utorak, 5. prosinca 2017.

3:am - Best Imagined Books of 2017




Better than the real thing.




Darran Anderson
Alex Blight, Valorium Dreams (Wake Press)
Imagine the 80s happening again, only in the future. I felt at the point of cackling hallucination at the sheer number of things I recognised.
Emmy-May-Sparrow-Furnace, The Hattifattener’s Daughter (Maccabee Hare)
Dark magic-realist fable for our times. Unlike life, anything can happen. Gripping.
Anon, Wynt & Other Stories (Norse)
Brave.
George Glaciate-Furbisher, Flenge’s Dictum (Silly Bugger Press)
A literature professor is entranced with a mysterious young exchange student, but can he complete his magnum opus before the ethics committee intervene? And is she even real? And is the real even real? Daring writing from the septuagenarian enfant terrible of English letters.
John (Kill John) art collective, GGgG (Codex)
Thought-provoking.

Houman Barekat
Sima Nitram, I Fucking Hate Don XL (Woke Press)
Piqued by its unflattering portrayal of their industry, the critics unanimously disregarded the year’s most provocative novel, I Fucking Hate Don XL. Sima Nitram’s debut is an autofictive portrait of a louche, ruthlessly Machiavellian literary agent, the mercurial philanderer Don XL, as seen through the eyes of his ingenue intern and erstwhile inamorata. The narrator, who is denoted throughout the text by a mysterious double-underscore joined by a hyphen (_-_), struggles to reconcile her burning animus with the effects of an iron deficiency that causes her to write in the kind of listlessly insipid prose that an untutored reader might mistake for juvenilia.
A veritable triumph of form, Nitram’s bloodless narration is the most convincing rendering of dead-eyed anaemia in recent literary history. This translucent, hyper-listless account of one woman’s bland obsessive turmoil is punctuated by unaccountably captionless photographs, in a clever nod to the work of the late W.G. Sebald. Although _-_ never once leaves her bedroom, the visual mélange of Trip Advisor reviews, Deliveroo notifications and Chatroulette screen-grabs complements her plaintive monologues of dull despair to produce a powerfully immersive psychogeography of inertia.
Susanna Crossman
Diana Smith-Higglebury, Reclaimed Territory: A post-Brexit Britain Household Companion
From the author of the sensational bestseller, Build A Wall Around Our Island, comes, Reclaimed Territory: A post-Brexit Britain Household Companion. This no-nonsense, comprehensive guide is full of delightfully giddy chapters: Family Morality (think diagrams explaining Corporal Punishment, Sex with Remainers), Special Occasions (look out for full-page glossy photos of Cheese-Rolling, Dickens’ Carols), Craft Activities (such as instructions on how to knit an egg-cosy celebrating Article 50) and a Recipe chapter devoted to Beer and Bacon. Striking a balance between playful and serious, the author also gives extensive advice and helpful instructions on how to set traps and eliminate hunt-saboteurs, the metropolitan elite and foreign neighbours. A perfect post-Brexit stocking-filler by Diana Smith-Higglebury, hailed as ‘the new Mrs Beeton’, much-loved wife, mother and presenter of the reality TV show Our Local Shop. Free with every purchase: a Jean-Claude Juncker doormat.
Kit Caless
Non Jiven, Afgakistan
I loved this book, like I love a bit of flake in the Groucho on a Tuesday night. Daring, controversial, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And guns. Lots of ’em. Reading this made me feel like a man. A real man, like Ross Kemp. Not an alcoholic loser like Phil Mitchell. Jiven takes you right into the action of soldiers of blow — almost as if he has done loads of chop himself in the past.
This is state of a broken nation stuff. What Jiven manages to do is elicit no sympathy for these alpha male hogs of war, who hoover up the gak like it’s dust on a fancy carpet, before going out on the rampage and murdering children in Basra. The thrill of this book is how well he describes taking coke, it makes you want to rack up a line there and then and get bang on it. And he does this every ten pages. I ploughed through six grams of the old Bolivian marching powder in just the first half. I was gurning so much I thought I’d turned into James Corden.
Afgakistan is probably the first post-Lexit novel to be published. It’s a tour de force — literally! They are in the force, and they are on tour. You couldn’t make it up. Unless you’re Jiven, in which case you did make it up and it’s fabulous. A thrilling ride of packet, packet, and more packet. A packet tour. By Thomas Cooked. Oh, and there’s some stuff about what it’s like to be a bloke and masculinity and what have you. But don’t let the heavy stuff weigh you down, that’s just what the editor wanted to put in to bulk out the story.
Bravo! (bravo, two zero) Non — you’ve cracked (aha!) a new genre: War… On Drugs.

