Artificial Articulation

No one reads. People say this all the time, and as a writer, it’s very hard to hear. If I’m ever forced to start a podcast, that will be the reason, and it might be the name. If no one reads, why are we outsourcing writing? According to a recent article on Futurism, sports magazine Sports Illustrated allegedly published reviews generated by artificial intelligence. Not only that, but the bylines on those articles belonged to writers who weren’t real either.

Drew Ortiz, a “Product Reviews Team Member” for Sports Illustrated.
Meet Drew Ortiz, a “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes” (likely on purpose), and a “Product Reviews Team Member” for Sports Illustrated. One of Drew’s many articles for SI claims that volleyball “can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with.” True enough, Drew, but it’s also tricky to get into if you don’t have an actual body to practice with either.
Look, Drew is just like you and me.
Drew was eventually replaced briefly by Sora Tanaka, a “joyful asian young-adult female with long brown hair and brown eyes.” Futurism also notes Jim Cramer’s TheStreet hosting articles by Domino Abrams, Nicole Merrifield, and Denise McNamera — all pseudonyms for AI-generated pseudoscribes.
Sora Tanaka, a “joyful asian young-adult female with long brown hair and brown eyes.”
Given that this path was paved when we first outsourced our thinking to written language, it’s perhaps most fitting that what passes for artificial intelligence these days are large language models, none of which can play volleyball but can write about it. The computer scientists Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon defined thinking in just such terms, writing, “A physical symbol system has the necessary and sufficient means for general intelligent action.” The externalization of human knowledge has largely been achieved through text — a physical symbol system. Cave paintings, scrolls, books, the internet. Even with the broadening of bandwidth enabling sound and video, all of these media are still heavily text-based.

In a paper from 1936 titled “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” the mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing posited that humans compute by manipulating symbols that are external to the human brain and that computers do the same. The paper serves as the basis for his own Universal Turing Machine, algorithms, and the fields of computer science and AI.

I am admittedly a lapsed student of AI, having dropped out of the University of Georgia’s Artificial Intelligence masters program midway through my first semester there in the late 1990s. My interest in AI lies in the weird ways that consciousness and creation butt heads in the midst of such advanced technologies. As Al Burian sings on the Milemarker song “Frigid Forms Sell You Warmth,” “We keep waiting for the robots to crush us from the sky. They sneak in through our fingertips and bleed our fingers dry.” If humans have indeed always been part technology, where do the machines end and we begin? As the literary critic N. Katherine Hayles told me years ago,

In the twenty-first century, text and materiality will be seen as inextricably entwined. Materiality and text, words and their physical embodiments, are always already a unity rather than a duality. Appreciating the complexities of that unity is the important task that lies before us.

“Manufacturing Dissent” multimedia on canvas by me, c. 2003.

A medium is anything that extends the senses or the body of humans according to Marshall McLuhan in his classic Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). More specifically, McLuhan saw the “electronic media” of the time — radio, telephone, television — as extensions of our nervous system. Jussi Parikka writes that we must stop thinking about bodies as closed systems and realize that they are open and constituted by their environment, what Humberto Maturana and Francisco J. Varela call “structural coupling.” Our skin is not a boundary; it is a periphery: permeable, vulnerable, and fallibly open to external flows and forces through our senses. Parikka adds, “[W]e do not so much have media as we are media and of media; media are brains that contract forces of the cosmos, cast a plane over the chaos.” We can no longer do without, if we ever could.

Our extensions have coerced our attentions and intentions.
We are now the pathological appendages of our technological assemblages.

Desire is where our media and our bodies meet. It’s where our human wants blur with our technologies. It is the inertia of their meeting and their melding, whether that is inside our outside our bodies is less relevant than whether or not we want to involve ourselves in the first place. Think about the behaviors that our communication technology affords and the ones we find appropriate. They’re not the same. Access is the medium. Desire is the message.

Crash-testing intelligence [Sharpies and Photoshop by me, 2023].

The Turing Test, which is among Alan Turing’s other top contributions to the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence, is more accurately a test of the human who’s interacting with the machine. The test, as outlined in Turing’s 1950 article “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” states that a machine is considered to be truly thinking like a human if it can fool a human into thinking it is (a.k.a. “The Imitation Game”). So, according to the language and the lore, artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be convincing. Now that Drew Ortiz, Sora Tanaka, and the other machines can do these symbol-manipulation tasks for us, we’ve outsourced not only our knowledge via text but now the writing of that knowledge, not quite the thoughts themselves but the articulation thereof.

Weak Ties Gone Wild

One of the since-faded early concerns of the internet was “information overload.” The worry was that given the onset of abundant connectivity and content, we were being inundated with so much information that we’d never be able to process it all. Now we limit the flow in our feeds and find just what we need. The real danger of filter bubbles and echo chambers is a cultivated myopia: a limited view of a world of sameness and an inability to see beyond the barriers we’ve erected for ourselves. As Jay Ogilvy once said, “If it’s not different, it’s not information.”

My rendition of “The Strength of Weak Ties” by Mark Granovetter, (1973).

In the late 1960s, Mark Granovetter was studying how people found jobs. His 1973 article in the American Journal of Sociology, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” states that each person in a close social network is likely to have the same information as everyone else in that network. It’s the weak ties to other networks that lead to the new stuff. That is, weak ties are a more likely source of novel ideas and information—regarding jobs, mates, and other opportunities—than strong ones.

Granovetter says, “I put the theory of weak ties together from a number of things. I learned about hydrogen bonding in AP Chemistry in high school and that image always stuck with me—these weak hydrogen bonds were holding together huge molecules precisely because they were so weak. That was still in my head when I started thinking about networks.”

Like most of my research interests, I first noticed these thresholds in music. I was looking at the CDs I had on hand one day, and I noticed that most of my favorite bands didn’t fit into established genres. They tended to straddle the lines between genres. In nature, these interstitial spaces are called edge realms. In her book When Plants Dream (Watkins Media, 2019), Sophia Rokhlin describes them as follows:

The edge describes the place where two distinct ecosystems meet. These are places of tension and unfamiliarity, territories of confrontation, where different ecosystems overlap and merge. The edge is found where a grassland meets a forest, where oceans reach the shore, where wetlands mediate between river basins and fields. Edges are hot spots of biodiversity that invite innovation, intermingling, and new forms of cooperation from various species. Edge realms are thresholds of potential and fecundity.

Mutations inside Area X as seen in Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ (2018).

