Satire, Cyberpunk, and Synesthesia

"This was preferable to Sweeney in a good mood as he had a spiral smile which operated like a Chinese finger trap, inescapable up to your shoulder." - from Book 1 of The Complete Accomplice: Only An Alligator, by Steve Aylett

Preliminary notes on my Steve Aylett thesis. 

I used to called Aylett’s work a combination of cyberpunk, satire, and psychedelia. But “psychedelia” is too limited, too narrow. 

Aylett’s work is characterized by three things: Cyberpunk settings, classic satire, and a visual image orientation. 

I. Cyberpunk

a. Rudy Rucker’s definition of cyberpunk: “Fast and dense. It has a lot of information . . . will try to reach a high level of information-theoretic complexity.”

Rucker says that the visual representations of “punk” (spiked hair, safety-pinned britches, etc) will gradually fade with fashion, but the essence of punk, and by extension, the essence of cyberpunk, will remain.

b. Michael Moorcock says, in his review of  The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, in the Guardian.co.uk:

Cyberpunks were what the likes of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson called themselves when first signaling their break with conventional SF. What identified cyberpunk was a sophisticated interest in current events, a guess that the Pacific Rim might soon become the centre of world politics, a keen curiosity about the possibilities of post-PC international culture and a love of noir detective fiction. Characteristically, cyberpunk revived the noir thriller and might as easily be considered a development of the mystery as of science fiction.  

II. Satire

A. From Well Read Bear:

Roy Christopher: From this angle, your work is very slippery. Actually from every angle. What is it that you are you trying to do?

Steve Aylett: Most of my writing is satire, and most of that satire talks about manipulations, lies, and evasions, mainly in regard to power manipulations. But I go on about other stuff as well . . . I do old-time satire in the Voltaire/Swift tradition. Real satire, by taking people’s arguments (or evasions or justifications) to their logical extremes, snaps people back to the reality of the situation — i.e., that their evasions and justifications are cowardly bullshit. Of course it only works if there’s a scrap of honesty in the reader to begin with, so it doesn’t always work, and the way things are going socially, it’ll work less and less. There’ll be no honesty to appeal to, and no concept of that. There’ll be no admission that there are facts and nobody will even remember the original motive for that evasion — that to deny that there’s such a thing as a fact, means you can do anything to anyone without feeling bad about it. If you tell yourself they didn’t feel what you did to them, they didn’t feel it. To deny you did it means you didn’t do it. Welcome to the swamp.

  III. Visual

a. Synesthesia – (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiae or synaesthesiae)—from the Ancient Greek σύν (syn), “together,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), “sensation“—is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

 b. From the Rick Klaw interview on Fantastic Metropolis:

Rick Klaw: Many of your projects feature your own artwork. Are you a frustrated artist who became a writer or are you a writer who dabbles in art? Do you enjoy producing the art that accompanies your writing?

Steve Aylett: I’m a writer but I like drawing, music and stuff like that. In art I like extreme color, as I’m synaesthetic and get really interesting stuff from colors. There are reversed-acidic colors you can get with Photoshop artwork that’s difficult to get by painting unless you’re using metal flake. I did a lot of fun stuff for the LINT project, and I’ve just done a cartoony cover and title page for the US edition of The Inflatable Volunteer (Wildside Press)—though they inevitably chose the less colorful of the cover options I sent them. I get music from color and color from music, so I also do music projects like the music/textures/shrieking bloody vortexes I do with The Wesley Kern Gun, of which there’s a CD coming out soon from Humbug in Norway, who specialise in weird music. I’m also doing a project with Stephen O’Malley of the subsonic guitar band SunnO))). And it’s fun doing mindlessly stupid comedy like Lord Pin too, which is just mumbled stand-up.

Rick Klaw: When did you first use your own art in conjunction with your writing?

Steve Aylett: I remember writing a version of Jason and the Argonauts when I was about five or something, with illustrations of the monsters. But the sailors would always run away when they saw the monsters or the seven skeletons—Jason would shout “Get back to the ship” and they would sail away from the island. They never had a fight. That’s me: lack of appropriate conflict, too much conflict in areas that aren’t meant to be disputed.

c. Alan Moore 

D. Harlan Wilson talks to Aylett about Alan Moore

This is only the beginning.

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