The Power of Science Fiction

By Donna McCormack

Speculative and science fiction are filled with monsters. The latter range from delightful though intimidating seapersons from Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms, in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and in the amazing collection edited by Nisi Shawl New Suns to more uncertain monstrous manifestations in Hiromi Goto’s Hopeful Monsters, sessing in NK Jemisin’s trilogy and the delightfully sensuous vampiric Gilda from Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories. Many members of the Monster Network are fascinated by monsters and have a long-standing engagement with and passions for SF. So, we decided to do a podcast on it. 

We were due to meet in my kitchen in London prior to giving a keynote at a monster event at Roehampton University. Some couldn’t make the meeting because bodies and schedules get in the way, while others bumped into each unexpectedly and then as we came together in this kitchen we agreed we’d go ahead with the plan to talk about SF. Despite the cosy setting, the house kept interrupting the conversation as the electricity had short-circuited and we were awaiting an electrician, which resulted in the smoke alarm’s constant, slow beep… beep… beep… Sometimes a house wants to have its own say even if we maybe cannot adequately account for its form of communication. 

Ingvil Hellstrand has been working on and enjoying SF for more years than she wants me to reveal! Line Henriksen has been working with creepy pastas – digital SF – in her PhD which she is currently transforming into what is sure to be an amazingly disturbing and exciting monograph. And, me, I have lived and worked with ghosts, the border between the sensible and insensible, for as long as I can remember. I am fascinated by that which comes back to haunt us, especially through viscera. We wanted to talk about what we enjoy, what brings us pleasure, as well as that which disturbs us, makes us question what we assumed we knew as accepted knowledge, and that which helps us learn over and over again. 

If many imagine that SF is about the future, we never got round to talking about the future, mainly because one of the Monster Network members rang the door bell, interrupting our attempt to step into the future, to articulate what the future might mean to and in SF. We made no attempt to resume our discussion, but instead leave that open to listeners or to anyone who may want to enter into dialogue with us in the future on the future. 

We do talk about the past, about the role of the past in SF and questioned this assumption that because something looks more technologically advanced than today’s society that it must therefore be in the future. Indeed, we talked about how these re-imaginings help us rethink the past, rethink how time itself moves, and therefore what the present might be and become. We delved into time, discussing temporality and the issues around linearity and undoing such understandings, without lapsing into a hierarchy of any time. We also grapple with the apocalypse with mentions of what some of us see as exciting X-Men and also more recent reincarnations of the apocalypse, such as Rebecca Roanhorse’s duology (or will she publish a third one!?), which reinforces questions we might want to ask about whose apocalypse, which histories and who will survive what. 

Most of all, we discussed a broad range of texts, a field of research, that could be defined as SF because we all are in many ways immersed in the genre as it grows, changes and as older texts emerge as central to our thinking forcing us to rethink our canons.  

The Monster Network has been and continues to work on how to reimagine methods of analysing texts, including the textual of our existing worlds, and SF is one way in which we enjoy and critically engage such thinking. We hope you’ll enjoy the podcast! 

 

 

Part 2. Digital magic: A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

This is part 2 of 1. Find the first post here.

ACT II

Image 3
Figure 3. A screenshot of the reviews of the book

Wang: Should we try the seven exciting customer reviews?

Henriksen: Let’s do it! Continue reading “Part 2. Digital magic: A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook”

Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

Image 1
Figure 1. The book page of The Cyber Spellbook: Magick in the Virtual World, by Patricia Telesco on Amazon

ACT I

Wang: So let’s look at the cyber spellbook. It is a book that came out in 2002, which is about 18 years ago. I actually don’t know how long this concept of digital witchcraft or cyber spellbook has existed. Cuz it seems like if the book came out then, maybe these concepts have been there for some time. Don’t you think so?

Henriksen: I’ll do a quick google for ’digital witchcraft’.

W: And I will try ’digital spellbook’. Let’s just see. Continue reading “Part 1: Digital Magic. A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook.”

Monster Writing Month 3

Cookbook: How to create a writing monster

As seen on this blog

by Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

Making writing monsters is easier than you think, and an ideal family activity to have fun with over the holiday break. Living with them is another story (this might be a life-long ethical exercise in living with something that you do not fully control). Follow these easy recipes and have your own monsters ready in a fraction of the time it takes to order them online:

1

Collage Monster

Ethos Lab 1
Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab.

You will need: 

For 1 collage monster: 

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • A text
  • Hope
  • Scissors
  • Vulnerability
  • Tears
  • Agony
  • Glue
  • Colleagues (can be substituted by friends, family, total strangers, or 7 dogs)
  • A time-keeper with a timer

Aim:

To recreate your own text using other people’s sentences.