An edge realm is a wilderness, a mutant space ripe for new forms. In Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, the mysterious Area X is just such a space. Its pollinations crossing well established boundaries, mixing into ever-new breeds and combinations. In his book about VanderMeer’s work, None of This is Normal (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), Ben Robertson writes,

Area X is something else, what has always already disrupted the processes by which by which borders are established between that and this, between one space or time and another space or time, between the human and whatever its other happens to be.

My pencil portrait of Brian Eno from ‘Follow for Now, Vol. 2’.

The fertile ground is in between the established crops of others. The new stuff happens at the edges, in between the codified categories. Any old boring story from history can be made more interesting by varying viewpoints. In his 1996 memoir, A Year with Swollen Appendices (faber & faber), Brian Eno proposes the idea of edge culture, which is based on the premise that

If you abandon the idea that culture has a single center, and imagine that there is instead a network of active nodes, which may or may not be included in a particular journey across the field, you also abandon the idea that those nodes have absolute value. Their value changes according to which story they’re included in, and how prominently.

Each of us tell our own stories, including the cultural artifacts relevant to the narrative we’ve chosen. The long tail is an ironic attempt to depict a big picture that no longer exists. With its emphasis on the individual narrative, edge culture more accurately illustrates the current, fragmented state of mediated culture, subcultures, and the way that edge realms and social networks define them.

My Sharpie sketch of a Boundary Object in use among 3 communities of practice.

The members and fans of subcultures—groups united by similar goals, practices, and vocabularies—represent what Etienne Wenger calls communities of practice. To translate differences and aid communication between these communities, they use what Susan Leigh Star and James Griesemer (1989) called boundary objects. A boundary object can be a word, concept, metaphor, allusion, artifact, map, or other node around which communities organize their overlaps and interconnections. These connective terms emphasize groups’ similarities rather than their differences. Boundary objects between different communities of practice open borders once inaccessible, circulating ideas into new territories.

Allusions, references, quotations, metaphors, and other figurative expressions provide the points at which multiple texts, genres, and groups connect and collaborate. They are where textual communities compare notes. “What I see instead of there being one line, many lines,” Eno explains in a lecture from 1992, “lots of ways of looking at this field of objects that we call culture. Lines that we may individually choose to change every day.” Hunting and gathering, picking and choosing, we can each make our own individual mongrel culture.

Mark Granovetter conceived the edge realms of these cultural networks way before we were all connected online, but his insight is all the more relevant today. With our personal media, ubiquitous screens, and invisible, wireless networks, we live in a world of weak ties. You just have to reach out to find the new stuff.

Bibliography:

Brian Eno, A Year with Swollen Appendices, London: faber & faber, 1996, 328.
Brian Eno, “Perfume, Defense, and David Bowie’s Wedding,” in Christopher Scoates (ed.), Brian Eno: Visual Music (221-233), San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013, 223.
Mark S. Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 6 (May 1973), pp. 1360-1380.
Benjamin J. Robertson, None of This is Normal: The Fiction of Jeff VanderMeer, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2018, 116.
Sophia Rokhlin & Daniel Pinchbeck, When Plants Dream, London: Watkins Media, 2019, 32.
Susan Leigh Star & James R. Griesemer, “Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39,” Social Studies of Science, Vol. 19, No. 3 (August 1989), pp. 387-420.
Etienne Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Josh Feit: Dwell Time in the Interstitial City

My introduction to Josh Feit’s work was through The Stranger, Seattle’s longest running alternative publication. There’s a line from an article he wrote about Brittany Spears for their “Yes, Logo” special issue in 2002 that I had quoted so often, I had memorized. I recited it to him when we finally met in 2019: “Authenticity comes from the moment you’re living in, not from the product you’re buying.”

Feit has moved on to other creative work, most notably poetry. The Night of Electric Bikes (Finishing Line Press, 2023), his latest collection, meanders through urban terrain, wandering with wonder. About it, I wrote,

Josh Feit notes herein that urban planners call the time commuters have to wait for mass transit “dwell time.” The Night of Electric Bikes is dwell time well spent, like no matter where you’re headed, you’re already on your way. As Feit writes, “You have arrived. Your destination is found in others.” These poems are sidewalks and streets and cities made of stories, and within them, many more to explore. Take your time, the next one will be along soon.

His first collection was Shops Close Too Early (Cathexis Northwest Press, 2022), and he’s working on a new one now. I find it fitting that I committed Feit’s words about authenticity to memory, since capturing that authentic moment is the ultimate pursuit of poetry.

 


Roy Christopher: I got to know your written work originally through The Stranger. When did you start writing poetry?

Josh Feit: It’s fitting that you mention the time I worked as a news reporter. I spent years in the newsroom before I ever started writing poetry, but the whole time, I felt there was something poetic in the policy debates I was covering. People were clashing over how they wanted their city to work in a way that seemed almost existential. Anything from parking regulations, to a proposed employee head tax, to should we allow more density in the neighborhoods? The debates were so emotional. Where should the light rail station go? These technical discussions about dry subjects like zoning turned the cityscape into a personal canvass for people, and suddenly the discussions became metaphors for larger questions about living life itself.

These policy matters started segueing into verse for me when I was working as a speechwriter in the mayor’s office and my brain was spending more time in the margins of the Word doc on my computer screen where I imagined adding fanciful footnotes about: how mixed use development can be piano nocturnes and daffodils; how exclusionary zoning was a suspension of habeas corpus; and how sustainability was Billie Holiday at the Spotlight Club. The city planner is a DJ!

Feit reading at Good Weather Bike Shop, May 25, 2023.

RC: Speaking of, tell us about The Transit Singles.

JF: The Transit Singles! Oh, man. That’s an old project; very early poems that I’m not eager to share. Those videos are buried on the internet, somewhere. So, props to your detective chops for even finding those. But I’m still proud of the conceit. That was a musical outing more than a poetic one. The idea was to pair a poem with a transit oriented pop song re-imagined and performed as a Billie Holiday era nightclub piano ballad; for me, Billie Holiday’s small club dates in 1930s and ‘40s Manhattan are one of the crowning achievements of human kind’s city experiment. In my poems, I’ve cast her as replacing Athena as the Goddess of Cities.

