Category Archives: Futures

The glamour of futurity

… there are always three elements that create that sensation: one is a promise of escape and transformation. A different, better life in different, better circumstances. The other is there is a sense of grace, effortlessness, all the flaws and difficulties are hidden. And the third is mystery. Mystery both draws you in and enhances the grace by hiding things.

Another way of thinking about glamour is to think about the origins of the word glamour. Glamour originally meant a literal magic spell that made people see something that wasn’t there… As the word became a more metaphorical concept, it always retained that sense of magic and illusion. And where the illusion lies is in the grace; in the disguising of difficulties and flaws.

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Glamour is always driven by some form of dissatisfaction. In order to imagine your life as different and better you have to be willing to acknowledge that it’s not perfect. You have to have some sense of discontent. And you also have to have the imaginative space — the permission to feel that actually could be different. Now, that may be kind of a true fantasy, something that couldn’t really happen. But a lot of times it’s just something that’s improbable or distant.

One form of dissatisfaction is boredom. Another form is hardship, and those things can go together because people who have difficult lives often have an element of that as a kind of drudgery at work…

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… from the ‘20s through the mid-60s, in the general popular culture the idea of the future was glamorous. There are still parts of the popular culture where you will find futurism being glamorous today. But they tend to be niches and subcultures. You have the the extropian radical life extension kind of people, and they have a sort of glamorous notion of the future. But I think even in mainstream science fiction, what interests people about the future is less that it’s glamorous and ideal and more that it’s different. So they’re exploring different settings, but not necessarily ones that have an element of utopianism or idealism to them.

Some big excerpts from an interview with Virginia Postrel at Paleofuture

The mainstreaming of worldbuilding

Looks like some ideation-futures concepts and methodologies are leaking out of the Valley and into the entertainment industry:

[The artist formerly known as Grimes] plans to eventually take up the name of the main character in her book series, an elaborate mythology comparable to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. It sounds like the books will have a soundtrack, too: “Only, the songs will come first. It’ll be like Sailor Moon and Game Of Thrones, and yeah, it’s super, super pretentious….” Relatedly, “I call branding that is art, lore. Prince has lore. Rihanna has great lore. It’s essentially world building. It’s my favorite art form.”

TafkaG has been in some sort of relationship with Elongated Muskrat, which is probably the infection vector in this case — both of the worldbuilding stuff, and also the gravitation toward some sort of meme-ready edgelordism. I think we can expect to see the notion of “lore” get some rapid traction in the cultural world, even if only for a season or so… but “worldbuilding”, as a label for a hard-to-define bundle of practices, is going mainstream faster than I expected, which presents both opportunities and difficulties. It’s an interesting moment for science fiction (and the scholarship and criticism thereof), too, because there’s no escaping where that concept originated.