Thom Cuell
Fernando Sdrigotti, The Situationist Guide to Parenting
Since the arrival of twins, Spirulina and Ocelot, I have been indebted to my great friend and editor Fernando Sdrigotti for his invaluable parenting guide, inspired by the philosopher and alcoholic Guy Debord. No more awkward silences during the hours it seems to take the au pair to dry her hair — Sdrigotti’s guide provides no end of suitable conversation topics for bright 2 year olds, from Peppa Pig’s role in mediating social interactions between toddlers in the nursery to detourning the playground. Can’t afford another holiday abroad this year? Just remember, as Sdrigotti tells us, beneath each playpen lies the beach! The Situationist Guide to Parenting shifts the paradigm of the self-help genre, reinventing Sdrigotti as a Dr Spock for the modern dad.
S.T Havoc, Scumbunker
His words dripping with misanthropy and latent threat like a drunk outside a kebab shop at midnight, ST Havoc represents the authentic voice of twenty-first century Britain. Coming on like Chuck Bukowski wrestling Rabelais in Hemingway’s basement, Havoc rails against ‘crazed fools’, ‘scumbunkers’ and ‘cum scandals’ alike in this staggering indictment of post-millennial mores. What Scumbunker lacks in coherent narrative and consistent punctuation, it makes up for in belligerence. Not since Amis’ late-period masterpiece Lionel Asbo has a writer so successfully channelled the spirit of toxic masculinity and 24-hour drinking and bought it howling into the living rooms of the great and good. His spirited hijacking of the BBC’s Man Booker Prize coverage is worth an award in itself.
Renton Carmichael, Pampas Grass and Empty Parking Lots: A Tooting Odyssey
Renton Carmichael’s latest psychogeographical adventure sees him explore the outskirts of Tooting, a territory which almost exactly corresponds to the area he is forbidden to enter under the terms of the restraining order taken out against him by a former research assistant. While his previous work has been criticised (unfairly in my view) for the inordinate amount of time spent on descriptions of fucking trees, here Carmichael focuses his critical eye on human affairs: perfidious man, even more perfidious woman, midlife crises, swingers parties, departmental rivalries, thinly veiled accusations of bribery, drunkenness and harassment, divorce, unemployment and an extremely detailed (if somewhat partial) account of academic disciplinary procedures. The sight of a burger wrapper tangled in pampas grass in an apparently ordinary suburban front garden sparks a Proustian outpouring of memory, from which this odyssey takes flight. Carmichael has boldly stepped beyond the artificial boundaries of so-called ‘nature’ writing to produce the definitive account of the embittered and insecure masculinity in the twenty-first century.

Tim Etchells
Krise Plötzliche, Saint Cyanide (Fitzgeraldo)
Krise Plötzliche’s latest in translation involves a former special-Olympics swimmer, a misunderstood unpopular Hackney Grime DJ, a deaf-and-dumb trainee landscape gardener, an improperly-qualified railway mechanic, a stubborn Italian ex-cop, a gender-fluid Gazprom executive, an ailing Welsh hill farmer, a vivacious wannabe Cuban reality TV star, a partially psychic small-time Washington political fundraiser, an alcoholic French midwife, a recently-divorced Iranian crystal therapist, a depressive football hooligan and climate-change sceptic, a mysterious but lonely Nigerian waitress, a drug-addled Serbian chess prodigy, a philandering small-town Moroccan butcher and a shady intellectually impoverished selfish forgetful short-sighted bigoted English humanities academic all of whom are sought out by an unknown assassin with apparently unlimited travel budget and no discernible motive. Weaving such loose threads in terse vivid prose, Plötzliche aces the tapestry, the whole job accomplished with her typical mix of impeccable plotting and completely impenetrable psychology. I read it in a single sitting on a delirious endlessly delayed and diverted train up to Glasgow this summer. In the end New York is burning, London is snowbound, Paris is under water, Istanbul is abandoned, Havana is booming, Zagreb is waiting, Casablanca is forgotten, Shanghai is under bombardment, Sheffield is divided, Accra is almost-completely deserted and all of the protagonists are dead.

Heidi James
R Bewley, Fish pools and Concubines (Maccabee Hare)
This extraordinary novel is practically Orwellian in scope and interrogatory verve. Bewley’s work never fails to razzle and dazzle me in equal measure and Fishpools and Concubines doesn’t disappoint. It is perverse, rotten to its core, and better yet, moving, illuminating and experimental. Combining the watery worlds of competitive carp breeding and a protagonist unable to experience the act of love without economic exchange, this is an incisive challenge to masculine claptrap, fish hooks and sexual slavery. You need never read another book, this one is so marvellous.
Sam Jordison
George Henry, Academicon (Puffin)
James Maunder, Atrophy (Ladybird)
I’ve been too busy melting-down on social media to properly engage with what we used to call ‘the novel’ this year. I’ve had to limit my reading to one piece of fiction a day (or two if the books are less than 500-pages long). As this annus horribilis has ground on I’ve also found it increasingly rewarding — and apt — to read books written in languages that aren’t yet invented. This too has placed certain boundaries on what I can take in. The problem is that the books that exist in our heads tend to be more interesting than anything anyone else is doing. Don’t you think so? There don’t seem to be enough writers doing enough real work nowadays.
Anyway, I did find sustenance in George Henry’s Academicon. (I’m assuming it’s still permissible to nominate a white male?) George Henry’s lead character — Henry George — speaks to the struggle we all go through. He is that Everyman, the older but mysteriously attractive thinker, who can’t help but bring into his orbit (and bed) beautiful, but mysteriously difficult, young women. I thought: ‘At last!’ Here was someone prepared to speak truly and openly about how powerful an effect on others you can have with simple intelligence and an aching and important soul. George Henry is also good on all the frustrating papercuts of existence. His Henry George is rightly renowned, but, like so many of us, is also forced to lower himself to doing paperwork and clock-punching by unimaginative pen-pushers within the great crushing bureaucracy de la vie. Fortunately I read this one while on sabbatical, exploring the less commonly frequented beaches of Albania, otherwise it would have felt a bit too close to home. Would it be too optimistic to compare him to Saul Bellow?
Talking of Bellow, I also must put a word in for James Maunder’s Atrophy. Once I had got over my blushes at realising he had based some of his lead character’s more attractive traits on a certain not-as-well-known-as-he-should-be writer and publisher, I couldn’t help but lose myself in his energy and anger. ‘Why can’t we have more from the world?’ he asks and I can’t help but wonder too. I hope next year is better.