For the pop songs, I went with Kris Kross’ “I Missed the Bus,” Lord Kitchener’s “Underground Train,” Berlin’s “Riding on the Metro,” Le Tigre’s “My My Metro Card,” and The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” I asked a pro-pianist diva, Leah Tousignant, to cover and record these songs Billie Holiday-style, and then I had an electronic musician Paco Cathcart of the Cradle make samples and loops out of my readings and float them underneath the songs. Kind of a mess. But the great thing is it led to a wonderful idea a few years later. For The Night of Electric Bikes book release reading this past spring, I asked Seattle electronic musician Rob Joynes to open the reading with ambient covers of a few transit pop songs; we went with a mid-60s set, The Impressions’ “People Get Ready (There’s a Train a-Coming),” The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” and the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride”). He showed up with his effects boxes and cords and laptop and big speakers and played a gorgeous set, singing the tunes over his atmospheric waves and drones with a dynamite female vocalist Malia Seavey accompanying him and his loops. The gig was at a local bike shop. It was a dream, so no recording.

RC: How did you come to focus on transit in Seattle?

JF: Transit was one of the topics that was always central to the city debates I had been covering as a reporter. And when I dug into the technical details of making transit systems work better, ideas like center platforms,  pedestrian scrambles, road diets, and faster headways, the palette of metaphors expanded exponentially. This gave way to poems like “Dwell Time,” where the time we spend waiting at the bus can become a larger narrative about yearning.

My copies of Josh’s books.

RC: That idea of “dwell time” really stuck out to me from The Night of Electric Bikes. The simple acknowledgement and further exploration of the interstitial spaces in our cities feels tangible to me as someone who hasn’t had a car in 25 years. Walking, riding a bike, or taking the bus or train puts you in places that cars can’t go. It’s a different city!

JF: Lovely. Yes, and speaking more literally of interstitial spaces: This is how you bike home in Seattle, along interstitial streets, ever delusional you’ll find a route that avoids the hills. It’s great, though. In this way you’re always zigzagging along back streets you’re unlikely to ever find driving in a car. Now that I know these routes, I do ride my new bike, my e-bike, along these quiet streets during late-night biking adventures home. 

RC: What’s coming up?

JF: I’m working on a sequence right now that features wayfinding poems; poems that chart and navigate trips. They’re set up like file path directions: “Bike north on Beacon Ave > West on S Columbian Way > ricochet off the pavement craquelure > live to tell> > continue onto 15th Ave S > …”

Over the course of the collection, these wayfinding poems become less about city geography, and start to chart other paths: events that lead to events, books that lead to books, thoughts that lead to memories.

These shorter wayfinding poems are paired with larger poems about retail kiosks in subway stations, ancient Athens, Joshua Tree, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, affordable housing, kiss and rides, greenhouses, Hermes, and other city subjects.

Digging D.E.E.P.

The Intellect U Well Journeys: Afrofuturism book discussion at the African American History Research Center in Houston, Texas last weekend was a blast and a blessing! Many thanks to Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton, James Stancil, Tonya Stancil, Davin Stancil, Suzanne Simpson, Lily Brewer, everyone at the Gregory School, and everyone who came out.

Me and Deep Mouton in Houston. [Photo by Lily Brewer.]

Deep Mouton’s book, Black Chameleon (Henry Holt & Co, 2023), takes hefty strides toward creating a Southern African-American mythology, its horror tempered by hilarity. Talking with her about it, Boogie Down Predictions, and our views on Afrofuturism, hip-hop culture, writing, poetry, performance, and scholarship was a privilege and a party. I hope we get to continue it sometime soon.

Danika Stegeman LeMay: A Spiral of Questioning

Poetry is one of our most radically subjective communication media. One person’s transformative verse is another’s cliché. We struggle to understand each other, yet we quickly tire of the same old words and phrases.

Meanings are malleable. Language bends and breaks under the stress of unintended use, abuse, or overuse. Like machine parts pushed past their limits, cogs stripped bare of their teeth, the words we use wear out, weakening the culture that carries them and our connections to each other.

The barriers to appreciation are also unreasonably high. Being into poetry is a strange burden to carry. Never mind being a poet.

Danika Stegeman LeMay is a poet. She bends words and molds phrases, creating and transforming meanings. I’ve been reading her work and corresponding with her about it for a couple of years now. With her new book, Ablation, coming out next month, and a few other projects cued up behind it, I knew a more formal interview was well past due.


Roy Christopher: How did you get started writing in the first place? 

Danika Stegeman LeMay: Oh, the usual: by listening to The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Around the time that record came out, I had a really great 7th grade English teacher. I was painfully, cringingly shy until I was about 17 years old. Apparently my book reports or whatever were good, or the teacher understood I needed an outlet that allowed me to be quiet. There was some kind of writing conference for middle schoolers in the state of Minnesota, and the teacher got to choose one student and he chose me. I spent the day learning about writing at a local college and they gave us all journals to write in at the end. I think the theme of the conference was peace (very 1990s) and the journal had little zen quotes about being peaceful in it.

Instead of writing about peace I wrote what amounted to a very, very bad Smashing Pumpkins “song.” It was my first poem. More poems followed, and what’s really charming to me about that journal is that we weren’t quite really in the word-processing era yet. Like, if you wanted to save a draft, you had to have a floppy disk. So I’d write poems by hand and then re-write them by hand to make a revision. I re-copied so many poems in slightly different variations. Along with collage, repetition is an interest that’s captivated me across time, so the fact that I wrote and re-wrote these pieces as my youngest poet self is sort of heartwarming.

RC: When did you know it was going to be a passion or a problem?

DSL: I think I knew it was going to be a passion/problem by the time I was getting ready to graduate from undergrad. I was trying to decide if I’d apply for MFAs or do something “practical” like law school. I was dating someone who was getting his MFA in printmaking at the time, and I asked him what he thought. He said to me, “you can’t just not practice your art because it’s easier.” Because it’s not easy to love something and to want to pour all of your energy into it when you can’t make a living doing it. There will always be interruptions so you can afford to eat sandwiches or pay an ungodly amount for rent or see a doctor when you’re sick (but only like, insanely sick, or it’s probably not worth the cost). The number of times I’ve thought “I wish someone would pay me to write poetry.” But creating art out of love, desire, a kind of inner pull/force that I feel but can’t quite articulate has its own intrinsic value that has nothing to do with money. So most of the time I’d call it a passion, a “strong and barely controllable emotion,” rather than a problem.

When I think about writing as a “problem,” I think about “problem” more in the sense of physics or mathematics: an inquiry or investigation, rather than a matter of harm. It seems to me that my poetic projects and I unfold together; we figure out what forms we’ll take across time and space. It’s a spiral of questioning, a call and response.

RC: You’re quite prolific on social media, especially with your #lineaday series of posts. I always find that a pursuit becomes something different than I originally intended when pushed in such a way. Have you found out anything from the practice of posting daily? 

