Search Results: 'cyberpunk'

Pumzi – How did I miss this?

pumzi_2

 

Three years ago I became absorbed and excited by the work of a young writer coming out of Accra, Ghana, Jonathan Dotse, through his original Afrocyberpunk blog, and his nascent novel, Accra: 2057. I interviewed him here, and have stayed in contact via Twitter since. Afrocyberpunk has since decamped to a new home, here, and continues to explore Africa, Science Fiction and other related topics

  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered the fabulously talented South African writer, Lauren Beukes, who introduces the BBC radio show “Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?”, which I’ve linked to because it also mentions  most of the other names that I became familiar with through Jonathan Dotse.  Lauren’s brilliant Zoo City will one day make an equally brilliant movie, I’m sure. Buy it and read it!
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered Nigerian American author Nnedi Okrafor, who continues to inspire
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered the fascinating and innovative collaborative crowd sourcing comics of 3bute, which are so ahead of the curve I’m still trying to figure out what the form is
  • It was through Afrocyberpunk that I discovered –and I’m amazed that this remained under my radar for so long – the work of Wanuri Kahiu – and most particularly the quite beautiful Kenyan scifi short, Pumzi

 

There is so much good stuff coming out of Africa right now, and I have to thank Afrocyberpunk for opening my eyes to it.

 

Welcome to Africa, welcome to the future…

Seeing double

Over the weekend I caught a documentary on BBC4 about the fabulous Screamadelica album from Primal Scream, who have suddenly leapt up my notional list of greatest Scottish bands of all-time list. Don’t ask me who else is on the list, but I’d be happy to hear your suggestions!

Apart from probably realising for the very first time what a stunning record (call me old fashioned) Screamadelica is, and quite HOW much of a Glasgow band Primal Scream were, I was struck by how much of a doppelganger bassist Henry Olsen is for CODEC’s Pete Phillips.

Funny thing is, once in a while, folks have tried to say I looked like various people…and I’ve never quite been able to see the comparison. There was a time years ago when a working buddy of mine would fairly regularly remark that I looked like Elvis Costello! As much as I admire the work of Elvis’s C and P (or should that be Elvi) I couldn’t really see any resemblance.

Then, more recently, Ship of FoolsSimon Jenkins remarked – on setting eyes on me in the flesh for the first time – that I looked like a “science fiction writer”, which I found oddly complimentary. Somehow that description stroked my ego in a spot that I quite enjoyed, being a little bit of a cyberpunk buff and all. Ever since I’ve been trying to think if there was a particular Sci-Fi writer Simon had in mind, or was it just some kind of generic geeky sensibility I invoked in his mind?

So, the question is; is there anyone out there who could be your double, and would you recognise them if you saw them?

More on cyberpunk at johnnylaird.net

Ship of Fools

Pete Phillips at Post Modern Bible

Simon Jenkins

Which Cory Doctorow book shall I start with?

I’m arriving fresh and new to the talents of polymathic blogger/sci-fi author and Creative Commons champion, Cory Doctorow, and that bugs me because I can’t quite understand why he’s slipped under my radar for so long. It’s almost as if I was one of those guys waking up from a coma, and great chunks of history have passed me by. His work is so in the space that I find entirely fascinating that I’m genuinely bemused why I’m  late to the game in knowing who he is. How did that happen?

When cyberpunk don William Gibson was in England earlier this month, Doctorow shared the stage with him at an Intelligence Squared event in London, which for me was a measure of how high Cory’s hip quotient must be!

His stuff intrigues me so much that before long I’m going to have to go out and buy one of the books. The question is…which one should be my launch pad?

Any Cory fans out there, ready to let me know where I should start?

(Photo by Jonathan Worth. An annotated version of this image is available on Flickr here. Creative Commons.)

HT to Bex for reminding me what a great word polymath is…

Cory blogs at Craphound.com, co-edits Boing Boing, and crops up all over the place if you Google him…

Cyberpunk itch

I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve had a real desire to scratch my cyberpunk itch.

