Living Algorithms


“The three contemporary science fiction novels discussed here mirror the development of our stance towards artificial intelligence. In Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, which employs a polarised world-view reminiscent of Cold War politics, the AI is demonized to such an extent that speaking about it and speaking about the devil become indistinguishable. In Stone Adam Roberts depicts uprising nanobots as terrorists from a human perspective but as freedom fighters from that of the awakened AI. Finally, M. John Harrison’s take on the topic in his Empty Space trilogy is the most complex one, reminding us that we too are living, self-replicating, self-conscious code. Based on that, self-aware technology is simply another culture to interact with.”

I have a new article up in Infinite Earths: “Living Algorithms: The Move towards Anti-Anthropocentrism in Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, Adam Roberts’ Stone, and M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy”. The illustration above is “BioMech Eye” by Bruno (kirkh on deviantart).

Reading Finnegans Wake… and Mondegreens.

A while ago my friend Michael hosted my paper on reading Finnegans Wake on his blog. I would have put it up on here, but I thought that it was rather long and didn’t really fit the overall theme of what this blog has become. However, I’m still getting feedback on this piece from all directions, so for completeness’ sake, here’s the link to it.

Spaceship Names and Invasive Code

My addiction to list-making is flaring up again. (Which might or might not mean I’ll soon be writing more short stories.) Lately, I’ve come to realize that good band names often make good names for spaceships as well (e.g. Nada Surf, the Mars Volta). Since they tend to be multilingual compounds, and also (more often than not) quite interesting references, I blame M. John Harrison’s Empty Space trilogy. Besides, his “invasive code” is so well written that last night I dreamt that a white paste the consistency of baby food was coming out of my mouth, and a childless acquaintance suddenly had a daughter… It was pretty uncanny. That said, one of my favourite passages from Empty Space is “Renoko self-identified as human”. (More rights for entities traditionally identified as non-human! Down with anthropocentrism!)

MoFo Post #5: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Toast*

*But Were Afraid to Ask.

While I’m busy multitasking, please have a look at Jasper Fforde’s amazing Toast Marketing Board Website.
I have to add that I have all his Thursday Next and Nursery Crime Division books, and I can only recommend them.
(BTW, I’m convinced that Mary Mary is Thursday undercover. There are hints all over the books.)

Travelling book: The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus

From the blurb:
You could be the world’s next vegan. It’s easy if you know how, and this uniquely helpful book tells you everything you need to know. Every topic related to vegan living is covered, including cooking, nutrition, food shopping, dining out, and much more. You’ll get clear and straight-forward guidance from one of the world’s most respected vegan authors. Going vegan is something you can easily accomplish; let The Ultimate Vegan Guide show you the way.

This is a really helpful book for new or aspiring vegans. It shows you how going vegan doesn’t mean missing out on anything, but rather trying out new foods and hopefully learning one or two things about nutrition on the way. It helps you with your grocery shopping, dining out, finding replacements for eggs and dairy, and even includes a recipe for cashew cheese. I really liked this book, but I thought it was very much cut out for people who live (and do their grocery shopping) in the US, so I’ve decided to pass my copy on to another vegan who might need it more than I do. If you’re interested, all you have to do is comment on this post and include a way I can reach you (e.g. a link to your own blog or your email). I’ll leave this open for a week and pick a winner at random next weekend.
One more thing. I’ve registered my copy on, which means that it has a label with a BCID number inside the front cover that you can enter on the website to see where this book has been and who has read it. I’d really appreciate it if you added a comment of your own. Of course you can keep the book if you want to, but you can also pass it on any time, and future readers will hopefully add to its “travel diary”.