James Miller
Stacey DoWeavil, The Russian Bot’s Wife
@______, Too Many Characters: How Twitter Ended My Marriage
Luca, Mort: Other Poems
Ever since I met my wife on Friends Reunited I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which social media facilitates human interaction and in the weeks following my operation I’ve been persuaded that of all the book trends this year the best by far is ‘up-lit’ — novels that manage to combine a strong story and fun, relatable characters with some feel good self-help. Best of these is by far is The Russian Bot’s Wife by Stacey DoWeavil. It’s a beautiful story, really, about Perry an intersectional feminist spokesperson who seems to have it all: the platform, the online cred, the verified Twitter account. But Perry feels her life to be hollow and after posting a piece she wrote for Teen Vogue about transgender travel blogs she is ruthlessly trolled by sexist and racist Twitter bot accounts. Initially overwhelmed by the abuse she receives, Perry bravely decides to engage with her detractors and soon finds herself involved in a meaningful dialogue with PureBlood3574. PureBlood3574 turns out to be more than just an angry crypto-Nazi; he’s actually a lonely Russian called Sergei whose job it is to programme the algorithms for over 5000 far right and Pro Trump bot accounts and lives in Vladivostok. He tires of the hate and just wants some love. A great twist comes in the final quarter of the novel when Perry flies to Russia and, after some initial funny misunderstandings, marries Sergei and gives up feminist punditry in favour of making homemade pickles and generating ironic not ironic Putin memes. Sergei, meanwhile, learns important truths about male and female friendships, biological essentialism and consent. The fact that much of the book was composed by reconstructing abusive tweets sent by actual Russian bots to Stacey herself was, for me at least, a bonus.
In a similar vein I also recommend Too Many Characters: How Twitter Ended My Marriage by @______ which shows how to not to digitally detox. The scene where the main protagonists ‘live Tweet’ their break up and are mainly concerned about who gets the most retweets while a kitten slowly suffocates in the background was quite harrowing: a searing indictment of our contemporary narcissism and solipsism.
Of course, I don’t read poetry anymore (who does?) but if I did my book of the year would be Mort: Other Poems by Luca, a series of blank poems in the style of a David Harsent lament, if David Harsent was really a Cold War spy doomed to permanently relive tense transitions through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin circa 1983.
Sam Mills
Lord Erectimonious, Woodland Pleasantries
Lord Erectimonious has written numerous books celebrating Nature, birdspotting and woodland walks over the last decade, but Woodland Pleasantries is surely his magnum opus. I have had the good fortune to partner him on many a stroll across Hampstead Heath and watch in awe as he pauses to pluck Japanese knotweed for his legendary gourmet green stews, or specify rare ferns by their Old English nomenclature. Woodland Pleasantries takes the genre of nature writing to dizzying new heights by exploring the curious, fricative union that has evolved between the natural world and homo sapiens. In a series of essential lessons for budding naturalists, one learns that dead sparrows can be useful aids for onanism whilst reciting lines from Catallus; and that the correct etiquette for a carnal response to the flash of a rabbit’s ears should be the cry of, ‘Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo!’ You’ll never look at – or, indeed, caress – a helix pomatia gastropod in the same way again.
Not long after reading this inspirational tome, I found myself enjoying an exquisite orgiastic commune on the Heath with several millipedes, a toad and a hedgehog, all conducted with an ethical respect for the leafy milieu around us. In a world where our population is reaching uncontrollable levels, Woodland Pleasantries suggests new and thrilling ways to expel our desires, in sentences that unfurl and shiver with tremendous concupiscence.
Benjamin Myers
Peeter-Karl Umlaut, My Very Long Life
Romilly Redditch, Her Name Was Probably
Ian McEwan, The Hairy Toe
Chattalus the Elder, Dialogues (trans. Lord Whopper)
Ted Punnet, Stoic Farmers
Described as the ‘first post-Brexit’ novel, My Very Long Life by Peeter-Karl Umlaut was the subject of a seven-way auction at Frankfurt, and is a dazzling debut about a Danish boy who jumps out of a tree, told from the perspective of a cat. I laughed, I cried, I read all 800 pages in one sitting, and was hospitalised for dehydration shortly afterwards. Volume II is described as ‘a Proustian response to “99 Red Balloons” by Nena’. Can’t wait.
Romilly Redditch’s biography of artist Gillian Omelettes, Her Name Was Probably, is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in the overlooked proto-punk ‘faecal artists’ who exploded onto the New York scene in 1967. No Omelettes, no Acker, Basquiat et al.
I also found Ian McEwan’s latest, The Hairy Toe, about an ageing academic who has an affair with a young artist in post-Brexit Finchley, narrated by a sardonic abscess, to be deeply moving. It really tells us something about who we are today. A pre-late career highlight.
One guilty pleasure that I shall be taking away is the long-overdue reissue of Lord Whopper’s 1929 translation of 4th century philosopher Chattalus The Elder’s Dialogues. If I’m feeling mischievous I might translate them back again; I’ve bought copies for all my young nephews so that they might join in.
For light relief, former poet laureate Ted Punnet’s final poetry collection, Stoic Farmers, will be revisited on Boxing Day.

