Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials by Reza Negarestani
"Cyclonopedia is theoretical-fiction novel by Iranian philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani. Hailed by novelists, philosophers and cinematographers, Negarestani’s work is the first horror and science fiction book coming from and written on the Middle East.
'The Middle East is a sentient entity—it is alive!’ concludes renegade Iranian archaeologist Dr. Hamid Parsani, before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The disordered notes he leaves behind testify to an increasingly deranged preoccupation with oil as the ‘lubricant’ of historical and political narratives.
A young American woman arrives in Istanbul to meet a pseudonymous online acquaintance who never arrives. Discovering a strange manuscript in her hotel room, she follows up its cryptic clues only to discover more plot-holes, and begins to wonder whether her friend was a fictional quantity all along.
Meanwhile, as the War on Terror escalates, the US is dragged into an asymmetrical engagement with occultures whose principles are ancient, obscure, and saturated in oil. It is as if war itself is feeding upon the warmachines, leveling cities into the desert, seducing the aggressors into the dark heart of oil …
At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, CYCLONOPEDIA is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archaeologies of the Middle East and the natural history of the Earth itself. CYCLONOPEDIA is a middle-eastern Odyssey, populated by archeologists, jihadis, oil smugglers, Delta Force officers, heresiarchs, corpses of ancient gods and other puppets. The journey to the Underworld begins with petroleum basins and the rotting Sun, continuing along the tentacled pipelines of oil, and at last unfolding in the desert, where monotheism meets the Earth’s tarry dreams of insurrection against the Sun.”
“This may be, finally, the review that gets my license revoked. Because in offering my thoughts on Kenji Siratori’s new book, Blood Electric, I’m going to be compelled to say a few things that literary critics (particularly literary critics working for avant-garde online publications) just aren’t supposed to admit.
Billed as “the new Japanese cyberpunk classic,” Blood Electric is a story about the first awakening of an artificial intelligence. Or at least, this is what the back cover of the book tells me and I’ll have to take their word for it: because the first uncomfortable admission that I need to make here is that I didn’t understand this book. At all. Reading through the pages of Blood Electric is an exercise in endurance comparable to tackling Naked Lunch except without the flashes of insight that make Mr. Burroughs’s work worthwhile. Just to make the point clear, opening Mr. Siratori’s book to a random passage we find:
I feed it drugs of masses of flesh and external fear=cell: the techno-junkie device that controls//The internal organ consciousness of self was downloaded::the mimic of cadaver-feti that the logic circuit of self rapes::the hologram of memory lack to the head of amoeba DNA-channel in the virgin form::cut cable of the city that caused it excretes the nightmare of android nature//
Reading page after page of this, I find myself at a loss.”
“One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.
“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
The message was signed: “3301”.
But there were complicating factors to Cicada. For one, the organisers were actively working against the participants. One “solver”, a female known only as Wind from Michigan, contributed to the quest on several messageboards before the community spotted she was deliberately disseminating false clues. Other interference was more pointed. One long, cautionary diatribe, left anonymously on the website Pastebin, claimed to be from an ex-Cicada member – a non-English military officer recruited to the organisation “by a superior”. Cicada, he said, “was a Left-Hand Path religion disguised as a progressive scientific organisation” – comprising of “military officers, diplomats, and academics who were dissatisfied with the direction of the world”. Their plan, the writer claimed, was to transform humanity into the Nietzschen Übermensch.
"This is a dangerous organisation,” he concluded, "their ways are nefarious.” With no other clues, it was also asssumed by many to be a recruitment drive by the CIA, MI6 or America’s National Security Agency (NSA), as part of a search for highly talented cryptologists. It wouldn’t have been the first time such tactics had been used."
“Early versions of The Dark Crystal were a bit different than the version we see today. Jim Henson and Frank Oz originally sought to create a much darker story that relied more on the audience and less on voice-overs and inner monologues explaining the plot. In this version there’s no narrator, Jen’s inner monologues are gone, and the Skeksis hardly ever say anything in English (Aughra speaks some Skesis too!). This version is much more modern and a little darker with this original audio and the slightly different score. Some of the scenes are moved around too, which adds to the surreal feel of the original film. Some test audiences were more casual moviegoers and responded negatively to this version so the Henson team redubbed the ENTIRE film to help explain the plot to the audience up front and make things more obvious. ”
“A few weeks ago, I asked whether it would be possible ‘for there to be a pornography, sponsored by Dior or Chanel, scripted by a latter-day Masoch or Ballard, whose fantasies were as artfully staged as the most glamorous fashion photo shoot?’ Steven Meisel’s Vogue photo-shoot, much more than Mike Figgis’s drearily vanilla promotional films for Agent Provocateur, suggests that such a pornography is conceivable.
‘State of Emergency’ shows, once again, that it is left to high fashion to take up the role that fine art has all but abandoned. While much of fine art has succumbed to the ‘passion for the real’, high fashion remains the last redoubt of Appearance and Fantasy.
The used tampons and pickled animals of Reality Art offer, at best, tracings of the empirical. Their quaint biographism reveals nothing of the unconscious. Meisel’s elegantly-staged photographs, meanwhile, drip with an ambivalence worthy of the best Surrealist paintings. They are uncomfortable and arousing in equal measure because they reflect back to us our conflicted attitudes and unacknowledged libidinal complicities.”-
- Mark Fisher, ballardian.com
Space is the Place, dir. John Coney, 1974, staring Sun Ra
“Ison had captivated skywatchers with its promise ever since it was discovery by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in 2012.
A “fresh”, 2km-wide object flung in towards the inner Solar System from its home far beyond the outer planet Neptune, it was hoped it might produce a brilliant tail that would arc across the night sky, perhaps for weeks.
And, as it got closer and closer to the Sun, its ices did indeed begin to vaporise, releasing dust that shimmered in a distinctive trailing stream.
But from early on, it was clear Ison was unlikely to be spectacular; it was just not brightening in the way experienced comet watchers had anticipated.
This led scientists to fear for its survival when it eventually grazed past the star at a distance of just 1.2 million km at 18:35 GMT on Thursday.
Soho followed Ison as it began its sweep around the back of the Sun, but then failed to pick up a coherent object at the time it was supposed to re-emerge. A streak in the imagery was interpreted as the last fizzling of debris.
Other telescopes such as Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory could detect no clear sign of the comet’s nucleus, either.
Passing close to the Sun, Ison would have been subjected to temperatures over 2,000C. And the immense gravity of the star would also have pulled and squeezed on the object as it tumbled end over end.”