WINK Review: What It Is

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My latest WINK review is for Lynda Barry’s bizarre and wonderful writing workshop in a dream-like book, What It Is.

This densely collaged book is utterly uncategorizable – so many modes of expression are at work here: a textbook/workbook on inspiring creative writing and cultivating creativity of all kinds, a comic-memoir of Barry’s personal struggles with creativity and self-expression as a child, a stunning and challenging piece of collage/altered book art, and a sort of extended fever dream on the nature of memory, imagination, play, and creativity.

Read the full review.

“An Evening with Gareth Branwyn,” at Salon Contra in DC, Next Monday

Join me next Monday, Sept 22, for a special Pink Line Project “Salon Contra” event.

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contraLogoAn Evening with Gareth Branwyn
Monday, September 22
6:30-8pm
@Pink Line Project HQ (details provided after RSVP)

Author and cyberculture pioneer, Gareth Branwyn, will be here to talk about his new book, Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems. If you’ve already been to one of Gareth’s DC readings, this will be slightly different, more interactive and conversational. Gareth will share stories around the book and his very colorful life, read a few passages, and he says he’s going to perform a magick ritual. Seriously. He’ll also have books for sale. RSVP here: info@pinklineproject.com

Hope to see you there!

A Tour Through Borg Like Me

I did a short video with my friend, videographer Rob Parrish, of me paging through the Sparks of Fire Press edition of Borg Like Me (with the bookplate, mini bookmark, and mail art envelope). This should give you a better idea of how lovely it is inside.

Pick up your own swanky copy here.

“Into the Future! The Making of Beyond Cyberpunk!” on Boing Boing

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Boing Boing is running an excerpt of Borg Like Me. It’s the full story of how we came to create the ground-breaking 1991 hypermedia electronic book, Beyond Cyberpunk!


Building a Cyberpunk “Data Bucket”

While Peter and I were anxious to get our hands dirty with hypermedia, I discovered a rather exhaustive list of cyberpunk sci-fi novels on The Well BBS and thought that might be a perfect subject for our stack. I’d been reading as much of this sci-fi subgenre of near-future worlds and high-tech low-lifes as I could get my hands on, so it was perfect fit. The idea was originally to create a “data bucket” into which we could just toss all of the information on cyberpunk that we found while surfing the Net. But, like a lot of hypermedia projects, once we started seeding our little pocket universe, Beyond Cyberpunk! quickly began teeming with lots of unexpected life. We soon decided to go all out, to make it as exhaustive as possible, and release it as a commercial product. At the time (1990), the Internet was not yet in the media spotlight. So-called cyberculture (where these near-future speculative worlds met the bleeding edge of real-life technoculture) was in its heyday, but known only on the cultural fringes. We could sense that all things “cyber” were about to bust into the mainstream and we wanted to chart the course cyberculture had taken, from its sci-fi and early hacker roots, through the Internet, and soon, we suspected, into everyday, mainstream life.

Read the rest of the piece.

And pick up your copy of the book here.

Me Being Interviewed on My Writing Habits

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Fun little interview on the productivity website, Lift, about my writing habits (or lack thereof).

In the time since you launched your kickstarter campaign, you’ve seemed to make steady incremental progress on bringing the book to market. What sort of daily habits would you recommend to a writer who’s trying to complete a book? Was there anything beyond “write every day” that helped you make progress?

In the Appendices of my book, I have a lengthy piece called “Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-­Less Writing.” One of those tips is “Writers Write!” It may sound painfully obvious, but it’s key. You have to do the work, put one word in front of the other. One of the other tips I have in there (taken from Anne Lamott’s highly­ recommended Bird By Bird) is to not be afraid of what she calls “Shitty First Drafts.” Don’t be afraid to just get your thoughts out there. Unvarnished. Don’t fear the blank page. You can edit what comes out into something usable. The best writing advice I ever got was to really cultivate two work heads, the writer’s head and the editor’s head. When writing, shut the editor off. Turn him/her on only after you have your shitty first draft.

Writing a book is not easy, it takes a lot of self ­discipline, and it’s something of a heroic quest, with many perils along the way, monsters to slay. But it is completely worth it if you have the tenacity and the courage to go on the quest. You are a different person when you finish from the person who started, tempered.

Read the entire interview.

WINK Review: Beautiful Darkness

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My review this week was for the lovely and intense “anti-fairly tale, Beautiful Darkness, by French comics writer Fabien Vehlmann and the husband and wife artist team Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset (known together as Kerascoët):

Beautiful Darkness begins at a lovely tea party with a Princess-like Aurora entertaining her would-be paramour, the dashing, princely Hector. She serves cakes and hot chocolate, aided by her friend and wannabe handmaiden, Plim. Everything is going swimmingly as the cooing couple lean in for their first kiss. Suddenly, the sky starts falling. Weeping, stinky pink goo begins to rain down all around and over them, into their cocoa, onto their heads. Soon they are struggling against drowning as the putrefaction fills the room. But as Aurora, now panicked and separated from the others, finally finds her opening to freedom, we realize that the thwarted tea party was inside the decaying corpse of a little girl in the woods. As the Lilliputian Aurora crawls from her nostril into the rainy darkness, a “wide shot” image shows dozens of other tiny people fleeing from every orifice of the decaying child.