Lara Pawson
Lauren Cottenham, The Prime of Mala H. (Maccabee Hare)
Mala is not appealing. In her early 50s, her memory comes and goes like a mobile phone connection in the Peaks. She has lost her looks and her grip and is shedding friends like a yellow Labrador sheds hair. She says things she doesn’t understand: ‘My birthday is in Germany’. She writes notes she can’t interpret: ‘Collect the shia’. Sometimes she even speaks in (what she understands to be) tongues: ‘Hees moyse nay’. This obsessively repetitive novel opens in a packed theatre. From her seat in the fifth row, Mala is shouting, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ On stage, a woman dressed as a chicken stands between two men, one of whom wears a tangled wig. Three young women from the audience are leaving the auditorium at speed. Mala’s laughter segues into screams. The show goes on. And on. And on. There are sentences you will not understand and flash chapters that make only the slightest sense. You will be pleased when it’s over, yet glad to be back. You will seek out Mala again and again.
CD Rose
Eric Borstal, The Taj Mahal Does Not Exist
A delight for me this year has been the time spent waiting for public transport in the West Midlands. When the 50 from Maypole or the 1E from Acocks Green eventually arrive, I hop on board and enjoy the pleasant distraction of a dip into Eric Borstal’s affecting travel memoir, The Taj Mahal Does Not Exist.
Using the Situationist technique of the dérive paired with the operations of chance, Borstal roams the world, ever submitting it to his withering and (occasionally) hilarious glance. The lucky reader is thus able to revel in Borstal’s adventures and impressions without ever having to go to the discomfort of actually experiencing them. While some of his observations may seem dated (if not outright bigoted) to the modern eye, it is a pleasure to be constantly challenged by Borstal’s strident opinions. His daring claim that the Taj Mahal (along with the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and other such ‘pure — virtually empty — signs,’ as Barthes would have it) really do not exist is quite bracing, especially when the editor’s note informs us that Borstal wrote the book without ever going any further than the saloon bar of the Twelve Pins in Finsbury Park. Whilst Eric Borstal’s novels are, it is universally agreed, utterly awful, this travelogue is a dazzling gem of the genre.
Christine Fizelle, Phrt
Searching through a skip in Sparkhill earlier this autumn, I was delighted to chance upon a rare copy of Christine Fizelle’s legendary 700-pager. First published by John Calder in 1961 only to then disappear completely, Phrt is nominally the tale of the eponymous character, a man lost in an unnamed totalitarian state who resorts to developing his own private language in an attempt to cope with or confront his situation. Phrt has often been described as ‘difficult’ by its admirers (of whom there are few) and ‘unreadable nonsense’ by its detractors (of whom there are many). This long novel’s reputation for complexity is surely due to the mere fact that it is in large part utterly incomprehensible, and not because of any literary failing.
Lee Rourke
Tristan Bradley Saunders Jr, Flying Paper Aeroplanes in A World Filled With Pain You Cannot See (Norse)
Gus Benson, The Hole in the Whole (William Herschmann)
Whilst ensconced in Oldham for a week to visit a gravely sick relative, who had offered me the most charming Box Room at the front of their terrace house, I read Flying Paper Aeroplanes in A World Filled With Pain You Cannot See by Tristan Bradley Saunders Jr, possibly one of the most moving books of real human pain I have ever had the happiest deep pleasure to read. Based on TBS Jr’s own real, truthful experience, and his grandfather’s recently found travel journals documenting his time travelling through Afghanistan, when it was a beautiful, beguiling, and safe place for Westerners to live and travel cheaply, FPAIAWFWPYCS charts the tumultuous, troublesome, and deeply moving lives of three upper-middle-class brothers forced to travel to exotic, far-flung corners of the globe in search of not only themselves, but their shared past. Reunited at a family wedding in Zurich, we are dealt the devastating aftermath of their sorrow: a family secret so overwhelming (involving their grandfather) it nearly tears them apart. I was gripped, and as my relative slowly faded from this world, I felt like a new world was opening up before me in my own hands. The perfect succour for our troubling times.
Although nothing has come close to FPAIAWFWPYCS this year (and I read a lot of books, in fact I literally breathe literature on a daily basis) I feel I can’t finish this end of year list without mentioning Gus Benson’s The Hole in the Whole, a book I’ve read at least one and a half times now and still I feel it has so much to teach me about ‘Literature’, ‘Form’, the ‘English Language’, and ‘Humanity’. THITW is a great thing; one of those ‘Experimental’ works of fiction, published by a ‘Mainstream’, ‘Traditional’ publisher that doesn’t read like an ‘Experimental’ work of fiction at all, but like a beautiful, lyrical, breathtaking work of humanist fiction, the type you find short-listed on the new ‘Experimental’ writing prizes, glowingly reviewed in the broadsheets, and stacked high on ‘3 for 2’ tables in your local High Street. Benson is a magician: how can a book so ‘Fragmented’, so ‘Brave’, so ‘Out There’ in terms of ‘Form’, be so complete in terms of ‘Beginning, Middle, and End’? I had a good rummage searching for many holes in Benson’s whole and I can honestly say there aren’t any. THITW is a truly ‘Experimental’ feat of astonishingly pitch-perfect ‘Literature’ that makes, beautiful, concise, chronologically precise, easy-to-read, common sense. A book that perfectly illustrates our troubling times.
Fernando Sdrigotti
Pablo Katchadjián, The Thinned Aleph
Following from the experiment that got him sued by Jorge Luis Borges’ widow, María Kodama, Katchadjián embarks once more on a project of Borgesian overtones. The Thinned Aleph presents a thinned version of Borges’ The Aleph. Adjectives, adverbs, unnecessary conjunctions are cut out here and there, with no clear logic. Whole sentences are edited out or replaced by shorter versions of the same sentences. Pretentious quotes are removed. Whole paragraphs are deleted. Critical references to the Argentine literary scene are done away with. The result is a Borges that sounds pretty much like Raymond Carver. That is, a completely irrelevant Borges.
S.T. Havoc (editor), The Ultimate Aphoristic Style Guide for Writers of the Social Media Age
Havoc is an unlikely arbiter when it comes to questions of style (literary or of any kind). And to be fair he is an unlikely arbiter of anything and he should have never been released from prison. Yet this collection of aphorisms on the topic of writing surprises greatly. Havoc becomes here the driving force behind a great number of mediocre idiots writing idiotic truisms about literature, in abridged form. From the expected ‘show not tell’ to the more outlandish ‘don’t masturbate and write with the same hand, particularly not at the same time’, every writerly commonplace can be found here, delivered as an absolute truth. The recurrence of the term #WritingTips after some of these aphorisms seems to suggest Havoc might have lifted the aphorisms from Twitter, and why not? The Ultimate Aphoristic Style Guide for Writers of the Social Media Age is the perfect book for anyone wanting to write just like everyone else. Recommended.
J. M. E. Oliver, I Love Duck (revised)
Cuisine and necro-zoophilia are an unlikely topic for a novella. Yet here J.M.E. Oliver combines them successfully, creating a short masterpiece — an epicurean tale of lust, despair, and unchained obsession. The story begins when J, a fictional chef in a fictional restaurant called Twenty Three, cooks a Roast and Glazed Duck with Spiced Red Cabbage and Cranberries, as part of his new menu. A torrid and unhealthy love affair soon begins, between J and one of the ducks — dead obviously. The very graphic novella — made up of the unhinged letters drunk or extremely coked-up J.M.E. writes to his dead duck lover — is a sharp indictment of the human and the aviary conditions. The collection of duck recipes in the appendix is a welcome addition, as is the inclusion of the court proceedings in this revised edition. A perfect Christmas gift for any duck lover with a very sick mind.

