April 14th, 2009 | brainjuice
I would read any comic that was full of stories about humans interacting with each other, facing a constantly shifting future and trying to define the 21st century condition while framed by the presence and use of giant fictional machines.
This is partly because I am in my early 40s and grew up with Gerry Anderson productions, and therefore I frame everything in terms of giant fictional machines, hideous future disasters and scientific adventurer-pilots relaxing after barely-thwarted eschatalogical events with martinis and cigarettes in their elegant volcanic-island home bases. It’s possible that my long desire for a volcano base meant not that I have a deep-seated need to be a James Bond villain, but that I have an intense repressed wish to be Jeff Tracy.
This is also partly because we live in an age of giant fictional machines.
Possibly also that we are in fact passing beyond that age of giant fictional machines, and yet, like much of the 20th Century’s chattel, have not quite come to terms with it yet.
(This may additionally be partly me projecting, as it appears that, no matter how I struggle, I seem to still be dealing with the business of the 20th century as a writer.)
And, I think, partly because I’m terminally infected with the metaphor: that we can build our way out of anything, bound not by our imaginations but only by the speed at which we can develop the necessary skills to make what we see in our heads. I mean, if we’re going to be in the business of selling fantasies, I don’t think it’s a bad one to sell.
I would connect this excuse for a thought with Design Fiction, which Julian Bleecker defines thus:
Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations about alternative futures. It’s about reading P.K. Dick as a systems administrator, or Bruce Sterling as a software design manual. It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries between pragmatics and imagination.
And a term Matt Jones threw at me during a drinking session the other month: Engineering Fiction.
Yes, we’re generally talking about speculative fiction here. But I come from the classic British tradition, where science fiction is social fiction. Therefore, in my head, the most valid way to come to terms with The Age Of Giant Fictional Machines and the terrifying miasmic presence of the 21st century is in fact to frame the whole discussion in terms of monstrous chunks of implausible technology, remaking the world by drilling or blasting or generally stabbing it with nuclear-driven metal bits, trying to stop things from exploding, and having the Cigarette Of Victory afterwards.
I think stories like these contain important lessons for our children.
My child, of course, watches SUPERNATURAL and gets all her news from MOCK THE WEEK. So we’re all doomed anyway. But I wanted to note the thought down.