And then the story becomes seriously sick, twisted, and sad.

Read the entire review here.

Ordering Borg Like Me FROM Me

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When you order the print edition directly from me, you get some extra goodies that you don’t get through Amazon (or anywhere else). First off, you get the beautiful letterpress-printed bookplate designed by Blake Maloof (my son and the resident artist at SoFP). The plate is tipped into the book and autographed. You also get a mini-bookmark featuring excerpts from the artwork in the book and it all comes inside a swanky enveloped embellished with custom rubber stamps that Blake and I designed. We like the idea of doing a very personalized mailing and we hope you enjoy the effort put into it.

I Did a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Here’s the Resulting Discussion

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Question: In the book The End of Absence, author Michael Harris points out that we are the last generation alive that remembers before the InterWebNet was born. I’m no Luddite, I may be online too much since my health forced me to quit my very physical work. I find it harder and harder not to want love and reinforcement from my social media “friends”. The 56K ping of a modem dialing still makes me smile. As a borg and jacked-in to the world as you are, how do you cut those wires, now invisible? Is it even possible?

Answer: You know, as someone who’s been such a breathless cheerleader of all this virtuality, I’m started to become annoyed with certain aspects of it — like the constant desire for “thumby” validation on FB, the endless selfies, and endless kitty-cat videos, pop culture memes, etc. I think, in many ways, the maker movement is a reaction to such overwhelming virtuality — going back to getting our hands dirty.

I think we’re going to need to learn to be far more digitally self-disciplined, to have unplugged days. I’ve been thinking about taking off from socmedia every other day, as an experiment. It’s staggering to think the amount of lost productivity to socmedia and online frivolity and self-absorption.

When my son was in grade school, they had a media literacy class, to teach kids how to be critical of media, advertising, internet content, etc. I think we need a similar thing for online presence/digital self-discipline: how to effectively manage your usage, how to parse socmedia content and weed out the growing satire/hoax content, how to balance online and offline human connections, and so forth. I think Doug Rushkoff is onto something with his recent book, Present Shock.

Read the entire discussion here.

Announcing the “Hard Launch” of Borg Like Me

We consider the July release of Borg Like Me to be a soft launch, designed to fulfill all of Kickstarter backer rewards and to work out all of the bugs for fulfillment. Now that all of that is sorted out and fall is upon us, it’s time to launch this baby with as much powder as we can pack into the motor tubes. Here is the release that’s going out to the press.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sept 2, 2014–Sparks of Fire Press is excited to announce the release of Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems, a best-of collection and “poor man’s memoir” from cyberculture pioneer and maker movement midwife, Gareth Branwyn. This heavily-illustrated, beautifully-produced book chronicles Branwyn’s personal and professional journey, from his coming of age in a commune, to his involvement in the 90s “zine scene” (desktop published small mags), to his tenure at such influential cyber arts/culture rags as Mondo 2000, bOING bOING, Wired, and his eight years at MAKE, spearheading the growing maker movement.

Previously published material is woven throughout with Branwyn’s unabashedly honest commentary, personal anecdotes, and original essays. Read about the smart-druggies behind Mondo 2000, impersonating Billy Idol in cyberspace (for Billy Idol), the making of the iconic early 90s hypermedia book, Beyond Cyberpunk! (hailed by MacWeek as “revolutionary”), and essays on the growth of the maker movement and Gareth’s elected “maker saints.”

Borg Like Me does not shy away from the personal dimensions of the author’s life during his 30 years of working in the new media trenches. Read about Gareth’s loves, loses, his struggles with a life-long, debilitating arthritic disease, and how he’s becoming a genuine cyborg in his intense desire to remain human.

Borg Like Me was crowdfunded (via a successful 2013 Kickstarter campaign), self-published, and is being printed on demand. Nearly two dozen noted artists contributed existing and original drawings, photos, and sculptural objects to illustrate the book. These contributors range from comic book well-knowns Shannon Wheeler, Danny Hellman, and John Bergin, to fine artists Terri Weifenbach and James Huckenpahler, to iconic found-object artists Jeremy Mayer, Greg Brotheron, and Nemo Gould. Even Mark Frauenfelder (Boing Boing founder and former editor at Wired and MAKE) contributed artwork (as well as the book’s touching foreword). The book contains 33 illustrations in all.

Borg Like Me is a smart, personal, and passionate trip along the bleeding edges of art, technology, and culture at the turn of the 21st century.

For more information:

703-615-7341, press@sparksoffirepress.com, sparksoffirepress.com

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Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems
Gareth Branwyn

List Price: $29.95
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Sparks of Fire Press (Sept 2, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0692233237
ISBN-13: 978-0692233238
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

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WINK Review: Bomb Run

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My latest review is for a lovely collection of 1950s-era war comics by Mad magazine’s Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin, and Will Elder:

Originally appearing in Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat in the early 50s, the comics in this collection were rather radical for their time. Even though they were war stories, created to appeal to a male, action-oriented audience, nearly every tale explores some tragic dimension of armed conflict. These are not romanticized, boyish ideals of war, but stories that unflinchingly look at the human costs of conflict. Nearly every story is drawn taught (both literally and figuratively), with lots of intense psychological and ironic twists and surprise endings.

Read the full review here.