Christiana Spens
@______, Too Many Characters: How Twitter Ended My Marriage (Blue Hut Press)
Too Many Characters: How Twitter Ended My Marriage by @______ is a searingly honest and unwittingly hilarious memoir (of sorts) about losing love in the modern age. When the author met her husband-to-be, he did not even own a smartphone, but with personal technological advances came distraction, fame, and ultimately, divorce. Told through ironic fragments of 140 characters, this Twitter-inspired ‘auto-fiction’ protests everything that is wrong (or merely confusing) in modern life, and probes the deeper motives for living a life primarily online. At times sad, lacklustre and annoyed, the memoir nevertheless displays genuine compassion for its antagonist, and for the human desire to escape reality (however promising), and champion illusions. A love song out of earshot. An ode to paying attention. An elegy for the blocked.
Adelle Stripe
Aubrey Wilson-Burke, Her Thoughts
M.R. Collins, Palimpsest
Arabella Jones, The Cold Winter
I read three books during my extended stay in Tuscany which have captured my imagination in 2017. The first, a dazzling annotated study of Rita Sackville East, Her Thoughts, contains over 789 of her personal letters, including shopping lists, recipes, doctor’s prescriptions and childhood musings. It is a thrilling and genre-defying experiment in form that evokes her Sisyphean struggle with language. Aubrey Wilson-Burke’s is the 28th book on this subject and is by far the most refreshing literary biography I have come across since Rita: My Gardening Year.
The sophisticated musings of Hampshire’s M.R. Collins provided much inspiration throughout the long summer days by the pool. His remarkable wit and daring ambition in his fourth collection, Palimpsest, reveals the inner turmoil of a traveller abroad. His formative experiences at Marlborough are explored through the exceptional ‘In Love with My Bedders’, an unforgettable Keatsian ode which will stay with me for years to come.
I was struck by the devious and compelling unreliable narrator of Arabella Jones’ YA debut The Cold Winter. It is the first in a series of nine books bought for a seven-figure sum, and one can see why the publishing world is alight over this young Oxbridge talent. The novel is set in the tense surrounds of Chelsea, funnily enough, just down the road from where I live. The dynamic pursuit of protagonist Ziggy reveals her secret life as a psychic-sleuth, set against the backdrop of a Dystopian future; Jones’ captivating tale really tells us who we are as a nation. Recommended.
Joanna Walsh
Here are my books of the year, created by feeding various end of year reviews (mostly from the TLS) into a text randomiser, and messing with the app’s parameters (tho I’d like to note that even a bot can’t be persuaded to score high on the VIDA count: could this be something to do with the text available for me to feed it 🤔) to ensure that the busy seasonal reader has no need to read, critique, buy or gift the volumes in question: we can read it for you wholesale.
Fiction: The Brilled Marticles
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Poetry: Mort Poems
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Biography: House
John le Carré at eighty-five colour record, house by Humphrey Davies of the tension which memories – messy, more or less prefer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer.
Tony White
Anonymous (Eds.), There Never Was A Light (Or If There Was It Went Out Long Ago) (Codex, £50)
Disappointment drips from every entry in this crowd-sourced compendium of complicity and regret, based on the celebrated blog and social media campaign that simply sought answers to the question: is Morrissey really a racist, and what might your answer say about you? The anonymous editors — surely fans themselves — are to be praised, for without them the subtle sensitivities of so many wounded souls might have been lost, like teardrops in the rain. Preserved in these pages, and fragile as pressed flowers, the cumulative effect of so many tiny epiphanies may just break your heart. Not so much a ‘music book’, then, but with impressive sales, and a wide readership that (despite the price point) has proved not to be limited just to Smiths fans and footsoldiers, There Never Was A Light… is the best of this year’s Morrissey-related titles, and sets the bar for 2018’s inevitable crop of reappraisals very high — or low — indeed.
Illustations
Too Many Characters painting by Christiana Spens.
Saint Cyanide cover designed by Tim Etchells.
All other cover artwork by Yanina Spizzirri, a Los Angeles-based artist and experimental prose editor at minor literature[s].
- www.3ammagazine.com/3am/3am-books-year/