Most likely it was the release of William Gibson’s latest tome, Zero History and the accompanying WIRED piece on the honourable Mr Gibson that kicked my recent revisiting of this familiar ground off.

Then again, it may have been the images of “Mission-Al” Hirsch at Black Rock doing his Burning Man thing, or maybe my recent championing of Jonathon Dotse’s book in waiting “Afrocyberpunk”.

Anyhow, I’ve dusted off an old copy of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Pashazade, which is sitting on my bedside table alongside a borrowed copy of ReWork from the guys at 37signals. I want to read Pashazade again, as it so many years since I first did that I can barely remember it. So, it will feel like a new book.

On top of all this I’ve just discovered Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird blog via his excellent “Flowers for cyberpunk” post, and by extension a whole bunch of fascinating stuff Adam has done individually and in collaboration with his wife Nurri Kim. Yesterday I spent a little while lurking around his online presence, and checking a few vids on Youtube. This is one interesting dude…

I feel a cyberpunk period coming on.

HT to Michael O’Shea for the image, via WIRED

More on cyberpunk at johnnylaird.net

#FF Expanded

OK.

Here’s my expanded Follow Friday list for today.

Sometimes the 140 characters can’t do it justice, so this is my expanded version:

@98rosjon


Jonny Rose is fast becoming a really good friend and excellent supporter of everything I try to do with this blog. Knowing  that we live so very close to each other means that a physical meet up is inevitable. It’ll be good to take the online offline. Jonny blogs here, and crops up on johnnylaird.net here and here

@barryfurby

Barry is another of those affirming voices whose work in building community I admire so much. He has been the catalyst for a whole bunch of new relationships. Barry recently featured in one of my Q&A interviews

@BernieJMitchell

I shared about ½ an hour on the phone with Bernie a couple of weeks ago. He had initiated the call, feeling we had some common areas of interest. He was right. As Bernie’s in London, I guess – just like Jonny – it won’t be too long before we meet in person

@cdhinton

Chris Hinton is my partner in crime on the embryonic “Blogging Dojo, as well as driving his own Geek-Speak and new photoblog The Photo-Geek. Look out for a Q&A interview with Chris soon.


@ChrisBrogan

I gave Chris Brogan a shout out earlier this week, and he kindly left a comment by response. I really appreciated that. Chris is a Social Media heavy hitter whose work is definitely worth exploring.


@headphonaught

Thomas is one of those online guys that became offline in a big way. I love him and his family. We’ve shared time in each other’s homes, and that’s a true barometer of a friendship. You might like to check out the story of our first face to face encounter from Thomas’ perspective.


@jennyshimizu

Jenny has the best Twitter bio I know: “dedicated to the misguided, wretched and impoverished everywhere….”. Everybody needs a Supermodel on their team, and particularly one who responds to your Tweets!


@johnsiddique

The inspirational John Siddique continues to be massively supportive and kind. I’m so glad we had the chance to get together recently.


@Nnedi

Nnedi Okorafor is one of the key influences on the writing of Jonathan Dotse, who featured in a johnnylaird.net post called “The New Voice of Afrocyberpunk.She has been kind enough to RT my Tweets about the Afrocyberpunk, and we’ve shared a little dialog on some of her work in progress. I feel humbled by her graciousness, and am looking forward to checking out some of Nnedi’s work.

@KapilApshanker

Kapil has recently been reading the my blog, and interacts in a way I really appreciate. He contributes and values the conversation, and for that, I’m extremely grateful. Kapil’s blogs are here and here

There are many many more folks who I could include, so if you are missing and would have expected to be here I apologise.

You are all valued.


Thanks to everyone for the images; none of them are mine – they are all yours

The new voice of Afrocyberpunk

Earlier this year I blogged about a fresh young writer who was making waves as a writer in the cyberpunk genre. I’ve been keen to find out more about Jonathan Dotse and his Accra, Ghana-based work.

