Thursday, September 17, 2009
I'll edit this later, I have to go and exercise
I love this clip, in fact I love this film. I may put up the home improvement scene, where Charlie Sheen buys a West Side apartment and, with a team of burly interior designers and Daryl Hannah, does the place up with detachable neo-Georgian cornicing and stencils to the sounds of 'This must be the place'. Aspirational with a capital A.
Also: the hair. As a heavy pomade user myself it's a weird relief to see this. Some say Mark Lamarr, and I always counter with Johnny Otis, but maybe Charlie Sheen in Wall Street is where it's really coming from on a level too deep for me to admit even to myself.
So apart from all that, I was thinking about this video because I recently read William Gibson's Spook Country. It's not a great, or even a very good book. It caused me to wonder whether it's easier to write sci-fi in a merely workmanlike way. The little Philip K. Dick that I've read is as badly written as an unexceptional edition of Razzle, in fact Blade Runner is even better once you realise what a terrible book 'Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep?' is.
Fans of Bladerunner, Through a Scanner Darkly and Total Recall may also notice that they are all essentially the same film - about a man who believes himself to be part of a system, whilst schizophrenically existing within another rebel system. This effect might not be unconnected to Dick's biscuits having been thoroughly flipped taking mind-bending hallucinogens during the 1960s.
Hem...anyway... Sci-fi is all form, no matter. It's a literature of ideas, so things like a plot or writing may be secondary considerations, merely devices that you use to get your hi-tech widgetry airborne.
Spook Country is based on a rather interesting art idea called 'locative art', massive artworks that exist on the internet that are viewed through a special GPS headpiece. Artists use the technology to create site specific installations, for instance, the body of River Phoenix lying dead outside the Viper Rooms - in the actual spot in which he died, or a hotel room full of Monet's lilies.
This is one of the heroine's (her name is Hollis Henry and she seemed to me to be modelled, absurdly, on Justine Frischmann of Elastica) first encounters with locative technology:
"Alberto was digging through a canvas carryall on his lap. He produced a cell phone, married with silver duct tape to some other species of smallish consumer electronics. 'With these, though ... ' he clicked something on one of the conjoined units, opened the phone, and began deftly thumbing its key pad. 'When this is available as a package ... ' He passed it to her. A phone, and something she recognised as a GPS unit, but the latter's casing had been partially cut away, with what felt like more electronics growing out of it, sealed under a silver tape."
At which point the modern reader will be thinking, hang on a minute Alberto, you radical cyber hipster, where's your iPhone? Don't you read Crack Unit? What you're dealing with here is known in real life as Augmented Reality.
So Gibson published Spook Country in 2007 and already he's looking a bit Gordon Gecko. There'd be nothing to stop an advertiser, right now, producing a piece of locative art to hover above Piccadilly Circus, one that was only viewable through certain kinds of mobile handset.
Gibson then goes trundling off into this alternate reality nerd-fest. This stuff, hanging around, in geographical locations and yet in cyberspace, is it any more or less real than, for instance, voodoo, or Catholic mysticism?
I don't know, I don't care that much, what's more interesting is that you can now steal ideas from sci-fi, safe in the knowledge that rate of technological development is so fast that they'll almost certainly be viable in just a couple of year's time.
Posted by william at 4:25 pm