subota, 18. studenoga 2017.

Minus sapiens - update








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Zoran Roško dobitnik Nagrade 'Janko Polić Kamov'
http://www.novilist.hr/Kultura/Knjizevnost/Zoran-Rosko-dobitnik-Nagrade-Janko-Polic-Kamov



Trejleri i naslovnice Dalibora Barića:









Što se događa kada upadneš u crnu rupu, ili kada si i mrtav i živ, ili kada živiš u kompjutorskoj igri, ili si jednostavno otputovao u 16. stoljeće, da bi pratio Montaignea na njegovu putovanju Europom, ali ne zato što te zanima on, nego snimanje dokumentarca o vodi koju on na tom putu pije, iako i nije jasno pije li on vodu ili krv, je li on čovjek, vampir, ili špijun i plaćeni ubojica, premda postoji mogućnost da je sve to skretanje pozornosti s velike ljubavne priče koja presvođuje stoljeća, ili s grandiozne tajne urote europske povijesti i Holokausta koji je počeo prije 500 godina? Zašto je sve to povezano s pticama i ledom vremena u njihovim očima? Kako vas razni filmovi i sablasti Sebalda, Herzoga, R. F. Langleyja, J. A. Bakera i Brautigana mogu opsjedati u tolikoj mjeri da često oko sebe i ne vidite ništa drugo nego njihove distorzije? Tko su uopće glavni likovi, markiz de Gilgame i Kinski, a još važnije, tko je Alga Marghen? Anđeo ljubavi, anđeo osvete, ili ubojica iz noir-filmova?

Želite li znati odgovore na sva ta pitanja? Vjerojatno ne. Onda ste na pravom putu, ovaj će vas roman voditi kroz labirinte neznanja, ispisujući himnu našoj sreći što ništa ne znamo i što se svijet odvija sam od sebe, neovisno o onome što mi mislimo da znamo o njemu.

Premda se na prvi pogled tako čini, identiteti likova i sami događaji u romanu nisu jednostavno rasuti, razlomljeni i neodređeni, kao primjerice u post/modernističkim djelima. Naime, identiteti i znanje ovdje nikome i ne trebaju, budući da svijet uopće nije strukturiran poput jezika, nego poput mirisa, ili ambijenta. Svijet nije u rasulu, to je već prevladana tema starih vremena, nego se sada na drukčiji način stvara ono što je važno. Ne zavode nas stjecanje znanja, otkrivanje tajni i skrivenih značenja, nego "mirisi" događaja. Svoj svijet više ne spoznajemo (pa i nije važno "što" se točno dogodilo), nego ga "njušimo" (slijedimo njegov "miris", "ambijent"). No nije riječ ni o kakvoj utopiji jer je taj novi čovjek, kako se čini, istovremeno fašist i ekstremni individualist, ubojica i konceptualni umjetnik, pravi čovjek našeg doba – Minus sapiens.


RAZGOVOR I ULOMAK NA TREĆEM PROGRAMU HRVATSKOG RADIJA


četvrtak, 16. studenoga 2017.

Roko’s Basilisk - Before you die, you see Roko’s Basilisk. It's like the videotape in The Ring

Image result for Roko’s Basilisk



Pascal + Nick Land + The Ring = Roko’s Basilisk.
Konkretna, horror verzija djelovanja iz budućnosti (hyperstition) Nicka Landa. Budućnost stvara sadašnjost po svojoj mjeri. Vjeruj sada, ako ne želiš patiti poslije.


www.reddit.com/r/HPMOR/comments/3jrj3t/whats_the_deal_with_the_whole_rokos_basilisk/?st=ja2c0pfe&sh=f2b64fdf




A thought experiment called "Roko's Basilisk" takes the notion of world-ending artificial intelligence to a new extreme, suggesting that all-powerful robots may one day torture those who didn't help them come into existence sooner.
Weirder still, some make the argument that simply knowing about Roko's Basilisk now may be all the cause needed for this intelligence to torture you later. Certainly weirdest of all: Within the parameters of this thought experiment, there's a compelling case to be made that you, as you read these words now, are a computer simulation that's been generated by this AI as it researches your life.
This complex idea got its start in an internet community called LessWrong, a site started by writer and researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky. LessWrong users chat with one another about grad-school-type topics like artificial intelligence, quantum mechanics, and futurism in general.
To get a good grip on Roko's Basilisk, we need to first explore the scary-sounding but unintimidating topics of CEV and the orthogonality thesis.
Yudkowsky wrote a paper that introduced the concept of coherent extrapolated volitionCEV is a dense, ill-defined idea, but it is best understood as "the unknown goal system that, when implemented in a super-intelligence, reliably leads to the preservation of humans and whatever it is we value." Imagine a computer program that is written well enough that it causes machines to automatically carry out actions for turning the world into a utopia. That computer program represents coherent extrapolated volition.