Recently I had the chance to work through some Q&As with Jonathan, and here are the results:

Q: Jonathan, What was it that first inspired you to write, and who are your biggest influences?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of virtual reality and how media can be used to transport the mind into another world. I began writing because it gave me the ability to create worlds that others could enter as if they had stepped right into my imagination and I showed them around. For that reason, most of my earliest attempts at fiction were interactive hyperlinked stories.

I owe many of my ideas to the ground-breaking work of countless writers and thinkers, so it’s hard to single out a few of them. My greatest single influence must surely be William Gibson, especially if the ripple effects of his work are taken into consideration.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment.
A: I’m working on a novel set in Accra, Ghana circa 2060 AD, at a time when clinical neuroscience has reverse-engineered the human brain and uncovered the inner workings of the mind. Two-thirds of the world’s population are implanted with biocores – organic computer interfaces between the brain and cyberspace which link billions of people worldwide to the Internet.

The novel explores the psychological consequences of mind altering technology through the interwoven stories of a data thief, a computer programmer, and a cyber crime investigator who are drawn inextricably into the heart of a dark conspiracy in one turbulent night on the streets of Accra.

Q: You’re pretty much at the beginning of your writing career. Given all of the changes in how writers are able to take their work to market in the 21st Century – in terms of self publishing, ebooks, blogging etc – do you have a particular route you want to explore getting your stories into the hands & heads of your readers?
A: Yes, I intend to make all my stories available online as direct-to-brain neural data downloads… No, I don’t have any brilliant publishing ideas, but I’m willing to explore a lot of the available options when the time comes.
Self-publishing is something I eventually want to try, but for now I need to gain some experience in the print industry, with their rigorous editors and marketing techniques and whatnot. I’m excited by all the possibilities, but I’m being also being careful to know exactly what I’m doing before I jump headfirst into anything.

Q: How is the timeline breaking down of this first Afrocyberpunk project? Do you have plans to publish?
A: I began writing this novel with nothing but the vaguest idea of a plot set in a futuristic North American city, saying to myself I would be done in two months, tops. One year and several plots later I’ve learned that I’m not exceptionally good at planning.

I currently expect to be done by the end of this year, but I keep my focus primarily on immediate issues in the development of the novel so that I spend as much of my time as possible making progress. When I have a completed manuscript I’ll be able to look to the horizon again and speculate as wildly as I like.

Q: Already your work has been highly praised by some the head honchos in the cyberpunk literary world. Can you tell us a little about that? Did that take you by surprise, and how has that positive attention made you feel about your future as a writer?
A: It’s been a surreal experience that on some levels I’m yet to fully acknowledge is truly happening. I was always confident that my ideas would receive a positive response, but I was completely unprepared for the scale of that response. The fact that it has all unfolded on the net only makes it more distant and easier to forget about for long stretches at a time. It may yet take me some time to get my head fully wrapped around the situation. Assuming this is all real and not some elaborate farce, I’ve definitely gained a great deal of confidence in myself and more than enough motivation to keep me grinding through the slow agony of writing a novel.

Q: If Accra is the setting for your current work, where do you think is the natural home of cyberpunk?
A: I think of cyberpunk as a condition that arises when fragments of a social system fail to adapt in a rapidly changing world; when governmental inefficiency and street Darwinism create a void big enough to hide a black market. Rather than having a home in the geographical sense, I expect cyberpunk to thrive in any place where technological advancement meets political stagnation.

On that basis, many parts of the developing world are ideal breeding grounds for cyberpunk, but it would be a stretch to say that this will remain the case indefinitely, particularly as these countries become developed. I also expect the arrival of new technologies to continually challenge the established systems, so I don’t think anywhere in the world is totally immune or automatically susceptible to cyberpunk.

