, of finding all my friends again but somehow without the loneliness that always seemed to grow into longer and longer stretches. I'm an alien in a philosophical wasteland. Free/open-source software, ecological sustainability, social engineering, technological enlightenment, goth/punk social commentary, political activism, polyamory, childfree, gender/sexual deviance, —in short being revolutionary— all of these are foreign concepts treated at best with cautious skepticism here. Gary's death is in some way a death of gaming, and for me gaming has always been tied up with my deepest friendships and all those ideologies, has been tied up with the spirit of Portland itself. His death reminds me that I can never go home,

but I haven't found a new one yet.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

Communication is important to me. In relationships, in housing, in life. I think this is part of the reason why linguistics attracts me so. I also think this is the big reason why ldap has been so irking (see, documentation is communication too). And communication is, in many ways, about understanding, about conveying a certain ineffable factor of one's consciousness to others, and in so doing binds you to them, makes community, makes society.

I've been reading a lot of Transhuman Space recently. Unfortunately two of the books I recently got which I was looking forward to have been, imo, poorly done by the standards of SJ Games. (Both by the same author, so it may reflect more on his skill/style than on SJ Games.) But the two others I've read so far, Fifth Wave and Under Pressure , have both been quite entertaining.

And they've also gotten me thinking. Not quite so much as the core book when first I read it, but still thinking. It's funny how even just a few years can make what was once bleeding edge seem somehow quaint, seem deep allegory for exploring questions of the self rather than a future almost disturbing in its reality. Is it that the world has changed so much in those intervening years, or is it merely that I have myself?

Certainly I have changed, at least in degrees. I was thinking earlier and have decided that perhaps I should like to live forever. For those who've known me, you would know that this is quite a change. I have always thought before that I should not like to live overlong; tales and stories of the supernatural, of the undead and of illicit pacts, I have taken true to heart: there is a deep sorrow in immortality, more a cursing than could ever be thought of as blessed.

Now don't get me wrong, that I should come to desire long life is not because of fear of death. Rather it is from an abiding curiosity. Humanity is the strangest of creatures to think of itself with such great importance. And yet humanity is a moving target. Even in just the last century, look at all the changes in how societies are driven, in our capabilities to manipulate and explore our environment, in how we even conceive of ourselves and our place in the world and galaxy around us. Imagine what another century will bring as David Pulver and so many others have. Imagine the century after.

And think not of being born to those centuries but rather of having lived through all the changes to bring them about. Imagine taking a higher view and witnessing the evolution of all of humankind, and think of grabbing the very essence of "humanity" in your hands and moulding it, of redefining the very corpus of your life and place in existence. For what are our bodies if not tools through which our spirits make manifest our desires upon this world? And does it not make sense to want for such work the best tool one can fashion and is equipped to wield? And how can one take such a view and not wish to stand back and witness the grand experiment, to gaze upon the unfolding era and bear witness to the marvel that is eternity?

I'm not sure how long I've been a transhumanist. In truth, before these past few weeks it's not a label I would have ever thought to self-apply. But at the same time, I've had many of the same thoughts before, if less well articulated. I've always been into body modification, not just for the aesthetic of piercings or tattoos or corsetry, but for the very principals behind the term. Certainly a great portion of bodymod I find incredibly attractive, but bodymod is not just about attraction it is about aesthetic in the broadest sense of the term, it is about not taking one's body for granted but rather viewing it as a work of art itself and as a vessel free to be restructured. In many ways it is about treating the body as a temple, not as an inviolate sanctuary as the straightedge and religious circles would, but from the other side: as a blessed thing which should be decorated and honoured.

But as I mentioned, it is not only about beauty. There is another half to aesthetics that is oft overlooked, a darker side which some find too disturbing to even consider for fear of questions it may raise about themselves. I speak, of course, about the grotesque. There has always been something richly appealing about things which ought appall but which are rather disturbing in their beauty. There is another area for which I lack a term, but has to do with corruption. Those who have looked at the images on [ profile] urban_decay know exactly of what I speak. There are some forms of bodymod which fall more in these latter categories than in the lighter ones. Certainly some are done simply to shock mainstream society, but others are about exploring those unsavory questions, about laying open the assumptions we bear which make of a thing unthinkable and yet also enticing.

I think that as a species we are overfond of creating for ourselves small cells of comfort in which we can live and need never question the walls we've built around ourselves. Certainly the alternative, to know that we are at once the greatest and least of beings in the universe, to question not only our place in society but the very strictures of society itself, to be forever uncertain, always questioning and not ever receiving answers, to think that we may not be alone between the stars in the gift of higher thought, or to embrace that fact that we may quite possibly be the only sapient beings out there and yet know the insignificance of that fact as the machinations of planets and celestial bodies churn ever onward in spans we are unable to even comprehend of— certainly the alternative is almost inconceivable.

And yet we so delight in such thoughts. Every culture has questioned its place in the divinity of creation, in every era there are those who would refute common wisdom and think of a larger model with which to view ourselves, our planet, our reality. Imagine what a thousand thinkers who were persecuted for that crime would think were they still alive today. What would Galileo say about postmodernism? What would Socrates think of sustainable living? Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wish to colonize Mars?

Lately I've been feeling out of place with myself. I'm not sure I feel like going into that just now as my hour is almost up, but it's something that has been weighing on me. I'm beginning to think however, that perhaps it's time for an overhaul. Perhaps it's time not merely to change, but to redesign who I am. And yet the question remains, who will I become? Or even: who am I? What do I hold dear that gives meaning to my actions? Should I pare down to these essential things, or are even those subject to modification? What meaning would any of my beliefs have if they can be so freely alterable? Can I be said even to believe, or is it but fashionable thinking? Or is there no meaning, but merely an aesthetic, a free moment of thought caught in an expression of flesh that it may be conveyed to others?

And now, the hour is over.


1 Apr 2006 02:46 pm
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

Quick update. The biomod was a success. According to the param this vessel should last for another 70 years if I don't upgrade before then. My body should be coming to town this week via the Seattle starport, I just figured I'd stop by beforehand to visit a few people before they head off.

I'll be here until 2106sol.098ter, then I need to stop by Venus for some maintenance. It seems the terraforming schedule needs some adjustments as the aogi are overpowering the development of the kuoi. I figure I'll make some personal observations and then tell Elehayym what changes to make. It shouldn't require any downtime and shouldn't affect her personality this time.

And then I'll be heading outsystem again. If time permits, I might stop back by once my vessel is on the flight, but that'd only be for a few hours unless I want to get stranded or get home via dattrans across the anniq. Let me know your schedules if you want to meet up while I'm out here. I should be visiting with Elehayym again in a couple years anyways though I might be back before then, sine corpore, natch.

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