Tag Archives: Jonathan Lethem

Davis asks Lethem about Dick

H+ Magazine puts out some interesting content, even if you don’t consider yourself a transhumanist: here’s Erik “Techgnosis” Davis interviewing Jonathan Lethem about science fiction legend Philip K Dick:

For people familiar with Dick‘s personal experiences, his biography and his temperament, the ironies in that are deep and bitter and complicated. You inevitably think: if he‘d been alive, he would‘ve screwed this up. He would‘ve found some way to make it impossible that he could be treated with such simple reverence, because he was so distrustful of any form of institutional authority. He had a particularly deep, bitter and twisted suspiciousness about traditional literary authority and about academia. And frankly, to some extent, it‘s academia that‘s driven his acceptance in a canon.

When I was a kid and I discovered Philip K. Dick, I felt that I‘d made this kind of soul mate contact with his work. It‘s a defining experience, and it feels like it‘s innate. For me, that experience was absolutely bound up in finding these books that were out of print. The books almost seemed like fictional artifacts. I couldn‘t believe there was such a writer. I still remember thinking his name seemed weird or that his titles seemed preposterous to me. It was like a secret reality unfolding in my life.

Of course, H+ is as H+ does, and the Singularity gets a little look-in. However, Lethem isn’t convinced that our technologies are changing us as much as we think they are:

My best guess about such matters is that each technological transformation, up to and perhaps including the Singularity, is going to work itself out vis-à-vis “the human” according to the deep principles of all media. Defined in its largest sense, as including things like cinema, theory, drugs, computing, moving type, music, etcetera, media is utterly consciousness-transforming in ways we can no longer competently examine, given how deeply they‘ve pervaded and altered the collective and individual consciousness that would be the only possible method for making that judgment. And yet -— we still feel so utterly human to ourselves, and the proof is in the anthropomorphic homeliness that pervades the ostensibly exalted “media” in return. We humanize them, shame them, colonize and debunk them with our persistent modes of sex and neurosis and community and commerce. We turn them into advertisements for ourselves, rather than opportunities for shedding ourselves. At least so far.

Well worth a read.