Q: Can there be a life for your stories and characters beyond the written word…what I’m trying to say is, is there a movie tucked away in there somewhere?
A: My storytelling style has probably been influenced more by cinema than any literary genre and I’ve always felt that my writing could easily be translated to film. I actually think my novel is a great movie waiting to happen, but some might consider that a biased assessment, so in the end it’s not really my call to make. I do hope to see my stories end up as movies, comics, plays, or any other format. It’s ultimately my intention to produce work that transcends form and takes as many incarnations as possible, not to mention reaches as wide an audience as possible.

Q: Who are your writing peers?
A: I don’t particularly feel like I’ve accomplished enough to put me in the same peer group as any writers whose work I’m familiar with. It’s even more difficult considering I’m boxed in a rather curious intersection between several genres, but I do eventually hope to join the ranks of contemporary African sci-fi writers such as Nnedi Okorafor and Ivor Hartmann. As I haven’t published any fiction yet I still find it difficult to see myself as their peers.

Q: How do you envisage the future panning out for Jonathan Dotse?
A: I see quite a lot and in so much detail that I don’t really trust any of it, given my history with forecasting. I’m sure a lot will depend on what happens after the novel goes to print and on the chain of events after that. I very much like the 2060s Accra I’ve developed and plan to continue expanding it, whether in the form of short stories or a novel sequel. I can see myself working on some of my earlier hyperlink fiction projects which have waited long to be resurrected. I might find myself writing a complete interactive hyperlinked trilogy and a screenplay for the movie while I’m doing that. And it shouldn’t take more than a few months, tops.

I’m really excited about the quality of Jonathan Dotse’s work…no doubt a name to watch in the future.

Go here for the Afrocyberpunk blog

HT to Jonathan for the image

For more interviews on johnnylaird.net head here

Guest posts, vids & interviews

A little while back I kicked off a series of guest posts here on johnnylaird.net with a little vid to get things moving.

I’ve had some great posts from some excellent guests, and that goes on. There’s always an opportunity to be a guest here, and I’d be glad to hear from more of you. Some posts are still being prepared, and I’m excited by all of the people who’ve committed to write. There are some real goodies on the way, believe me!

However, you may not want to write a piece from scratch – but you’d still like to join in the conversation, or would like to say something but are short of time.

If that’s the case, how about I fire your over some Questions for you to you respond to here as an interview?

Hit me with a Tweet or comment, and I’d be glad to quickly pull something together for you.

There are already a few very cool interviews coming together, appearing here soon.

Guest posts

Video

500 Posts
Be my guest!
Who are the truly global blogging voices?

Interviews

  • Barry Furby
  • Chris Hinton
  • Jonathan Blundell
  • Jonathan Dotse
  • Kevin Hendricks
  • Kore UK
  • Mike Cliffe-Jones
  • Sam Radford
  • Scott Gould
  • Simon Damodaran
  • Be my guest! from Johnny Laird on Vimeo.

    Jonathan Dotse – Afrocyberpunk

    In the mid 1980s I was devouring every piece of cyberpunk I could lay my hands on, reading William Gibson novels back to back for a few years in a row, so I felt a fizz of memory when – prompted by a Tweet from Hue & Cry/The Play Ethic’s Pat Kane - I stumbled on this little bit of prose from newbie blogger at Afrocyberpunk -  Jonathan Dotse, who’s working on a new cyberpunk novel set in Accra, Ghana.

    It’s only a short piece, but so good I just wanted to share it in full.

    Should be interesting to see how things develop for the talented Mr Dotse

    Welcome to Africa.

    You are not where you think you are. You are not on a safari, or an expedition, or a mission. Your footprint is not the first here, nor will it be the last. Africa is a tour with no guide and no schedule, a ride with no stops, no brakes, and no particular destination – there isn’t even a plan – so don’t bother booking a return trip; just go with the flow. If you are still looking for African science fiction, I advise you to put away your camera and open your eyes.

    Africa is science fiction.