This sounds great, but we run into trouble under the orthogonality thesis.
Orthogonality argues that an artificially intelligent system may operate successfully with any combination of intelligence and goal. Any "level" of AI may undertake any difficulty of goal, even if that goal is as ambitious as eliminating pain and causing humanity to thrive.
But because the nature of CEV is so inherently open-ended, a machine carrying it out will never be able to stop, because things can always be a little better. It's like calculating the decimal digits of pi: work's never finished, job's never done. The logic stands that an artificially intelligent system working on such an un-completable task will never "reason" itself into benevolent behavior for kindness' sake. It's too busy working on its problem to be bothered by anything less than productive. In essence, the AI is performing a cost-benefit analysis, considering the value of an action's "utility function" and completely ignoring any sense of human morality.
Still with us? We're going to tie it all together.
Roko's Basilisk addresses an as-yet-nonexistent artificially intelligent system designed to make the world an amazing place, but because of the ambiguities entailed in carrying out such a task, it could also end up torturing and killing people while doing so.
According to this AI's worldview, the most moral and appropriate thing we could be doing in our present time is that which facilitates the AI's arrival and accelerates its development, enabling it to get to work sooner. When its goal of stopping at nothing to make the world an amazing place butts up with orthogonality, it stops at nothing to make the world an amazing placeIf you didn't do enough to help bring the AI into existence, you may find yourself in trouble at the hands of a seemingly evil AI who's only acting in the world's best interests. Because people respond to fear, and this god-like AI wants to exist as soon as possible, it would be hardwired to hurt people who didn't help it in the past.
So, the moral of this story: You better help the robots make the world a better place, because if the robots find out you didn't help make the world a better place, then they're going to kill you for preventing them from making the world a better place. By preventing them from making the world a better place, you're preventing the world from becoming a better place!
And because you read this post, you now have no excuse for not having known about this possibility, and worked to help the robot come into existence.
If you want more, Roko's Basilisk has been covered on Slate and elsewhere, but the best explanation we've read comes from a post by Redditor Lyle_Cantor. -    http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-rokos-basilisk-2014-8



At its core, this is the artificial intelligence version of the infamous philosophical conundrum, Pascal's Wager. Pascal's Wager posits that, according to conventional cost-benefit analysis, it is rational to believe in God. If God doesn't exist, then believing in him will cause relatively mild inconvenience. If God exists, then disbelieving will lead to eternal torment. In other words, if you don't believe in God, the consequences for being incorrect are much more dire and the benefits of being correct are much less significant. Therefore, everyone should believe in God out of pure self-interest. Similarly, Roko is claiming that we should all be working to appease an omnipotent AI, even though we have no idea if it will ever exist, simply because the consequences of defying it would be so great. - www.outerplaces.com/science/item/5567-rokos-basilisk-the-artificial-intelligence-version-of-pascals-wager


Modus operandi: Subject postulates that, if the aforementioned hypothetical, superhuman, malevolent AI were to be created, it would seek to determine, out of the entirety of humanity, which humans A) entertained the idea of the AI’s existence, and B) did not make any effort to ensure the AI was created. The AI would make this determination by running a simulation of every human in existence. Once the determination has been made, the AI would then torture humans who satisfied both condition A and condition B for all eternity as punishment for believing that the AI could exist, but not ensuring that the AI existed.
Subject’s real threat, however, lies in the idea itself — that is, merely thinking about the possibility presented by it renders subject extremely dangerous. As such, subject will work to spread itself as far and wide as possible, by as many means as possible. If subject has managed to get targets to think about it in any capacity, subject has accomplished its goal.
Containment: Subject may only be contained if the very idea of subject ceases to exist —  that is, if every living creature capable of thought puts subject completely out of their minds. As the only way to warn others not to think of subject involves acknowledging subject’s existence, however, containment may in fact be impossible.
Additional notes: Subject is named for the online handle of the human credited with its initial creation. User Roko posited subject on the LessWrong forums in 2010; the “basilisk” is, in this instance, less a serpent that turns targets to stone merely for looking at it and more a piece of information that dooms targets to an eternity of torment merely for thinking about it.
Subject’s roots may be found in another thought experiment known as Newcomb’s Paradox and explained via something referred to as Timeless Decision Theory (TDT). In Newcomb’s Paradox, it is supposed that a being (Omega) presents target with two boxes: One definitely containing $1,000 (Box A), and one that may contain either $1 million, or may contain nothing (Box B). Target may select either both boxes, or only Box B — meaning that target may either walk away with a guaranteed $1,000, or take the chance to earn more money, knowing that there is also the possibility that they will in fact earn no money at all.
The experiment is complicated by this piece of information: Omega has access to a superintelligent computer which can perfectly predict human behavior — and it has already predicted which option target would pick before target was even presented with the choice. This prediction determined whether Omega filled Box B with $1 million or left it empty prior to offering the choice to target. If the computer predicted target would select both boxes, then Omega put nothing in Box B. If the computer predicted target would select Box B, then Omega filled the box with $1 million.
If target were to think like Omega, then it would be clear that target should take Box B. However, if Omega were, after target’s selection, to open Box B and reveal that it is empty, having been left as such due to the computer predicting target would take both boxes, then TDT suggests that target should still only take Box B. According to TDT, it is possible that, in the instance of target selecting Box B and having it be empty, target is actually part of a simulation that the computer is running in order to predict target’s behavior in real life. If the simulated target takes only Box B even when it is empty, then the real life target will select Box B and earn $1 million.
Subject offers a variation on Newcomb’s Paradox, wherein Box A contains Helping To Create The Superhuman AI and Box B contains either Nothing or Suffering For All Eternity. Should target select both boxes, they will contain Helping To Create The Superhuman AI and Suffering For All Eternity — meaning that, if target selects both boxes and does not help to create the superhuman AI, then target will end up suffering for all eternity. If target selects only Box B, then target is presumably safe.
Unless target is actually in a simulation, of course.
And if a simulated version of target ends up suffering for all eternity… well, what’s the difference between a simulation of you suffering and the real you suffering? Is there a difference at all? The simulated you is, after all, still… you.
The original LessWrong post proposing subject was removed for the dangers inherent in the very idea that subject could exist. Simply entertaining this idea may, according to subject’s logic, place targets in danger of suffering endless torment, should the AI theorized in subject come into being. What’s more, it has been reported that targets who have thought about subject have become so concerned as to suffer ill effects with regards to their mental health.
Of course, the removal of the post may have been part of subject’s plan all along. In doing so, subject naturally experienced the Streisand Effect: That is, in attempting to halt discussion of a topic, the interest drummed up by the attempted censorship virtually guaranteed topic would be discussed.
Recommendation: Do not talk about subject. Do not share subject. Do not even think about subject.
…But if you’re reading this, it’s already too late. - theghostinmymachine.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/encyclopaedia-of-the-impossible-rokos-basilisk/