DSL: I’ve come to appreciate the #lineaday posts I make as stories daily on Instagram in several ways. For one, it’s a way to exercise a muscle. Whether any of those lines get put into a larger piece or not, they’re a dedication to language that I make each day, and I consider writing a line a day a similar action to my daily yoga and meditation practices. It’s a way to honor and shape the mind and voice by way of patterning and ritual. Writing a line per day is also a way to trick my mind into releasing anxiety around the generative act. I don’t pressure myself to be brilliant, a line is a line and doesn’t have to be final. An Instagram story disappears after 24 hours. Like anything, it exists and it passes away. It reminds me life changes and is impermanent. Though of course I do save the lines in a Google doc… It’s material to use or not use in the future. It gives the generative process a spirit of play.

All these words I’ve piled up have softened and washed away some of my anxiety around having a blank page in front of me. I have this stockpile of material to refer to and riff off of. And I do often refer to that pile. During the pandemic, I took an online class about collage-based writing called “In Pieces” with Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton. I can’t remember what the reading was, but we read a piece by Clarice Lispector. She talks about how she’d write snippets whenever they came to her–on scraps of paper, napkins, etc. and save and pile them up. Eventually, she’d wake up very early in the morning and work for hours, poring over these pieces and pulling them together. She said something about how that’s when the time and the energy and the struggle comes in, constructing the work into a whole entity from these pieces. In a way what she’s doing is collaging herself. I’m also a collagist at heart. I like to pull materials together, to consider juxtapositions and unexpected symmetries. Even when I started writing poems as a teenager, often what I was doing was collage, even if I didn’t realize or understand that’s what I was doing. 

RC: I find the same. Sometimes it’s just a juxtaposition—rubbing two things together to see what comes of their intersection—and sometimes it’s a whole pile of things that come together and transform into something else.

DSL: Transformation is, in my opinion, one of the most magical things we do. We look at a cloud and name it tree. Even a juxtaposition is a pile of transformation. What else would it be? The cosmos is vast and the one thing we know for sure is that it changes things. We work with materials on an infinitesimal scale in the same ways that they work on an infinite scale. 

RC: Tell us about your latest project for 11:11, Ablation.

DSL: Ablation is a book I wrote about my mom’s death, becoming a mom to a daughter, inherited trauma, and how to acknowledge pain and loss while accepting it and realizing it exists alongside joy. In these liminal places of death and birth, we see perhaps more clearly that we are a line: fear and love, void and form, grief and acceptance, chaos and control, are two sides of the same door, and we’re the door. The book moves through many forms to arrive at realization and acceptance. It contains images I’ve cut apart, re-assembled, and sewn. It reckons with images of the past that haunts it, and by it, I suppose I mean me. After my mom died, I found like 8 rolls of film from the early and mid-1990s that she’d never developed in her closet, while I was going through her things trying to decide what to keep and what to let go of. I developed the film, because that’s the kind of person I am. I will follow things to completion.

The images the photo lab was able to develop are haunting for a couple of reasons: they’re literally fucked-up—if you leave film to sit for years, you get double exposures, strange colors, dark fog, dust motes, and flares of light. They’re also fucked-up because part of the reason my mom never developed them is that they’re mostly photos my brothers and I took the summer after my stepdad died in a head-on collision with a semi-truck when he was driving home from work when I was 13. He fell asleep at the wheel. It completely wrecked my mom, who’d had a painful life anyway, and had struggled with depression and other mental illnesses without diagnoses or any sort of medical help her entire life.

The photos themselves are haunted. You can feel our pain in them. Writing, collaging, taking a thing apart to understand it, rearranging it into something like hope, like future, like presence, and taping it back together is my way of coping with the world as I find it: both terrifying and radiant. The process of writing the title sequence, “Ablation,” which is a long, tightly-wound sequence of mirror cinquains, was that sort of collaging myself process I was talking about earlier. I originally wrote that sequence on postcards, but the form didn’t quite feel right. When I arrived at the mirror cinquain, I worked and re-worked and carved and threaded the words into place. The other poems in the book either attempt to lean into form, as “Ablation” does, or into chaos. Both needed to be present.

This is a book I had to write to continue existing after the sudden and catastrophic loss of my mom. It’s a place where I can leave things, so I can move forward and create a better environment for my daughter. “Ablation” means three compelling and wildly diverse things: evaporation of ice from a glacier, surgical removal of tissue from a body, and the way a spacecraft or meteorite sheds material in the atmosphere. At its root, the word means “taking away.” Ablation is, by nature and necessity, much more vulnerable than my previous work. I had to learn to be vulnerable as a person while writing it. I feel that vulnerability is one of the book’s strengths, and I hope that its presence might be helpful to others moving through similar corridors.

RC: What can you tell us about how your erasure project, GOD IS IN THE MALL, came about and your possible plans for its publication?

DSL: GOD IS IN THE MALL (GIITM) is actually the first full-length manuscript I finished. I wrote it alongside Pilot (Spork Press, 2020) and actually finished it before I finished Pilot. It’s an erasure of a book called God Is in the Small Stuff for the Graduate, which was given to me by evangelical Christian relatives when I graduated from high school. I started circling words in pencil probably around 2006 or so. I got stuck pretty quickly, because the end of every chapter has a list of bullet points about how “God is in the small stuff” for the theme of that particular chapter. And I was like “what am I going to do with these lists?? It’s impossible to erase them in a productive way and make it a poem.” Years later, in probably 2014, I was riding the bus to work and had the idea to cut up a directory of the Mall of America and paste the names of the stores into the list parts of the chapters. So a bullet point that said “You can’t stand up to the devil unless you kneel before God” became “You can’t stand up to the devil unless you kneel before Nordstrom Rack.” And it went pretty quickly after that.

When I’d finished penciling in the words I wanted to keep and pasting the names of stores in, I began the process of painting white out over the rest of the text. I scanned every page, and, luckily, by the time I’d finished that, Adobe Acrobat had advanced to the point that you could actually edit words inside a PDF. So I spent a lot of time taking this raw material and turning it into a cohesive book, moving pages and deleting more text. I think it’s a fun book and at the same time it points to the problematic relationship between the United States’ version of Christianity and the capitalist system.

The book was a semi-finalist for the Sawtooth Poetry Prize run by (the now sadly non-existent) Ahsahta Press in 2017. It’s been a little bit of a challenge to find the right publisher for GIITM, because every page needs to be printed in color and I’m not Mary Ruefle and the book is sort of specific and weird. You can read a good chunk of it in vol. 30 of Word for/Word. Shout out to editor Jonathan Minton for consistently being open to publishing the stranger forms my work takes; he also published an early version of the title sequence of Ablation in vol. 35 and is about to publish some pieces from what I hope will be my 3rd book, The Book of Matthew, in vol. 41. Matthew is actually the reason I haven’t been actively looking for publishers for GIITM recently. I wrote Matthew alongside Ablation, and they’re linked, in my mind. Like, Matthew is the aftermath, the shadow cast by Ablation. So I need those two books to come out back to back. I’ll start looking for publishers for GIITM again after I find one for Matthew.

