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  1.  (8081.1)
    * Atemporality. Recursive culture. Bruce Sterling thinks that's where we're spending the next ten years. In comics -- and I've been doing it too -- it's where we've spent the last ten years. A state of extended postmodernism, focussed on dealing with the business of the 20th Century. We're still having dreams about that very long day, still processing it. The 00's were always going to be about that. Some say that 9/11 was the true start of the 21st Century -- and that, too, speaks to atemporality, with its medieval overtones, its remake/remodel of the fireship and its vessels taken as prizes and turned against their makers. (And its faint echoes of the Ghost Dance, at that.)

    * Ghosts of the Belle Epoche abound: recapitulation of earlier art forms, financial excesses, cheap labour, Heston Blumenthal.

    * If comics saw around the corner to atemporality... maybe they can see around the corner to what's next, and bring it on faster. Because, let me tell you, atemporality's going to seem really fucking boring to us. I'm working on a couple more atemporal pieces, and then I'm likely to have said all I've got about it, and the idea of spending the rest of the Teens going around in circles makes my blood turn to scabs.

    * My interest, as always, is in looking for the new sound, and making things seen that haven't been seen before.

    * Part of comics' gift is in the pace of reaction. They sit between music and books in terms of the speed in which contemporaneous works can be brought to market or otherwise disseminated. As Paul Gravett and Peter Stanley said, more than twenty years ago, about the new photocopier technology and the emergence of an enabled and mobile small press: comics are fast fiction.

    * Even in the world of physical print comics and the bricks-and-mortar comics store network, I can finish a script today and have the finished object in your hand in three or four months. Sometimes less, if I'm playing fast and loose with solicits text! In webcomics, of course, the timeframe shrinks to the speed at which finished art can be uploaded.

    * So, in theory, this is something we're going to see happen, just by dint of reaction speed and the sheer volume of people doing comics. In practise, of course, not everyone is interested in looking for the new sound. The thing to do is tune your receivers, filter through the noise and listen for the strange signal emanating from the cloud.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.2)
    This got me thinking about, oddly enough, "The Venture Bros." -- not about the show itself, but about something it lampoons.

    During the 50's and 60's, there was this air of excitement -- Atomic Power was going to make the world an awesome place. A Jetpack in every home. Supersonic this, Jet Engine that. The Jetsons, with their flying cars and push-button kitchens. Jonny Quest's world of benevolent science -- and even Jack Kirby's myriad creations, always speculating, always dreaming, always eager for a future full of wonder. And that future had chrome siding, techno-architecture, and big jet fins.

    Since you're talking about breaking out of the recursive loop of post-modern self-examination, maybe it's time for a new future vision. People are eager for change, and maybe fiction can provide a new compelling look at what the future might look like. Is it a new future of Brilliant Science, replacing atomic jet-turbines with nanotech? Or something more spiritual, like what Alan Moore talked about in Promethea? The latter one is probably a harder sell for the mainstream public, but sometimes people surprise us.
  2.  (8081.3)
    Since you're talking about breaking out of the recursive loop of post-modern self-examination, maybe it's time for a new future vision. People are eager for change, and maybe fiction can provide a new compelling look at what the future might look like. Is it a new future of Brilliant Science, replacing atomic jet-turbines with nanotech?

    Nanotech's been such an sf staple for so long that it's tired even on US network television.
  3.  (8081.4)
    At the moment I'm interested in the idea of SF (and culture) that can exist as an understandable object for someone in our past, but also to someone in the future without remixing or remaking beyond maybe a few cosmetic details. About the present, for sure, but also relevant to to people in hundreds of years time in the same way that Shakespeare plays are still interesting stories if you care to scrape through the blank verse.

    Because it people are going to start living for hundreds of years culture, I think, is going to have to move through the cycles of new fads and revivals of old fads, and start to exist in periods longer than ten or twenty years.

    I'm not sure if this is atemporal in the sense that Bruce Sterling means it.
    • CommentAuthorrockingeek
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.5)
    The future lies in magic.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.6)
    I mentioned Nanotech because the technology exists in infancy, yet is theoretically capable of so much -- rather like Atomic power was back in the 50's. We had the bomb and the raw science, so we knew that it COULD work in some way, it was just a matter of figuring out the little (hah) practical details. Nanotech's in a similar state now, it seems. Of course, for nuclear power, we never did get Jet Packs In Every Home. I'm not as up on the bleeding edge of tech these days, so I'm not sure what else might just on the horizon as far as possible tech revolutions. Between the iProducts and future UI's seen in movies like Avatar, a touch-based interface seems to be accepted as The Way Of The Future, but beyond that, I'm not sure what else to suggest as a possible future vision.
  4.  (8081.7)
    Fiction is fast. It eats things before they're even born, sometimes.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.8)
    It's probably a mistake to dismiss the mystical/spiritual side of this entirely. Maybe that's entirely the point? The Atomic Age was about "Science And Reason Uber Alles", after all, so maybe looking for a new technical revolution is the wrong approach.

