William Gibson Is Freaking Me Out

Seriously. I just finished Spook Country and it’s brilliant, of course…but it’s also really creeping me out, because little bits of it are weirdly mirroring my life over the last year or so.

Random example: whilst in Berlin in December for the CCC, I had this moment where I was sitting in the window of my hotel room, looking down at the nighttime streets, my little German cellphone glowing in the dark, and I realized I was, in that moment, utterly a Gibson character. I was reading Norman Cohn’s In Pursuit Of The Millennium, that night, an obscure 1961 treatise on medieval apocalyptic sects. It’s not a well-known book, and it was fairly hard for me to track down, though I think it’s in print again now. It’s part of my whole thoughtcluster on religion and gnosticism and postmodernism, which would take too long to explain here.

In Spook Country, one of the main characters — a drug-addicted translator who’s been kidnapped and press-ganged into working for a shadowy spy who may nor may not be part of the US government —  keeps having strange dreams and hallucinations, most of which center around the book he’s reading…an unnamed book, published in 1961, about obscure medieval apocalyptic sects, one chapter of which — dedicated to the Brethren of the Free Spirit — is entitled ‘An elite of amoral supermen’.

Guess what the chapter about the Brethen of the Free Spirit in Cohn’s book is called?

A couple of other little things — the notion of using augmented reality coupled with GPS to create art projects, something I discussed with Adam Greenfield way back in the day, and some of the business about ex-intelligence folks — were also really specifically weird.

All coincidence here, of course, and I don’t think otherwise for a moment. But it’s coincidence that’s just obscure enough to be deeply creepy, for a moment or two.

I’ll tell Gibson about it when I talk to him next week. I meant to ask him about this stuff anyway. There’s an entire subculture of people — myself being one of them, Adam being another, Gibson’s friend Bruce Sterling, maybe even you, my dear reader — who are, for all intents and purposes, Gibson characters — global travelers, immersed in the tropes of technology and bleeding-edge culture, deeply postmodern in our lives and in many ways unrecognizable to earlier generations of people. And most of us became that way because in some way or another, consciously or not, we wanted to be Gibson characters — the console jockeys and corporate mercs and razorgirls of Neuromancer and “Johnny Mnemonic”.

Except now, Gibson’s not writing about console jockeys and razorgirls anymore. He’s not even writing about the future anymore. His stories take place in the present, and his protagonists are media consultants and virtual artists and post-rock musicians, and he bases them, so far as I can tell, on real people who are the way they are because of his work.

Which is perhaps the most postmodern thing I can think of.

(Seriously, though, the thing with the Cohn book is just weird, though I suppose it mainly just suggests that Gibson and I are thinking about a lot of the same things.)

The Black Parade (Twitter stylee)

Okay. So this guy Nick Starr posts a series of suicidal posts to Twitter, culminating in this one:

alright this is it. Parked my car. I wish everyone who ever was nice to me well. See you in the next life

This leads a a few people to wonder if he’s actually alive or not, or if Twitter has hosted its first suicide note. A few days later, his friend posts that he’s alive and kicking:

Drew and I just got off the phone with Nick Starr. He is ok and is getting help. He thanks everyone for all their positive well wishes and asks that you will respect his privacy right now as he works through a difficult time.

I’m sorry. His what?

Personally, I’ve dealt with deep and chronic depression my entire life. I’ve done some deeply stupid and embarrassing things because of it. But even at my absolute worst, I’ve never even felt the urge to post my pathetic, failed suicide attempts on fucking Twitter. Christ, at my most miserable, I’ve never posted a “Goodbye, cruel world” blog post — because a) deep down I know better than to off my stupid self, and even if I didn’t, b) I have a little more respect and concern for the people who do care about me than to inform them of my leap into the infinite via a fucking content management system. Suicide notes are bad enough. A suicide post — Christ, what a twat.

And then, when he decides he doesn’t want to get his Hart Crane on after all, this prick asks everyone to respect his privacy? He wants the whole world to read the tragic decay of his crumbling psyche via the deep and meaningful medium of Twitter — which is like crack for the sort of terminally self-obsessed and narcissistic assholes who really think anybody outside their sex partners and their mommies give a shit about their moment-to-moment movements — and then, when he realizes he actually wants to live…now he wants to go through his dark night of the soul with a little privacy and dignity?

Fuck off, boyo. You acted like a prick. It’s okay — it happens, God knows I’ve done it more times than I can count — and I do honestly empathize with anyone going through this particular hell. I have been there, so many times.

But have the goddamn sack to pull out your little futurephone and post a little sumthin’-sumthin’. Maybe “Hey, I’m alright, I was having a fucked up time, I’m sorry I worried everybody. Drinks are on me next time.” Take some responsibility for your actions. I’ve had to make that phone call more than once. “Hey, dude, sorry I turned into Ian Curtis last night. Thanks for talking me down.” It happens if you’re a depressive person. And the people who care about you will understand, provided you show even the slightest concern for their feelings. Don’t leave ’em hanging. (No pun intended.)

(Of course, it might just be that nobody really gives a fuck about this guy. After all, he was pretty much Twittering his whole suicide twitch for at least a couple of hours beforehand. He even mentions a place to do it from. You’d think somebody might have shown up at the bridge with a six pack and a shoulder to cry on. Maybe that’s what actually happened, I dunno.)

More and more, all of these social apps just make me sick to my stomach. There’s too much forced intimacy, and way too much information going around about things that ought to remain private and secret. I don’t want to know these things about the people around me.

And you have my promise, world — no matter how absolutely shitty and hideous the world gets, I will never off myself and inform you of it via the Internet. Scout’s honor.

Zenarchery Has Returned…

Well…mostly. For those of you reading my RSS feed, you may not have known that Zenarchery was completely obliterated by a RAID array crash on my hosting provider’s database server. So all the archives are totally gone.

Sucks, but that’s life. I’ve rebuilt the site. This blog is now located here, and the RSS feed is here. Adjust your bookmarks and RSS readers accordingly.

The front page of Zenarchery is now a tumblelog, and you can get its’ RSS feed here. Actually, just explore the site — there’s lots of new content on here.