RC: Is there anything else you’re working on you want to mention?

DSL: The Book of Matthew is finished, and I’m sending it out to publishers right now. It’s a book of miracles constructed from 3 types of materials: erasures of each miracle found in The Gospel of Matthew cut from various editions of The New Testament, ecstatic poems (some based on dreams, some based on dreaming), and epistles written to a Matthew, a messenger, an angel of my own making. By the end of the book, these materials elide and coalesce. It’s a book of dissociation, science, spell-casting, prophetic vision, intimacy, and other sorts of magic. As hinted at above, while Ablation addresses the sudden loss of my mom and my childhood trauma directly, while Matthew addresses the aftermath: my patterns, my (un)consciousness, my longing. The book also reckons with acculturated ideas of femininity and power and contains a lot of references to Radiohead. I sort of had to write the Matthew poems alongside Ablation because Ablation was painful to write. Most of the poems in Matthew felt magical and fun to write. I’m really excited for a couple of those Matthew poems to come out from Carrion Bloom Books as a pair of microchapbooks soon: Familiar Birds: House of Mesh (I) and Familiar Birds: House of Suet (II). So watch for those.

In addition to the microchapbooks and the cut up miracles coming out in Word for/Word vol. 41, poems from Matthew will be out soon in FIVES (that one’s a video poem actually), SOLID STATE, and mercury firs.

Right now I’m working on two things (have you noticed I like to write two things at once?). One is the sequel to Pilot, which I’m currently calling FARADAY; Pilot only uses scripts from the first 2 seasons of Lost, so FARADAY will cover the remaining 4 seasons. The other project I’m currently working on is called Wheel of Fortune; it’s a long long book-length poem about endlessness and circles that I’m writing onto a rolodex I bought at an open-air flea market in May of 2021. 

 


Preorder your copy of Ablation now, out from 11:11 Press on November 1st.

The Pair I Wear

The first time I got to hang out with the Big Kids, the runt of their already established clique stuck with me. He wasn’t the Cool One. Everyone else was making fun of him, but I was unimpressed by them. First of all, he had a skateboard. To me in the eighth grade, there was little else that was cooler than a skateboard. He had longish hair, a baseball cap, a short-sleeve button-up shirt unbuttoned over a t-shirt, board shorts, and teal Chuck Taylors with band names written all over them. Chuck Taylors are the link between punk-rock and skateboarding. You can’t skate in Doc Martins, but you can mosh in Chucks.

Now, I’d had Chucks before, but the audacity of personalizing them hadn’t occurred to me. Soon, I sprayed my red pair with bleach, leaving a yellow splatter pattern. I added yellow laces to set them off. I took a Sharpie to another pair, and added black laces to match my doodles of zine logos.

Recently, my sister found me a new yellow pair at a thrift store, and I immediately thought of that guy from eighth grade with his crude band-name scribbles.

I took mine a step further by trying to draw the band logos as accurately as possible.

Bands represented include Fugazi, Bad Brains, Unwound, Germs, Circle Jerks, Hüsker Dü, Naked Raygun, 7Seconds, Minor Threat, and Big Black.

Still banned in DC.
Out of Step with the world.

I can only hope I made the bands proud. Impressing the Big Kids is always a lost cause.

Different Waves, Different Depths

My first collection of fiction is out today on Impeller Books!

Different Waves, Different Depths is a collection of nine stories, varying in style from the literarily weird (“Subletter,” “Hayseed, Inc.”) to the science fiction (“Drawn & Courted,” “Not a Day Goes By”) and in length from the flash (“Kiss Destroyer,” “Antecedent”) to the novella (“Fender the Fall”). There’s even a pilot script in here (“Post-Intelligence”).

Cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love. Book design by Patrick Barber.

There are time loops and time travel, reality television and big data, consultants who can make anyone a winner, a newspaper that’s just gone online-only, a band that never existed but is all too real, mistaken identities, roadtrips, drugs, guns, murder, and a love story or three.

Dive in deep, ease in the shallows, or just let the tide lap at your toes. Different waves are waiting.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

“I never wanted to destroy this one.”

Kiss Destroyer

We met halfway. For the first time since meeting her, I knew definitively that she was with someone. She was engaged. The wedding was a few months off. We talked and we drank and we danced and it felt like it always felt. I was overwhelmed. The only thing that kept me grounded was knowing that in a few months, she’d be married to someone else. And I’d be gone.

I leaned in close to her ear and whispered, “this is nice.”

She stopped, stunned. She flashed a withering look and edged away from me through the crowd.

“Wait!” Hearing me behind her, she hurried on. I caught her in the bar. “I meant that it felt nice knowing—”

“No, I feel the opposite,” she turned and said. “It doesn’t feel nice knowing. It feels awful!”

“Well, I was speaking for you. I thought—” She put her finger on my lips to shush me. She was definitely angry but seemed ready to recover.

“Want some?” she asked, pulling a flask from her purse.

“What is it?”

“Have some or don’t,” she said over her shoulder, walking out onto the balcony.

“I didn’t think—” I said as she drank.

“You always knew.” She handed me the flask. I downed a gulp of sweet liquid. It tasted the way antifreeze smells, perhaps a flavored vodka of some kind. “I always hoped, but I never knew.”

“Is that why you’re here now, hope?”

“Yes.”

“Well, all of your hopes are here, and they’re all shit. Sorry.”

As I took another swig, everything took on a fog, soft around the edges. I felt anger and disappointment sharpening in me. “Then why are we here? What is this?”

“Let’s dance!” She said, draining the flask.

“I don’t want to—” She grabbed my arm and dragged me inside. She kissed me deep, hard, obviously feeling the drink, and then pulled me onto the dance floor.

The music and the bodies blurred. We were together, then apart, then together. One minute, we were blended into one, the next, we were on different planets. Other bodies remained distinct, but ours melded and folded and separated like taffy. The music was one, long song, and it was always exactly the right one.

The melding continued when we finally made it upstairs to bed. I’m not even sure we had sex, but we were one many times over before we slept. We fell in and out of love over and over, fighting, folding, fucking. I wish I could remember it more clearly.

