Word Bombs

by Mark Fisher

"Cyberpunk torches fiction in intensity, patched-up out of cash-flux mangled heteroglossic jargons, and set in a future so close it connects: jungled by hypertrophic commercialization, socio-political heat-death, cultural hybridity, feminization, programmable information systems, hypercrime, neural interfacing, artificial space and intelligence, memory trading, personality transplants, body-modifications, soft- and wetware viruses, nonlinear dynamic processes, molecular engineering, drugs, guns, schizophrenia."

No-one is quite sure what they are: Nick Land, Stephen Metcalf, Sadie Plant. Part theory, part fiction, nothing human, constructs so smoothly assembled you can't see the joins. They don't write text; they cook up intensities. They don't theorise; they secrete, datableed.

What we used to call cyberpunk is a convergence: a crossover point not only for fiction and theory, but for everything that either doesn't know its place or is in the process of escaping it. Whatever is emerging where authority is getting lost and middle men are being made redundant. Anything interesting was always like that. Metalhead Michel Foucault was never easy to place. They asked him if he had ever wanted to write fiction. He said he'd never done anything else.

So more than a fusion of fiction and theory, it's all about cross fertilizing the most intense elements of both in monstrous nuptials against nature. Synthetix.

"The present writing would not be a book; for there is no book that is not the ideal of the immobilised organic body. These would be only diverse pieces, each piece of variable format and belonging to its own time with which it begins and ends ... Not a book, only libidinal instalments." 1974: delirial Jean Francois-Lyotard melts the still glowing-hot shards of post 68 street revolutionary intensity together with Bataille, cybernetics and anti-socialised Marx to produce the pre-punk, non-organic, inhuman assemblage he calls Libidinal Economy. With Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus and Luce Irigaray's Speculum: Of the Other Woman it's part of an irruption of rogue materialism into the French academy that is as far from the dreary, idealist textocracy of Parisian post-structuralism as it is from the dry-as-chalkdust dreariness of Oxbridge common sense . What is refused, in the name of incandescence, is the neutralizing, disintensifying, distanced tone de rigeur in academic prose. The aim, as Deleuze and Guattari put it in Anti-Oedipus , to accelerate the process. All of this consummated in the migration of intelligence out of the university (if indeed intelligence ever was in the university), something that, two decades on, the technical machines will help to facilitate. "The academy loses its control over intelligence once it is possible to even imagine a situation in which information can be accessed from nets which care for neither old boy status nor exam results. The university in flames.

"Dozens of different argots are now in common currency; most people speak at least three or four separate languages, and a verbal relativity exists as important as any of time and space. To use the stylistic conventions of the traditional oral novel - the sequential narrative, characters 'in the round', consecutive events, balloons of dialogue attached to 'he said' and 'she said' - is to perpetuate a set of conventions ideally suited to the great tales of adventure in the Conradian mode, or an overformalized Jamesian society, but now valuable for little more than the bedtime story and the fable. To use these conventions to describe events in the present decade is to write a kind of historical novel in reverse...1964. Writing in the pages of the SF magazine New Worlds , J. G. Ballard celebrates the multipliticous, impure junk languages of William Burroughs. Ballard wheels away the decorous scenery of the literary novel to reveal the atrocity exhibition of the late twentieth century as it emerges in Burroughs' carnivalesque prose: "swamps and garbage heaps, alligators crawling around in broken bottles and tin cans, neon arabesques of motels..."Burroughs has already intravenously pumped pulp fictional vernacular into the hi-cultural zone of Joyce-Eliot experimentalism, fatally contaminating it. Ballard's own condensed novels are in preparation. Cyberpunk fiction lies in wait; assembling itself out of machinic convergence, it is a direct but unanticipated consequence of the intersection of the PC, TV and the telephone. Invading clean white Kalifornia dreams with nightmares from the machinic unconscious, William Gibson and Pat Cadigan populate cyberspace with nonorganic gothic avatars and voodoo entities. The bourgeois novel in flames.

The near future. (But it's already happening) "Twisted trading systems have turned the net into a jungle, pulsing with digital diseases, malfunctioning defence packages, commercial predators, headhunters, loa and escaped AIs hiding from Asimov security."Dead hippies create cyberspace, but what comes together is the jungle: Cubase materialism smearing white economies with black marketization. Illicit distribution networks, rogue retail, faceless bacterial commerce. Silicon valley in flames.

And it's not over yet. In the intense heat of the cyberjungle, where distribution is too quick and imperceptible for copyright lawyers to keep up, the authorised text is decomposing; a process accelerated by the technical machines. Hypertext is in part an answer to Deleuze and Guattari's inquiry in A Thousand Plateaus : "A book composed of chapters has culmination and termination points. What takes place in a book composed instead of plateaus that compose with one another across microfissures, as in a brain?" Marshall McLuhan had already seen this happening in 1964, when, in Understanding Media, he announced the end of print culture and its associated linear thought patterns. The Gutenberg Galaxy in flames.