    The trick, I suspect, is blending spiritual/mystical concepts with, for lack of a better phrase, a scientific interface that a layman can get into. Recent works that delve heavily into the mystical -- Promethea, Neon Genesis Evangelion (sort of), The Invisibles -- are sometimes seen as inpenetrable or confusing. But if you "dumb it down" too much, than the beauty and meaning risk getting lost.

    Maybe the trick will be to find that sweet spot -- scientific yet mystical, beautiful and transcendent, but still accessible.

    I'd like to think that works like FLCL are the right direction for this -- but for every person who praises FLCL as the greatest allegorical description of Puberty ever, I've met others who feel its chaos and "frantic Japaneseness", as one person put it, obscure the work's meaning and even artisitic value. *shrug* Can't please 'em all, I suppose.

    Another anime comes to mind -- Denno Coil, which plays heavily with concepts of Augmented Reality. I've only seen the first several episodes, but it was pretty interesting stuff.
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      CommentAuthortexture
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.9)
    Went and watched the Sterling video on BoingBoing, interesting stuff. I particularly like the notion of not letting yourself feel 'awe' of the future or past, and I can see how that relates to something like Crecy, Transmet, Anna Mercury or Captain Swing.

    Warren's right: Nanotech is a tired meme in many ways - a standard plot device in mainstream TV, and almost de rigeur in comics as a staple not of the future but of the Fantastic Present.

    I've got a lot of admiration for Ginja's ideas about kitchen sink SF: narratives that speak to the human consequences of technological change and ecological chaos, rather than focusing on the mechanics of a near-future world. It's in keeping with his wishes to focus more on character, and less on overt world-building. As a technical exercise, I think this is rewarding - it certainly helped me with one of the projects I have been working on recently.

    For myself, I'm not sure where I want to go with these ideas, let alone how to transcend them. I've yet to read or imagine a fiction that deals really well with the idea of the earth and its' population being fundamentally unsustainable. Perhaps that's where I'd like to go as a writer (unless I've completely grabbed the wrong end of the stick): to try and imagine, even sympathise with, a character or group of characters who by necessity have no moral framework, whether relativistic or objective. A technological stone-age, if you will - a dog-eat-dog world of fantastic opportunity and very little humanity (which I suppose is not dissimilar to Sterling's notion of Gothic High-Tech vs Favela Chic).

    Equally, a post-scarcity narrative that doesn't lead to characters being massively self-interested or creatively stagnant would be interesting to see, although it's once again difficult for me to picture quite how it would work. If the best we can do with post-scarcity is the clean, anodyne Utopian visions of Star Trek TNG, then it's a dead end, clearly. That show is so dated now, it's difficult to watch without laughing - classic Star Trek has more relevance, in terms of design, themes and characters.

    I think what I take from Warren's comments is a sense of 'waiting for the miracle.' We've already had narratives which reimagine the past; narratives which speculate about the future. The singularity has been discussed and turned on its head and reimagined a number of times. So the question (for me at least) is not so much 'what happened' or 'what comes next' as it is 'what are we, and what will we be'?

    I'd like to read something that addressed themes of transhumanism, but not in spiritual / magickal terms (a la Grant Morrison) or in technological / cultural terms (Charles Stross). I have a feeling that just a few generations from now, humans will be profoundly changed... that's what I'm going to spend my time trying to imagine.