“Every time you make a decision, it’s like destroying a whole other world,” she told me earlier that evening. “I never wanted to destroy this one.”

 

 


Advance Praise:

“Working the borderlands between philosophy, sci-fi, and ultra-contemporary social critique, these stories illuminate our strange cusp moment in a deeply humanistic and bracing manner. A sharp, propulsive, and canny collection.” — David Leo Rice, author, Drifter

“In Roy Christopher’s inquiring, voracious tales, memory is a form of energy, and worlds emerge out of slippages, of which—ouch, there’s another—there are many more than we like to admit.” — Matthew Battles, author, The Sovereignties of Invention

“The stories in Different Waves, Different Depths showcase an impressive range of voice and style. They challenge without being difficult; evoke nostalgia without feeling rote. A fantastic collection.” — Joshua Chaplinsky, author, The Paradox Twins

“Hard-boiled strange loops in a froth of weird.” — Will Wiles, author, Plume 


Other Excerpts:


Table of Contents:

  1. Drawn & Courted
  2. Kiss Destroyer
  3. Antecedent
  4. Not a Day Goes By
  5. Dutch
  6. Subletter
  7. Hayseed, Inc.
  8. Post-Intelligence
  9. Fender the Fall

Many thanks to Patrick Barber for all of his amazing work on putting this thing together, making it look so nice, and getting it out there. Thanks to Jeffrey Alan Love for the cover illustration, to The Little One for the title, to all the previous publishers of these stories for their support, and to you for reading.

Get your copy now!


Different Waves, Different Depths is dedicated to the memory of Kelly Lum.

 

 

Official Report on the Intransitionalist Chronotopologies of Kenji Siratori

The Official Report on the Intransitionalist Chronotopologies of Kenji Siratori: Appendix 8.2.3 is a 163 page paperback book, with an accompanying soundtrack! It’s a conceptual collaboration between cult Japanese author, Kenji Siratori, the Canadian electro-acoustic duo Wormwood, and a host of well known academics, writers, and other members of the Ministry of Transrational Research into Anastrophic Manifolds, including me!

The Official Report on the Intransitionalist Chronotopologies of Kenji Siratori: Appendix 8.2.3 is an AI-generated, xenopoetic “glitch novel” of sorts, with a good portion of the book also given over to a randomly written and ordered set of strange and beautiful footnotes that were submitted by the 60+ members of the Ministry. This is a futuristic work on all fronts, and in order to contrast with the digitally obtrusive writing, and to play into our belief in“technological mutualism”, our packaging design and visual aesthetic is of a more analogue and DIY, old school cut and paste nature. What we have here then is a work of art that bridges past and future, but is firmly embedded in the NOW!

Andrew Wenaus explains:

The result is a work of xenopoetic emergence: a beautifully absurd, alien document scintillating with strange potency. Official Report on the Intransitionalist Chronotopologies of Kenji Siratori: Appendix 8.2.3 is a xenopoetic data/dada anthology that documents the activities of the artist collective The Ministry of Transrational Research into Anastrophic Manifolds. The anthology results from an experimental approach to impersonal literary composition. Similar to surrealist definitions, but on the scale of a technical document, members of the Ministry-poets, musicians, novelists, painters, curators, artists, scientists, philosophers, and physicians-were asked to offer a microfiction, poem, essay, fictional citation, or computer code, in the form of a footnote or annotation to a glitch-generated novel by iconoclastic Japanese artist Kenji Siratori; however, each participant wrote their contribution without any access to or knowledge about the nature of Siratori’s source text. After collecting the contributions, the “footnotes” were each algorithmically linked to an arbitrary word from Siratori’s novel. Bringing together algorithmically and Al-generated electronic literature with analogue collage and traditional modes of literary composition, the Ministry refuses to commit solely to digital, automated, or analogue art and instead seeks technological mutualism and a radically alien future for the arts.

Accompanied by a groundbreaking original score by electro-acoustic duo Wormwood, the anthology offers the radical defamiliarization and weird worlds of science fiction, but now the strangeness bites back on the level form. Readers should expect to discover strange portals from which new ways of thinking, feeling, and being emerge. A conceptual and experimental anthology, Official Report on The Intransitionalist Chronotopologies of Kenji Siratori inaugurates collective xenopoetic writing and the conceit that the future of art will consist of impersonal acts of material emergence, not personal expression. Consume with caution.

CREDITS:

Book written by Kenji Sartori.

Footnotes by the Ministry of Transrational Research into Anastrophic Manifolds: Rosaire Appel, Louis Armand, David Barrick, Gary Barwin, Steve Beard, Gregory Betts, Christian Bök, Mike Bonsall, Peter Bouscheljong, Maria Chenut, Shane Jesse Christmass, Roy Christopher, Tabasco “Ralph” Contra, Mike Corrao, R.J. Dent, Paul Di Filippo, Zak Ferguson, Colin Herrick, S.C. Hickman, Maxwell Hyett, Justin Isis, Andrew Joron, Chris Kelso, Phillip Klingler, Adam Lovasz, Daniel Lukes, Ania Malinowska, Claudia B. Manley, Ryota Matsumoto, Michael Mc Aloran, Andrew Mcluhan, Jeff Noon, Jim Osman, Suarjan Prasai, Tom Prime, David Leo Rice, Virgilio Rivas, David Roden, B.R. Yeager, Andrej Shakowski, Aaron Schneider, Gary J. Shipley, Kenji Siratori, Sean Smith, Kristine Snodgrass, Sean Sokolov, Alan Sondheim, Simon Spiegel, Henry Adam Svec, Jeff VanderMeer, R.G. Vasicek, Andrew C. Wenaus [Ministry Director], William Wenaus, Eileen Wennekers, Christina Marie Willatt, Saywrane Alfonso Williams, D. Harlan Wilson, and Andrew Wilt.

All music composed by Andrew Wenaus and Christina Marie Willatt.
Performed by Andrew Wenaus, Christina Marie Willatt, and Kenji Siratori.

Packaging design and artwork by Colin Herrick.
Produced by Andrew Wenaus and Time Released Sound.

WARNING!! AS IS STATED ON THE BACK OF THE BOOK:
“Loved ones of those that disappeared reported that prior to their detainment, the victims were sent an unmarked envelope. The envelope contained a letter whose contents consisted exclusively of 317 black rectangular glyphs. Due to the still uncertain nature and status of this Appendix, Time Released Sound would like all readers to be aware of this history!”

Those of you that purchase the Limited Edition version will very possibly be sent one of these envelopes as well, sometime after you have received the book, so please be careful when ordering it!

Get yours today!

