Through A Printer Darkly

3D Printer Error, Credit: FailThing

A short story based on a collaborative project I participated in, looking at three-dimensional printing in the near future. The gimmick is a travel itinerary.

Manhattan and the Mephistophelean Mind

I learned about the MONIAC in my high school marco-economics class: a.k.a. the Financephalograph or the Philips Hydraulic Computer, MONIAC was a massive machine, the size of two grandfather clocks bolted together, only instead of gears there was colored fluid inside, sluicing through tubes, pushing valves open and filling cisterns. Here, fluid was a metaphor for money, and by manipulating how much trickled through the system (pour in investments, drain out expenditures…) MONIAC could model Great Britain’s fiscal policy.

When the Rodeo Clowns Came

I live surrounded by retirees in rural Oklahoma. They are spry. They own arsenals of gardening equipment: lawnmower-tractor hybrids that grind through the fibrous local flora with cruel efficiency; they wield wicked contraptions, whirling motorized blades that allow withered men to sculpt hedges into forms of sublime and delectable complexity.

Three Buboes

To hurtle through space we had to live on asteroids; to live on asteroids, flesh and bone were rasped from our bodies. Glass blowers found three cavities in the porous galactic stone and blew bubbles to contain us. Topped us off with nutritious fluids, and pushed us out—

Destination Oklahoma: Route 66

What you really need to live here is a truck. Maybe not in the cities, but out here, in the foothills of the Ozarks, where the roads flood when the creek overflows its banks, and even traversing a parking lot means tumbling into tooth shattering ruts and axle scraping bumps: you do.

The Great Spy’s Dream

I asked Patrick if there was anything particularly useful he could pass on to me “about the CIA.” “The first thing to remember is that nobody connected to the Agency calls it the CIA. It’s plain CIA.”

—Harry Mathews, My Life in CIA. 

The Metropolitan Trilogy

After writing a spate of reasonably successful—and very autobiographical—novels, James Ellroy and Martin Amis took the cities surrounding them and used them as test beds, experimenting with new voices and forms and populating this familiar terrain with doppelgangers and villains and foils and sexual obsessions.

North Korea’s Nerve War

The Moranbong Band is best imagined as a North Korean version of Celtic Woman: an all-female ensemble band swaddled in fetching formalwear, blasting highly produced, energetic nationalist kitsch. Of course, no matter how much vigorous fiddling Chloe, Lisa, Susan and Mairead can manage, Celtic Woman is unlikely to attract as much scrutiny from intelligence agencies as the Moranbong Band’s cover of Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now”, which is perhaps better known as the theme from Rocky, and was performed – complete with a video backdrop featuring cuts of Sylvester Stallone working out – for none other than Kim Jong-un, the number one of the sinister and secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  

Destination: Oklahoma

Going West is an adventure. Maybe not as much as was when you had to take a covered wagon and float across the Mississippi and shoot bison along the way for food, but still, it’s a thrill. My wife and I decided we’d had enough of New York City. She’d been there almost fifteen years, I’d been there ten, and as ostensible creatives it seemed foolish to work 90 hours a week before we even began our “real work.”

Silicon Valley: Literary Capital of the 21st Century

Technology seeps into our imaginations, changes the way we think and the way we write. The novel may seem like a relic, a low-bandwidth version of virtual reality better suited to the 19th and 20th Centuries than today. But beneath its grim monochrome interface (a.k.a. “pages”) it glows like the neon-piped suits in Tron. Contemporary fiction is nearly as much a product of Silicon Valley as the integrated circuit.