Method: 

  1. Cut sentences from your text. If you have 9 colleagues, you’ll need 9 sentences. If you have 5 total strangers, you will need 5 sentences. If you have 7 dogs, you will need around 133 sentences and the ability to work with chewed up material. Important: you do not need to use all your text! When you have the sentences you need, put the remaining text aside.
  2. Round one: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues. Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues.
  • Take 5 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto a piece of paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Just keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Round two: 
  • Share a sentence with one of your colleagues (not the same as before). Choose something that you think they’ll like.
  • Receive one sentence from one of your colleagues (not the same as before).
  • Take 10 minutes to glue the sentence you receive onto your paper. You can modify it in any way you want: delete or rearrange words, add words with your pen, write a new sentence using the words you were given, etc. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text.
  • The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.
  1. Repeat the rounds until everybody have received a sentence from everybody else.
  2. Final round: take 10 – 20 minutes to reorganize and polish your text in any way you please. Add sentences, glitter or/and drawings. Keep in mind: you are still trying to write about the subject of your old text. The time-keeper will let you know when the time is up.

Finished! You have now created your very own collage monster in no time, with very little effort, and eternal damnation to follow. Bask in your own accomplishments with lightning, a good thunderstorm and some hubris before the consequences catch you unawares.

2

hello text

Programme
Photo by Marie Blønd for ETHOS Lab. Artwork by Mia Makila.

You will need:  Continue reading “Monster Writing Month 3”

Monster Writing Month 2

This blog post springs from and reflects on the Monster Writing workshop at ETHOS Lab, IT University of Copenhagen, November 2019. It is written by using and not accepting track changes. For other examples of multiple voices as monster methods, listen to the Monster Talks podcast episode Collective voices and the materialisation of ideas – monster as methods, or read the introduction to the Monster Network special issue of Somatechnics Journal, Promises, Monsters and Methodologies: the Ethics, Politics and Poetics of the Monstrous

Tracked Changes Vulnerabilities: Reflections on writing with monsters

By Marisa Cohn, Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

1 Track Changes2 Track Changes3 Track Changes4 Track Changes5 Track Changes

Monster Writing Month 1

Writing Monsters

by Katrine Meldgaard Kjær and Line Henriksen

Image

Hello text

I don’t know if you want to be written

What might it mean to think of writing as monstrous? Or the act of writing as the act of creating a monster? Like the weird scientist in the lab. Like Frankenstein chasing his creation across the Arctic after rejecting it.

Hello text

I am not sure I like you

Continue reading “Monster Writing Month 1”

Monstrous architecture

— Guest post from architects Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova –

In July of 2019, the Monster Network was invited to give a keynote at the symposium Monstrous Ontologies: Politics, Ethics, Materiality at the University of Roehampton in London (you can listen to our keynote here). One of the presentations at the symposium was delivered by the architects Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova, who talked about how they work with the monster in their own architectural practice. We were intrigued and interested by what we heard, and saw a lot of connections to how we think, work, and write with the monster in the Monster Network. So we asked them if they wanted to write a blog post for us!

In what follows, Signe and Ramón write about their experience working with, amongst other things, a territory occupied by a vast landfill close to the southern border of Mexico. During their talk they showed a video from the landfill, which can be viewed here (password: Ecologies).

Before giving you a chance to explore architecture and the monster, we let Signe and Ramón introduce themselves:

Signe and Ramón are architects and researchers based in Riga, Latvia. They strive to practice architecture as an integral part of the affective and relational lived experience. They have studied, worked and done research in Europe and Mexico, and their work has been presented in various conferences, art exhibitions and publications. They are interested in expanding their practice by intersecting it with other disciplines, and fostering discussion of its becomings and emergence from territories and assemblages of human and non-human components.

Image
Image from Signe Pērkone and Ramón Córdova’s video ‘Landfill clips’ (password: Ecologies)

Meeting the Monster Half Way

Monster as a Tool for Enriching Spatial Practices

 There are territories, places and spaces that after establishing relations with certain agents or in particular conditions become monstrous assemblages in the collective imagination, from slums to squatted buildings, and from crime infested city communities to remote landfills inhabited by migrants. But what does this monstering mean for the places themselves? What does it mean for us, who need to interact with them? Even more, those who deal with spatial disciplines, such as architecture, are often called upon to intervene in these territories, to make sense of them, to “improve” them. However, there is a danger in acting before understanding because, in one way or another, this leads to forced conclusions, filling in the gaps in knowledge with assumptions, and normative faux-solutions. Continue reading “Monstrous architecture”