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Radiation Communism

This is how my keynote talk for the Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin last month began.  


I’m mostly a science fiction writer. Steven Shaviro, in his book CONNECTED, talks a bit about the Russian sf novel ROADSIDE PICNIC, saying that it, like all science fiction, actually exists to cast a shadow over the present.

He says of science fiction, "It shows us how profoundly haunted we are by what has not yet happened.”

In the specific case of Roadside Picnic and Tarkovsky’s film adaptation STALKER, what had not happened yet was the Chernobyl disaster. The alien impact region called The Zone in STALKER has crossed over into reality to become Chernobyl’s actual Zone Of Alienation, and the guides who take the curious into it call themselves Stalkers. In 2007, a videogame called S.T.A.L.K.E.R explicitly associates Roadside Picnic and STALKER with Chernobyl and The Zone Of Alienation, to the point where photography and footage of The Zone Of Alienation became the basis for the visual depiction of The Zone.

According to a 2003 report, there are two "cafes" inside the Zone that serve vodka described as "good from strontium." The report, preserved on a message board, also notes:

Bread and vodka remained as “currency" for Chernobyl till now, where long ago is built its own, radiation communism

Which I mention purely because I love the term "radiation communism."

I’m currently expanding it – which is at least in part a case of putting back a lot of stuff I had to cut to make my thirty-minute running time – with an eye to making it a small, cheap POD book.  A little manual for urban digital hauntology.  Only probably not as good as that sounds.

Published in brainjuice Work