Beyond the Narrative Arc

Patterns other than the wave, though, are everywhere. Here are the ones Stevens calls “nature’s darlings.” Spiral: think of a fiddlehead fern, whirlpool, hurricane, horns twisting from a ram’s head, or a chambered nautilus. Meander: picture a river curving and kinking, a snake in motion, a snail’s silver trail, or the path left by a goat grazing the tenderest greens. Radial or explosion: a splash of dripping water, petals growing from a daisy’s heart, light radiating from the sun, the ring left around a tick bite. Branching and other fractal patterns: self-replication at different scale made by trees, coastlines, clouds. Cellular or network patterns: repeating shapes you see in a honeycomb, foam of bubbles, cracked lakebed, or light rippling in a pool; these can look like cells or, inversely, like a net.

These fundamental patterns inform our bodies, too. We have wiggling meanders in our hair, brains, and intestines; branching patterns in capillaries, neurons, and lungs; explosive patterns in areolae and irises; spirals in ears, fingertips, DNA, fists. Our brains want patterns. We follow them instinctively: coiling a garden hose, stacking boxes, creating a wavering path when walking along the shore. And we even invoke these patterns to describe motions in our minds: someone spirals into despair or compartmentalizes emotions, thoughts meander, rage can be so great we feel we’ll explode. There are, in other words, recurring ways that we order and make things. Those natural patterns have inspired visual artists and architects for centuries. Why wouldn’t they form our narratives, too?

Jane Alison at the Paris Review

This could be Rotterdam

An excellent day in Rotterdam yesterday, ending with this appropriately Bladerunner-esque sunset shortly before a screening of Alien, which in turn was tied to the ongoing Science Fiction: a Journey Into the Unknown exhibition at the Kunsthal, which I recommend wholeheartedly. It’s rare to see an exhibition aimed at a general audience on your own field of interest that doesn’t make you angry, and this felt genuinely well conceptualised, if a little canted toward the rationalistic/”hard” formulation of the genre (wot no New Wave/New Weird?)

A lot of cinema props in the catalogue, but fewer than I expected, and some excellent paleofuturological material that serves to remind us just how long a flogging that some dead horses have been enduring. And of course these images made great bonus gimmicks for highly addictive products like cigarettes:

The Kunsthal is a fine and recent neo-brutalust edifice, and excellent value: €12 gets you into everything, and there’s lots to see. A fine addition to a very walkable city; set aside a full afternoon for it.

Bonus sfnal sublime: the new floodproof archive building currently under construction next to the New Institute, a vast concrete boat/bowl/spaceship dropped onto an empty plain.

And it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Rotterdam without a portrait of the notorious Buttplug Gnome, would it?

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.

Science fiction, science fact, and all that's in between …