    Thanks for getting the brain working Warren, sorry that wasn't very comics focussed. As always, I'll be interested to see what's around the corner in your stories.
    • CommentAuthorhelloMuller
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010 edited
     (8081.10)
    The thing is that the majority of comics is still (sadly) so insular that you can pretty much inject it with anything from the outside world and it be hailed as groundbreaking.
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      CommentAuthortexture
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.11)
    a fiction that deals really well with the idea of the earth and its' population being fundamentally unsustainable


    ...except The Sheep Look Up
    • CommentAuthorsnafu
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.12)
    @ texture nailed it on the head for me. The technology is irrelevant. Wait, let me back up a moment before I get slammed. Of course the technology is relevant. It has a great part in shaping us because it limits or expands our abilities and focuses our interaction with the world. But it's irrelevant. It's the human condition that's the point. Who will we be? What will the future do to us? What will we do to the future? The old saw about any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic pertains here. Atomic power, nano tech or whatever comes next, it doesn't matter. It's magic and how we will deal with it, in story and in the world, is what fascinates me. The stories that have always held that special place for me have always been about how people as individuals and as societies have handled the crazy shit that the future throws at them.
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      CommentAuthorbramclark
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.13)
    The thing to do is tune your receivers, filter through the noise and listen for the strange signal emanating from the cloud.

    I adore this. I've written it on a post it on the monitor. Inspiring.

    As far as content of fictions in this decade goes i'm not exactly thrilled. Science Fiction seems a dead genre to me. The authors of the past dreamed up a future thanks to the promises of the science of their time, sometimes just a few steps ahead. "I was promised Flying Cars" seemed to be the last decades response to sci-fi. Well, what have the new children been promised? I have a teenage step-daughter and she wasn't promised flying cars. She wasn't promised shit.

    How can a genre that reacts to the possibilities of science survive when science has stopped promising anything?
  5.  (8081.14)
    "Flying cars/jet packs" was just a meme that got out of control.

    Remember, I'm not addressing sf in the above post.
  6.  (8081.15)
    Comics absolutely have been 'atemporal' (chasing it's own tail) for the past ten years... to the point where we have been lapped by all other popular and high culture in terms of being a catalyst for weird, visionary ideas.

    Current comics seem overly pragmatic. How can we 'see around the corner' if there is no conscious effort to temper the formalism and nostalgia that dominate the market?

    @helloMuller Agreed! But for some reason nobody is bringing anything new to the party.
    •  
      CommentAuthortexture
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.16)
    Remember, I'm not addressing sf in the above post.


    Apologies for the thread digression.
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      CommentAuthorAlec9k
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.17)
    @Daniel_Warner I wouldn't say comics have been completely "lapped" by other forms in popular culture when it comes to producing new ideas. If you look at the film industry, they've grown equally lazy, to the point where they're just pulling any old comic of a box and putting it on the fast track. I mean, there was a Watchmen movie released over a year ago. I know that idea had been kicking around for decades before, but it seemed to me like adapting a work so deeply rooted in the medium it was created for just because it had people in goofy spandex said a lot about the states of both industries.

    I think there's still innovation to be found in comics these days. I'll point to Johnathan Hickman, particularly his comics Pax Romana and The Nightly News, as examples of some of the more original talent working in comics today. Those comics didn't really seem to have anything to do with anything else on the market at the time, and the unique way in which they were executed has, from what I've seen, yet to be replicated. Even that new S.H.I.E.L.D. book he's writing is unlike anything else Marvel has out right now, and I'm interested in seeing what he can do with the concepts he's introduced.
    • CommentAuthorKen Miller
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.18)
    Nanotech's been such an sf staple for so long that it's tired even on US network television.


    It's interesting how nanotech is a standard sf staple in novels, comics and US TV shows, but has not been featured as a central concept in cinema. Sure, nanotech might get mentioned as some type of McGuffin gizmo in films like Ballistic (2002), but nanotech has never been center stage. You'd think some film company would've come up with a big nano-disaster movie concept concerning a gray goo event, or there would be an adaptation of something like Prey or Crawlers. But no. Maybe this means that cinema's pace of reaction is quite a bit slower than other mediums.
    • CommentAuthorhelloMuller
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010 edited
     (8081.19)
    I'll point to Johnathan Hickman, particularly his comics Pax Romana and The Nightly News, as examples of some of the more original talent working in comics today. Those comics didn't really seem to have anything to do with anything else on the market at the time, and the unique way in which they were executed has, from what I've seen, yet to be replicated.


    See my post above. Jonathan was really smart is doing what he did, but personally it left me completely cold (from a visual/design POV).

    PS: Don't get me wrong — I like and respect Jonathan's work, its just that TNN really hammered home how insular comics are.
    • CommentAuthorDickey
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
     (8081.20)
    What exactly do you mean by TNN being insular? As in requiring too much knowledge of the previous modes of the comics mediums, history, etc.? Because that is one of the series I have been giving non-comic reader friends ove the past few month, as a "you gotta read this" type of deal. And I've personally experienced very positive overall reactions to it.