The death of the author is an entirely technical matter, not at all a metaphor. The cool, efficient decommissioning of the author-function in music shows the way. Remixes displace (fixed, finalised) texts; DJs, producers and engineers replace authors. What succeeds all this is the version, in the sense Jamaican reggae culture gave to the term. Unofficial, potentially infinite, illegitimate: there's no such thing as an authorised version.

Authority is already dead, persisting in undead form only in those places (the academy for instance) so atrophied and decayed they can't tell the difference between what's alive and what isn't . Everything you'd want to be involved in is happening without permission. No law in the jungle.

"The state's pre-arrangement of overlaid bridges, junctions, pathways and trade routes trajectorize the scorching advance as it impacts upon the hapless head of the social. Detonation of nuclear arsenals of the world merely pushes the nomads underground: shedding their skins in reptilian camouflage, vanishing without a forensic trace in ambient recession into the underground...

Things sometimes converge in the most unpropitious locations. Coventry, for example. The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit processes cybernetics and culture together, apprehending culture cybernetically and cybernetics culturally. The impetus is not so much inter- as anti-disciplinary, the concrete problem being the freeing up of thought as synaptic-connectivity from its prison as subject-bound logos. Following flows where they want to go leads not into random noise but out onto what Deleuze and Guattari call the plane of consistency . "If we consider the plane of consistency, we notice that the most disparate things and signs move upon it: a semiotic fragment rubs shoulders with a chemical interaction, an electron crashes into a language, a black hole captures a genetic message... There is no 'like' here, we are not saying 'like an electron,' 'like an interaction', etc. The plane of consistency is the abolition of metaphor; all that consists is Real." The CCRU is part-populated by names you don't know yet, but are bound to soon - moving as a massive, with our street-gun samplers, never alone - a k-class swarmachine infecting White Man Face with afro-futurist and cyber-feminist cultural viruses .

"Writing becomes a process of software engineering, making connections, and connecting with the other connectionist systems and their connections too; 'does not totalize', but 'is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself.'"What Pat Cadigan calls synning : synthesizing.

No more cerebral core-texts, no more closed books. Looking instead to games or the dancefloor for inspiration. Attempting to produce something that will match the ambitions of Lyotard 1974: "To understand, to be intelligent, is not our overriding passion. We hope rather to be set in motion. Consequently, our passion would sooner be the dance, as Nietzsche wanted ... A dance ... not composed and notated but, on the contrary, one in which the body's gesture would be, with the music, its timbre, its pitch, intensity and duration, and with the words (dancers are also singers), at each point in a unique relation, becoming at every moment an emotional event..."(LE 51) Intensity conductors operating at non-human machine speed, writing machines, machinic writing,text at sample velocity.

Text samples from:

J. G. Ballard, "Mythmaker of the Twentieth Century", reprinted in RE/search: J. G. Ballard
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus (both Athlone Press)
Luce Irigaray, Speculum: Of the Other Woman (Cornell University Press)
Nick Land, "Meltdown", unpublished
Stephen Metcalf, "Black Capital"in Collapse 2 and IOD 1
Jean Francois-Lyotard, Libidinal Economy (Athlone Press)
Sadie Plant, "The Virtual Complexity of Culture"in Future Natural (Routledge)

Also essential:
Nick Land, "Machinic Desire"in Textual Practice 7:3
Nick Land, "The Meat (or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace)"and Sadie Plant, "The Future Looms"in Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk (Sage)
Sadie Plant "Cyberfeminist Simulations"in Cultures of the Internet
Nick Land and Sadie Plant "Cyberpositive"and Stephen Metcalf, "The Third Terminal"in Unnatural
Stephen Metcalf, introduction to Hammer of the Gods (Creation Press)
***Collapse cyberzine

Sadie Plant, Zeroes and Ones (Fourth Estate)
Kodwo Eshun, Origin Unknown
Nick Land, Schizotechnics

CCRU director:
Sadie Plant

CCRU associate members:
Kodwo Eshun Beth Stryker Manuel De Landa
O[rphan] D[rift] Matthew Fuller Linda Dement

Other names to watch (CCRU, Switch, Collapse):
Suzanne Livingston Rob Heath Tom Epps Julie Nugent Anna Greenspan
Rohit Lekhi Angus Carlyle Steve Goodman Robin Mackay

"Therefore, no bad conscience, nor the feeling of crushing responsibility, two relations to the text that circumscribe and define the relation proper to the White Man of the left. We deliver no message, we bear no truth, and we do not speak for those who remain silent." (259)

"What you demand of us, theoreticians, is that we constitute ourselves as identities, and responsible ones at that! But if we are sure of anything it is that this operation (of exclusion) is a sham, that no-one produces incandescences and that they belong to no-one, that they have effects but not causes."(LE 258)