Literature Poetry Science Fiction

Taxidermy #2: Cyberpunk Hauntology

Another literary taxidermy I have worked on for the past several weeks. This time the first and last lines come from a novel rather than a song, William Gibson’s cyberpunk defining Neuromancer.

Taxidermy #2: Cyberpunk Hauntology

The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel,
Greyscale mashup of crusty pixels,
Launching the careers of a million YouTube video essayists,
Flickering lines in horizontal drift
Across convex surfaces of CRT screens.
With sunglasses affixed, like Mollys eyes,
I slide a cassette tape into my portable cyber deck
And flip
Back and forth
Through advertising pop-ups
For dating apps
& how to manage your crypto portfolio.
The other side is games on tape,
Pixelated faces in two colours
Or two shades of the same colour.
He told me Molly was his soulmate,
In this semiotic swirl of neon billboards,
Fake tanned robots & whitened teeth,
She was the only thing that brought him joy,
He said,
The only thing he thought of as pure, good
She tattooed a Molotov cocktail on her left cheek,
Just below the eye, the legend read:
“A toast to the rich.”
It’s all over social media:
Guillotines outside Bezos’ mansion,
Pitchfork & torch mob chasing down Musk,
Gates crucified,
Rihanna spreadeagled.
Molly licks her lips & cuddles up closer
To Kurt Cobain & Eugene Kelly.
He had proper insomnia for the first time in months,
Propelled by podcasts & hope for denied futures,
Spectres haunting Europe in the sickly light
Of late-stage capitalism.
He thought I was a robot, for some reason.
Maybe it was my telescopic, go-go-gadget arms
Or my electrified hull.
Have you never seen a guy with tank tracks before?
She said she’d take me anywhere,
Pasted in gum Arabic,
Monochromed by xerox
& stapled in a bedsit.
TS Eliot wanders in & asks me if it’s his.
Mayakovsky commodified
As social realism is used to self me junk food.
Here, in the desert of the real
The mirages take on the aspect
Of heroic scenes of miners at the coalface,
Writ in mosaic
On the marbled plinth
Of a six hundred foot Lenin statue,
Loyally guarding the industrial dock lands
From the predatory approaches
Of Union busters
& Pinkerton patrols.
He found her next
At a union meeting, waving a red flag,
Armed & dangerous, bullets for bailiffs,
1312 carved into the stock of her rifle.
She smiled at him warmly & offered him coffee.
It was like a support group,
Name badged workers sitting in a circle
On plastic chairs.
“My name’s Colin & I’m a communist.”
“My name’s Andy & I’m an anarchist.”
We escorted the Nazbols out, at gunpoint.
All through the meeting
She made regular eye contact with him.
It reminded him of bus journeys
From petroleum-choked city centres
To endless fields of humming pylons,
Brutalist substations & grazing cattle.
Terraces & tower blocks giving way
To reservoirs & army bases.
Liminal transition:
Burial into Boards Of Canada.
The urban rain nestles up against
Bucolic pastoral mellotrons.
It was here, amongst the effigies,
That they were finally separated.
Burning haystacks hummed
Like an overcharged oscillator,
Birds singing like circuit bent toys,
Folkloric mythology depicted in pixels.
My avatar is a pagan deity,
My alt anon account is a denizen of the underworld.
I see him running, mind scrambled
Like a CRT between two magnets,
Flickering lines of snow whisper prophecies
In ancient hard drives.
I never saw which way Molly fled,
Or if she survived,
But he woke up screaming
In a soft walled room.
The medication soon soothed him.
Empty bliss of depersonalisation.
He never saw Molly again.

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Music Science Fiction TV

Legion & Music

In my recent post about Sharon Van Etten & Josh Homme’s new cover of (What’s so Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? I also shared a version of the song performed by the cast of the Marvel TV show, Legion. music is integral to the madcap, retrofuturistic worlds portrayed in this most bizarre of shows. In the first episode of season 3, Indie Pop collective Superorganism actually appear in person to welcome new character, Switch (Lauren Tsai), into the story during their 2017 single, Something for your M.I.N.D. To longtime fans of the show, this psychedelic sequence should not be too much of a surprise.