    Not the science fiction of your grandfather or the Foundation of your Asimov, no. Africa lends herself to the dystopian gloom of failed states, the iron rule of corruption, cartels snaking cold fingers into the upper echelons of government, and high tech gangs of disillusioned youth. Follow her streets into dark melancholy and taste her despair, the bitter and the sweet simmering together to form her unique flavor. Follow the trails of waste spilling out from her gutters, follow them down to the banks of her industrial empires, her charred forests, and damp mines. You will not find your Jedi warriors here, but you might run into some street thugs or hackers, scammers, drug dealers, con men and women, street children, ritual murderers, street evangelists preaching hope and doom. The only Force here is hard currency, and it’s dark on both sides. Embrace her reality.

    Africa is cyberpunk.

    What wonders only Africa has seen since she gave us our crawling legs, released us from her nurturing arms to roam the wide outer world, soar up into the sky, the galaxies, and conquer the universe. She has always waited for us to return with our stories of voyages far and wide to add to her rich legacy. Bring her your stories. She will listen. Stand in the city streets or in the market, on the buses and trains, in the towns and villages, and broadcast your story out loud into the networks; fuel the pulse of life surging through the dense grid of veins all around you. Africa is waiting for you, because you are the future of African science fiction.

    Welcome to Africa.

    As an added bonus, some random Afrocyberpunk Googling for research led me to Afropunk.com.

    Man…there’s a whole world of wonderfulness there…

    HT to for Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah the Accra image.

    Books and stuff and Haruki Murakami

    When I left school – way way back in the early 80s, there was a period of time when I simply did not read. I had abandoned reading for pleasure, probably as a result of delving deeply into all kinds of stuff which I had been directed to as part of my studies. I had dutifully worked through the usual English syllabus of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Hardy, EM Forster, Beckett, Joyce and the rest of the usual suspects. After that, it all came to a grinding halt for a few years.

    My reading after school was almost entirely made up of editions of Downbeat and Guitar Player magazines, which I read, re-read and read again. I never did master the guitar, but I could talk the talk, and fool anyone into thinking I knew what I was talking about when it came to guitars! I’ve forgotten most of it now, so don’t test me.

    Then, on one specific day – and I can’t remember what the catalyst was to encourage such a focused response – I made a conscious decision that it was time to read again, so I went to a book store and made some purchases:

    • To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
    • Lake Wobegon Days – Garrison Keillor
    • On the Road – Jack Kerouac
    • The Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
    • Neuromancer – William Gibson

    These books started a journey that has never stopped, and I suppose if I really sat down and took the time to analyze it, the day when I bought those five books would have been the kick off point for a daisy chain of a reading pattern that would find me searching out a book that had some kind of connection (which was sometimes deliberate, and sometimes subconscious) to the one I had just read. I would settle on an author any read several of their titles, or I would by a biography of the author that would open up another world for me – I rattled around the works of the Beats for a year or two, and racked up a whole collection of William Gibson cyberpunk novels. Eventually, the whole thing blossomed into a reasonably wide portfolio of reading stuff.

    The reason I’ve remembered all this, is one of those authors I focused on for a while was Haruki Murakami. I love his surreal, contemporary Chandler-esque tales, written in a clipped, sparse way that leaves enough space for your imagination to fill in the gaps.

    Murakami featured in a really interesting piece in the Saturday edition of The Guardian, where we talks mostly about the other passion in his life, apart from his writing – running. Murakami, I now realize, is a dedicated long distance runner, with many marathons under his belt, and talks about the similar discipline he applies to his writing and his running.

    For more stuff on Haruki Murakami and running, there’s a Runners World interview here.

    I’m kinda hoping the inspiration I initially got from reading a few books, might work for me in getting me off my backside, and doing a little better than the periodic mile and a half stagger across the field and around the local park. There’s something appealing about running that is somehow at odds with my normal preference for sitting around and drinking coffee!

    Hat tip to Naxos Audio Books for the image

    Currently reading NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope