Tag Archives: gonzo

Justin Pickard’s Project Cascadia: a bi(bli)ography

Futurismic veterans will probably remember the name of Justin Pickard, who became a friend back in the halcyon days of the Friday Flash Fiction crew, and has been a source of challenging new ideas and frameworks ever since (not to mention a good buddy who’ll listen to me waffle my elliptical way to my own standpoints on a variety of seemingly disparate topics). Shorter version: he’s mad smart, and interested in almost all the topics that crop up on this here blog.

Why bring this up? Because Pickard has a plan: Project Cascadia, a trip to the Pacific Northwest which will turn into a book of speculative gonzo travel journalism and ethnography. He’s hustling for the the up-front funds using Ulule, which is basically a Kickstarter analog; if you’re interested in smart folk thinking orthogonal thoughts and setting them down using interesting juxtapositions of words, you might think about promising the dude a bit of cash in return for a copy (be it digital, dead-tree or both) of the end result. I’ve stumped up £25, because I’m confident that the end result will be the sort of book I’d pay similar money to buy. Go take a look at his pitch, if nothing else; the sight of his slightly manic disembodied face superimposed on a mountain range will haunt you for the rest of the day.

As a supplement to that pitch, Justin has blogged a “bi(bli)ography”: a best-of list of the texts that he’s used to baste his brain-meat over the last half-decade. I’ve read maybe a third of it myself, and know of another third by repute; I expect a lot of you will be in a similar boat. So what might be useful for Justin (and certainly for me) would be for y’all to look through this list and shout out in the comments with any articles, books or other media that you think need adding to it. If it helps, you can think of it as a crowdsourced curriculum for a self-taught pseudoMasters in a discipline yet to be named… or alternatively as “a list of interesting stuff”.

So, the list:


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983)

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996)

Spectral housing and urban cleansing: notes on millennial Mumbai‘, Public Culture 12:3 (2000)

Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1992)

J. G. Ballard, Vermillion Sands (1971)

My Dream of Flying to Wake Island‘ (Guardian podcast)

Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village (2007)

Nigel Barley, The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes From a Mud Hut (1983)

Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991)

America (1986)

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (2010)

Moxyland (2008)

Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone (1991)

Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (2006)

John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar (1968)

Jamais Cascio, ‘Legacy Futures, Open the Future (2008)

Three Possible Economic Models‘, Fast Company (2009)

Three Possible Economic Models, Part 2‘, Fast Company (2009)

Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston (1975)

Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends (2008)

Jean and John Comaroff, ‘Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants and Millennial Capitalism’, South Atlantic Quarterly 101:4 (2002)

Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming‘, Public Culture 12:2 (2000)

‘Occult economies and the violence of abstraction: notes from the South African postcolony’, American Ethnologist 26:2 (1999)

Douglas Coupland, ‘A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years‘, Globe and Mail (2010)

Generation A (2009)

JPod (2006)

Erik Davis, TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information (2004)

Mike Davis, City of Quartz (1990)

Cory Doctorow, Makers (2009)

Keller Easterling, Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades (2005)

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

Warren Ellis, Shivering Sands (2009)

Matthew Gandy, ‘Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City‘, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29:1 (2005)

Bradley L. Garrett, ‘Urban explorers: quests for myth, mystery and meaning’, Geography Compass (2010) [video]

Place Hacking (2008-present)

William Gibson, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, Burning Chrome (1986)

Zero History (2010)

Spook Country (2007)

Pattern Recognition (2003)

David Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire (2007)

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004)

Adam Greenfield, ‘Thoughts for an eleventh September: Alvin Toffler, Hirohito, Sarah Palin‘, Speedbird (2008)

Richard Grusin, Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11 (2010)

Charlie Hailey, Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space (2009)

Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (2007)

Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©Meets_OncoMouse™ (1997)

Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1990)

Stefan Helmreich, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (2009)

Dan Hill, ‘The Street as Platform‘, City of Sound (2008)

Drew Jacob, ‘How to be ExPoMod‘, Most Interesting People in the Room

Sarah Kember, ‘Media, Mars and Metamorphosis‘, Culture Machine (2010)

Naomi Klein, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002)

Alan Klima, ‘Spirits of ‘Dark Finance’: A Local Hazard for the International Moral Fund’, Cultural Dynamics (2006)

Thai Love Thai: Financing Emotion in Post-crash Thailand‘, Ethnos (2004)

Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (1991)

Ursula Le Guin, Changing Planes (2003)

The Disposessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)

Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)

Geoff Manaugh, The BLDGBLOG Book (2009)

Ian McDonald, The Dervish House (2010)

Brasyl (2007)

River of Gods (2004)

Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (2004)

China Mieville, The City & the City (2009)

Covehithe‘, The Guardian (2011)

M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire – Weird; Hauntological: Versus and/or and and/or or?‘, Collapse IV (2008)

Floating Utopias‘, In These Times (2007)

Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (2002)

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Keith Roberts, Pavane (1968)

Jim Rossignol, This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities (2008)

Geoff Ryman, Air (2005)

Stephen Shaviro, Post-Cinematic Affect (2010)

Gary Shtenyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010)

Francis Spufford, Red Plenty (2010)

Bruce Sterling, The Caryatids (2009)

Designer Futurescape‘, Make 18 (2009)

Dispatches from the Hyperlocal Future‘, Wired (2007)

Holy Fire (1996)

Islands in the Net (1988)

State of the World, 20––‘, The Well (2001-present)

Michael Taussig, What Color is the Sacred? (2009)

Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism in the War on Terror‘, Critical Inquiry 34:S2 (2008)

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)


So, what ya got?

Gonzo Augmented Reality

Thomas Carpenter of Games Alfresco was pretty impressed by the AR app that superimposes an oil slick on any BP logo within the frame of its image capture, and started riffing on the idea of gonzo AR – a sort of “the world as seen by [x]” idea, taking the idea of reality being defined by personal perceptions right down to the granular level of individuals.

An unofficial game of object-association could make great interactive art, political rhetoric, or dystopic reinforcing world-view; depending on its implementation.  Wouldn’t you like to point your smartphone at everyday objects and find out how your favorite artists or celebrities view the world? Seeing how YoYo Ma, or the Dalai Lama or Bruce Campbell (the guy from the Evil Dead series) view the world could be liberating. Or since our own Bruce Sterling is the Prophet of AR, one of the AR browsers could do a “Bruce Layer” and show us what kind of world he sees when he’s looking around.

Maybe if Glenn Beck was your thing, you’d have a Nazi symbol pop-up when you pointed it at an Obama sticker.  Or if you were a former Bush-hater, you could see a Stalin-esque version of the W with your smartphone.   Propaganda could be all encompassing, blotting out all but the sanctioned viewpoints.

I think we can safely assume that AR (like any other media) will get pretty ugly when mainstream politics gets a hold of it… although, going on past form, that’ll probably happen a few years after everyone else has moved on to something more novel. Back to Mr Carpenter:

And maybe that’s what a gonzo-reality could bring to AR.  Instead of a mirror reflecting all of our beliefs into an ever-increasing sine wave, we might be privy to alternate views to our own.  Maybe even trying out how someone else sees the world.


Or maybe we couldn’t handle their viewpoint.  The overstimulating rush would make our realities spin around us until we puked it back out, losing all those alternate nutrients our world views could have used to grow.

And there you have it; new technology, same old spectre of confirmation bias. Still, if AR ends up as ubiquitous and packed with stuff as the existing internet, cognitive bias will at least be a whole lot of fun.


Imagine what high school would have been like if dealing drugs had been legal when licensed, mobile social networking had been ubiquitous and the in-crowd had more leverage than most political parties… what would the smart-but-slightly-crazy outcasts end up doing?

In Adam Rakunas‘s novella “The Right People”, they’re in the lucrative but precarious position of selling clandestine bootleg sex toys to the overachievers, but the rug is about to be pulled out from under their operation…

It’s simultaneously a slice of full-bore gonzo science fiction blended with a Brat Pack movie, and a timely metaphor for the present presidential tussle, and Futurismic is very proud to present “The Right People” as Adam’s first fiction sale – in fact, I think we’re lucky to have found him first!

Do be warned, though – this one’s definitely not for the very young or the easily offended!

The Right People

by Adam Rakunas

So, it’s Wednesday after school, delivery time, and we’re doing the usual: I’m checking invoices on my cell, and G.R.’s violating the safety parameters of our merchandise.

“Gene,” he says, gripping the pickup’s wheel with one sweaty hand and his cell in the other, “check this out.” G.R. thumbs the keypad until his torso makes an unnatural beep, and then he sprouts breasts.

No. One breast. Right in the middle. A grin spreads on G.R.’s ruddy face like mildew on a locker room floor as he unbuttons his shirt, revealing a pink, rubbery udder.

I shake my head. “G.R., you know the rules.”

His smile wilts. “But–”

“No playing with the product in public.” I thumb in an override code, and the Pleasure Chest (we boosted this review model from my parents’ samples before leaving the house) sags to its default flatness. “You gotta be discreet.” Continue reading NEW FICTION: THE RIGHT PEOPLE by Adam Rakunas