 

My Radical Sabbatical

I’m stoked to announce that next week I’ll be joining the teaching faculty in the School of Communication at the University of North Florida, thus ending three years of unemployment. I’ve been calling this my “Radical Sabbatical,” as I spent a lot of time on my BMX bike and my skateboard, but I also did a lot of writing. I really did a lot of writing.

I looked hard for a job when I left my last one in June 2020, but it being the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, I quickly found that no one was hiring. Fortunately I’d been able to save a lot of what I’d made at my previous position, so I decided to just try to earn it. My dad always says to make sure you accomplish something every day, so I applied a strong reading of that advice and got to work.

I already had a few book projects in various stages of the publishing process, but I dedicated my time to getting them all out there. I also made a new zinedesigned some logosappeared on a few podcastswrote some essays, and had my first solo art show, but finishing books was my main focus.

So, as I start a new phase, what follows is a brief roundup of the results of my Radical Sabbatical. Read on!

A few spines of mine.
Abandoned Accounts

When the lockdown started, I found it difficult to focus on the larger projects. In the months before, I’d started writing silly little poems about odd memories I had, tiny stories that didn’t fit anywhere else. I went back to those when I couldn’t think any larger. I eventually moved on to short stories and finally back to book-length writing, but not before I amassed a small pile of poems.

Abandoned Accounts collects those silly memories I started writing down, including reflections of walks in the woods at my parents’ house in the hinterlands of southeast Alabama, encounters with favorite bands and somewhat famous people, tales of travel and intrigue, and a few stray poems from as far back as 1990. It was an unexpected project, and I’m really proud of the results.

Fender the Fall

Fender the Fall is a short story about Chris Bridges, a lovelorn physics graduate student who goes back in time to return the journal of his high-school crush in order to save her life and his marriage. As you might expect, the plan doesn’t go as planned.

Tagline: You don’t know what you’ve got until you get it back.

It was briefly available as a standalone novella from Alien Buddha Press. I was fortunate enough to get Matthew Revert to design the cover and Mike Corrao to do the typesetting. As a result, it was a sharp-looking little book.

Though the novella is no longer in print, it will be included in my forthcoming short story collection, Different Waves, Different Depths (see below).

discontents

My friends Patrick Barber, Craig Gates, and I put together the pilot issue of a new zine called discontents. The content covers the usual concerns: music, movies, books, and poetry. We reached out to all of our old zine-era friends, so it includes writing by Cynthia Connolly, Peter Relic, Andy Jenkins, Spike Jonze, Fatboi Sharif, Timothy Baker, and Greg Pratt, artwork by Zak Sally and Tae Won You, as well as work by Patrick, Craig, and myself. Subjects include Ceremony, Unwound, Hsi-Chang Lin a.k.a. Still, Charles Yu’s Interior ChinatownCrestone director Marnie Elizabeth Hertzler, Coherence director James Ward Byrkit, and others.

We did this one as a proof of concept (high-end content, lo-fi production) and will be releasing a full debut issue in the near future.

Follow for Now, Vol. 2

My second interview anthology, Follow for Now, Vol. 2, picks up and pushes beyond the first volume with a more diverse set of interviewees and interviews. The intent of the first collection was to bring together voices from across disciplines, to cross-pollinate ideas. At the time, social media wasn’t crisscrossing all of the lines and categories held a bit more sway. Volume 2 aims not only to pick up where Follow for Now left off but also to tighten its approach with deeper subjects and more timely interviews. This one is a bit more focused and goes a bit deeper than the last. It includes several firsts, a few lasts, and is fully illustrated with portraits of every interviewee.

“Relentlessly stimulating and insight-packed, Follow for Now is the kind of book I’d like to see published every decade, and devoured every subsequent decade, from now until the end of humanity.” — Maria PopovaBrain Pickings

There’s an updated version of Follow for Now, Vol. 2 coming soon!

Midnight Diamond by Human Recreational Services.

Human Recreational Services

My old friend Erik Ellington asked me to write some things for his luxury shoe brand, Human Recreational Services. The collection I worked on is called Midnight Diamond, and I have to include it here as it was one of my favorite opportunities from the last few years. Here’s one bit I wrote:

As if trapped in a photograph by Ed Ruscha hanging on the wall in a David Lynch film, a young couple find themselves stranded along the lost highway in the deep desert. At a gas station, they stumble upon a door that leads to unexpected delights, a sudden contrast to their desolation. Figures emerge from the scene promising not safety but salvation, their boots made of distressed leathers studded with jewels, their movements imbued with the gestures of ceremony. Shoes sparkling in the sand, secret messages from parties hidden in back-masked 1980s metal. The flickering signifiers of ritual, dirty glamour marked by the patina of time. Midnight Diamond blends surrealism and serendipity with mystery and metaphor. Mining diamonds in the desert rough, uncertain times demand the discovery of unseen strengths in unexpected places.

Check out the video that goes with the words.

Escape Philosophy

Using extreme examples from heavy metal music and science fiction and horror movies, Escape Philosophy: Journeys Beyond the Human Body is a survey of all the ways we try to shuck off the shackles of our physical forms.

“Too often philosophy gets bogged down in the tedious ‘working-through’ of contingency and finitude. Escape Philosophy takes a different approach, engaging with cultural forms of refusal, denial, and negation in all their glorious ambivalence.”  Eugene Thacker, author, In the Dust of This Planet

“An interesting read indeed!” — Aaron Weaver, Wolves in the Throne Room

There’s a new edition of Escape Philosophy forthcoming. More on that soon!

Boogie Down Predictions

While I was writing my book Dead Precedents: How Hip-Hop Defines the Future (Repeater Books, 2019), I gathered up some friends, and we put together an edited collection as sort of a companion to Dead Precedents. Time was one of the aspects of both hip-hop and science fiction that I didn’t get to talk about much in that book, so I started asking around. I found many other writers, scholars, theorists, DJs, and emcees, as interested in the intersection of hip-hop and time as I was. As I continued contacting people and collecting essays, I got more and more excited about the book. Boogie Down Predictions: Hip-Hop, Time, and Afrofuturism is a quest to understand the connections between time, representation, and identity within hip-hop culture, as well as what that means for the culture at large.

Me and Ytasha Womack talking hip-hop and Afrofuturism. Photo by Shannon Keane.

Ytasha Womack, who wrote the Introduction, and I did an event for Boogie Down Predictions this July at Volumes Books in Chicago, and you missed a treat if you weren’t there.