Later on in season 3 David (the central character), due to time travel (kinda), is reunited with his deceased mother. During this sequence the actors portraying David (Dan Stevens) & his mother Gabrielle (Stephanie Corneliussen) perform an excellent cover of the Pink Floyd classic Mother. As a sidenote, the show also features a character named Syd Barrett so it’s always worn it’s love for Floyd on it’s sleeve. This video is the best I could find for this particular song.

Let’s not forget this huge ensemble recording of Nick Lowe’s classic which I shared previously. This amazing sequence plays out During the show’s amazing final scenes.

One which I’d forgotten about, but was reminded by a comment on one of the other YouTube videos was this version of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes from season 2. This is during a fight between David & The Shadow King.

Back to series 3 and we have this Rap Battle (used to represent a psychic duel) between Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) & Jerome “The Big Bad” Wolf (Jason Mantzoukas).

Hope you’ve enjoyed the videos.

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Science Fiction TV

Tales from the Loop – Amazon Prime

A group of people in a boat on a body of water

Description automatically generated

Tales from the Loop is a new science fiction series on Amazon Prime. It is based on the retro-futurist artwork of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag and has a nostalgic, almost elegiac atmosphere to it. The camera work is beautiful. The technology of the town looks amazing and the soundtrack is lush and evocative. As well as being hauntingly nostalgic, it is also emotionally engaging and devastating. Many of the characters appear to be depressed and there is a lot of death and sadness throughout the series.

Tales from the Loop (2020)

The setting is a midwestern American town in a vaguely defined version of the 1980’s. It’s clearly an alternative America to the one in our timeline as the town is built upon a huge scientific research institute known as the loop. The setting is lush and forested. Huge science fiction towers loom in the background of many shots. Unknown and unexplained machines rise from the lake (which is frozen in the initial episode, pictured above). Robots lurk in the woods and fight each other. Discarded pieces of machinery lay around the forest like something from Grandaddy’s seminal 2000 concept album, The Sophtware Slump. There is a sense of stillness and stasis over the town. Strange things happen but everyone is just trying to get from one day to the next as best they can.

Daniel Zolghadri in Tales from the Loop (2020)

A major criticism of the show, which I don’t personally agree with, is that it is too slow. Perhaps for many modern audiences who are looking for a quick fix of action, a gratuitous space battle, a high-speed chase or graphic violence, Tales from the Loop would be too slow. Its story unfolds slowly across the series. It’s presented as something a little like an anthology show but there is a timeline, recurring characters and story arcs that span form one episode to the next. Storylines include all of the old classics like: 

  • Young girl time travels to the future and is helped back to present by her future self
  • Black holes devouring family homes
  • Body swapping, friends betraying each other over body swapping 
  • Betrayed friend body swapping into robot body 
  • Gifted but depressed young girl repairs time stopping technology 
  • Bored security guard accidentally travels to parallel dimension 
  • Children experiencing the death of a loved one for the first time 
  • Depressed and financially unstable father of comatose son (body swap betrayal kid) Buys giant robot to protect home from intruder 
  • Young boy gets marooned on offshore island with a robot
  • Robot is kind of his brother
  • Young boy gets lost in the woods with his brother who has body swapped into a large robot
  • Giant robot brother battles scorpion shaped giant robot
  • Giant robot brother defeats opponent but is badly damaged and dies
  • When young boy returns from the woods thirty years has passed but he hasn’t aged a day
Tales from the Loop (2020)

You know? All the old clichés. It’s a solid watch for any science fiction fan who is more interested in the cerebral died than the action side. Just sit back and enjoy the beautiful visuals, soundtrack and acting. Just prepare for the rollercoaster ride of emotions you are letting yourself in for.

Alessandra de Sa Pereira and Dan Bakkedahl in Tales from the Loop (2020)

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