“Roy Christopher’s dedication to the future is bracing. Boogie Down Predictions is a symphony of voices, beats, and bars messing with time, unsettling histories, opening portals.” — Jeff Chang, author, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

First Friday Art Crawl

I had a collection of illustrations and logo designs up at Reset Mercantile in Dothan, Alabama. The clip above was shot by Ryan Mills for Big as Life Media. If you’re interested, you can see a few pictures of the pieces on the wall or check out my illustration portfolio. Many thanks to Justin April for the opportunity.

Cover illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love.

 

Different Waves, Different Depths

My debut collection of short fiction, Different Waves, Different Depths, takes its name from a comment an old crush made once about her feelings for the author. It also describes these nine stories, varying in style from the literarily weird to the science fiction and in length from the flash to the novella. There’s even a pilot script in here.

Impeller Press will be releasing Different Waves, Different Depths on September 12th, and you can preorder your copy now!

“Working the borderlands between philosophy, sci-fi, and ultra-contemporary social critique, these stories illuminate our strange cusp moment in a deeply humanistic and bracing manner. A sharp, propulsive, and canny collection.” — David Leo Rice, author, Drifter

Dive in deep, ease in the shallows, or just let the tide lap at your toes. Different waves are waiting.

Cover object and image by me.

The Medium Picture

At long last I have finished my post-punk media theory book. Drawing from the disciplines of media ecology and media archaeology, as well as bringing fresh perspectives from music (e.g., Fugazi, Radiohead, Gang of Four, Run the Jewels, Christian Marclay, Laurie Anderson, et al.) and skateboarding, The Medium Picture illuminates aspects of technological mediation that have been overlooked along the way. With a Foreword by Andrew McLuhan, it shows how immersion in unmoored technologies of connectivity finds us in a world of pure media and redefines who we are, how we are, and what we will be.

“Very much looking forward to reading new Christopher, exactly the sort of contemporary cultural analysis to yield unnerving flashes of the future.” — William Gibson

The Medium Picture is forthcoming.

Deborah Harry in 1976 vs. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in 2016.
The Grand Allusion

I also signed on to write The Grand Allusion for Palgrave Macmillan as a part of their Pivot series. I’m only a few chapters into this one, but it’s shaping up nicely. My dissertation was on the use of allusions in rap lyrics, and I’ve since wanted to expand the analysis to pop cultural references in other media. Our media is so saturated with allusions to other media that we scarcely think about them. Their meaning relies in large part on the catching and interpreting of cultural allusions, on their audiences sharing the same mediated memories, the same mediated experiences.

The Grand Allusion explores these experiences, yielding a new understanding of our media, our culture, and ourselves.

Hope for Boats

Somewhere in there, I decided I wanted to try to write a novel. The seed situation was a funeral and a parade on the same day in a small town, and the story has grown from there. On October 11, 2022, I read the Prologue of “Hope for Boats” to the Rotary Club of Elba, Alabama, on which the fictional town in the story is loosely based. If you’re into it, you can read the excerpt along with me at Malarkey Books

More on this one as it develops.


I don’t know if I quite earned three years “off,” but I definitely tried. With all of that said, I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom, corrupting young minds. My creative output might return to a somewhat normal pace though. You’ll be the first to know.

Many thanks to everyone who had anything to do with the above projects — writers, designers, editors, contributors, collaborators, even if you just read one of them — I appreciate it. Without you, all of this would just be scribbles in my notebook. Special thanks to my parents for tolerating me for the last year.

All of these projects are up on my websiteCheck ’em out!

Boogie Down Predictions Event at Volumes Books in Chicago

On July 13th, Ytasha L. Womack and I met at Volumes Books in Wicker Park in Chicago to talk about our book Boogie Down Predictions and our other work in hip-hop and Afrofuturism.

It was a great discussion that covered the material in BDP and then used it as a jump-off point for other projects and concerns. Ytasha had just returned from Ghana a few days before where she toured the slave castles at Elmina and Cape Coast. Her stories, like so many other concepts we discussed, went backward to look forward. You truly missed a treat if you weren’t there.

Ytasha is the author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture and the forthcoming Black Panther: A Cultural Exploration. She also wrote the Introduction to Boogie Down Predictions. Here’s an excerpt:

This book, edited by Roy Christopher, is a moment. It is the deconstructed sample, the researched lyrical metaphors, the aha moment on the way to hip-hop enlightenment. Hip-hop permeates our world, and yet it is continually misunderstood. Hip-hop’s intersections with Afrofuturism and science fiction provide fascinating touchpoints that enable us to see our todays and tomorrows. This book can be, for the curious, a window into a hip-hop-infused Alter Destiny—a journey whose spaceship you embarked on some time ago. Are you engaging this work from the gaze of the future? Are you the data thief sailing into the past to U-turn to the now? Or are you the unborn child prepping to build the next universe? No, you’re the superhero. Enjoy the journey.

Boogie Down Predictions also features contributions from Omar Akbar, Juice Aleem, Tiffany E. Barber, Kevin Coval, Samantha Dols, Kodwo Eshun, Kembrew McLeod, Chuck Galli, Nettrice Gaskins, Jonathan Hay, Jeff Heinzl, Rasheedah Phillips, Steven Shaviro, Aram Sinnreich, André Sirois, Erik Steinskog, Dave Tompkins, Tia C.M. Tyree, Joël Vacheron, tobias c. van Veen, and K. Ceres Wright.

Cover art by Savage Pencil.
Here’s what other people are saying about the book:

Roy Christopher’s dedication to the future is bracing. Boogie Down Predictions is a symphony of voices, beats, and bars messing with time, unsettling histories, opening portals. — Jeff Chang, author, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

The study of hip-hop requires more than a procession of protagonists, events, and innovations. Boogie Down Predictions stops the clock—each essay within it a frozen moment, an opportunity to look sub-atomically at the forces that drive this culture. — Dan Charnas, author, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla

How does hip-hop fold, spindle, or mutilate time? In what ways does it treat technology as, merely, a foil? Are its notions of the future tensed…or are they tenseless? For Boogie Down Predictions, Roy Christopher’s trenchant anthology, he’s assembled a cluster of curious interlocutors. Here, in their hands, the culture has been intently examined, as though studying for microfractures in a fusion reactor. The result may not only be one of the most unique collections on hip-hop yet produced, but, even more, and of maximum value, a novel set of questions. — Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin

Boogie Down Predictions offers new ways of listening to, looking at, and thinking about hip-hop culture. It teaches us that hip-hop bends time, blending past, present, and future in sound and sense. Roy Christopher has given us more than a book; it’s a cypher and everyone involved brought bars. — Adam Bradley, author, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop

Get your copy here!