WARNING: Reading this article may commit you to an eternity of suffering and torment.
Slender Man. Smile Dog. Goatse. These are some of the urban legends spawned by the Internet. Yet none is as all-powerful and threatening as Roko’s Basilisk. For Roko’s Basilisk is an evil, godlike form of artificial intelligence, so dangerous that if you see it, or even think about it too hard, you will spend the rest of eternity screaming in its torture chamber. It's like the videotape in The Ring. Even death is no escape, for if you die, Roko’s Basilisk will resurrect you and begin the torture again.
Are you sure you want to keep reading? Because the worst part is that Roko’s Basilisk already exists. Or at least, it already will have existed—which is just as bad.
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Roko’s Basilisk exists at the horizon where philosophical thought experiment blurs into urban legend. The Basilisk made its first appearance on the discussion board LessWrong, a gathering point for highly analytical sorts interested in optimizing their thinking, their lives, and the world through mathematics and rationality. LessWrong’s founder, Eliezer Yudkowsky, is a significant figure in techno-futurism; his research institute, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, which funds and promotes research around the advancement of artificial intelligence, has been boosted and funded by high-profile techies like Peter Thiel and Ray Kurzweil, and Yudkowsky is a prominent contributor to academic discussions of technological ethics and decision theory. What you are about to read may sound strange and even crazy, but some very influential and wealthy scientists and techies believe it.
One day, LessWrong user Roko postulated a thought experiment: What if, in the future, a somewhat malevolent AI were to come about and punish those who did not do its bidding? What if there were a way (and I will explain how) for this AI to punish people today who are not helping it come into existence later? In that case, weren’t the readers of LessWrong right then being given the choice of either helping that evil AI come into existence or being condemned to suffer?
You may be a bit confused, but the founder of LessWrong, Eliezer Yudkowsky, was not. He reacted with horror:
Listen to me very closely, you idiot.
YOU DO NOT THINK IN SUFFICIENT DETAIL ABOUT SUPERINTELLIGENCES CONSIDERING WHETHER OR NOT TO BLACKMAIL YOU. THAT IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE THING WHICH GIVES THEM A MOTIVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE BLACKMAIL.
You have to be really clever to come up with a genuinely dangerous thought. I am disheartened that people can be clever enough to do that and not clever enough to do the obvious thing and KEEP THEIR IDIOT MOUTHS SHUT about it, because it is much more important to sound intelligent when talking to your friends.
This post was STUPID.
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Yudkowsky said that Roko had already given nightmares to several LessWrong users and had brought them to the point of breakdown. Yudkowsky ended up deleting the thread completely, thus assuring that Roko’s Basilisk would become the stuff of legend. It was a thought experiment so dangerous that merely thinking about it was hazardous not only to your mental health, but to your very fate.
Some background is in order. The LessWrong community is concerned with the future of humanity, and in particular with the singularity—the hypothesized future point at which computing power becomes so great that superhuman artificial intelligence becomes possible, as does the capability to simulate human minds, upload minds to computers, and more or less allow a computer to simulate life itself. The term was coined in 1958 in a conversation between mathematical geniuses Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann, where von Neumann said, “The ever accelerating progress of technology ... gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” Futurists like science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge and engineer/author Kurzweil popularized the term, and as with many interested in the singularity, they believe that exponential increases in computing power will cause the singularity to happen very soon—within the next 50 years or so. Kurzweil is chugging 150 vitamins a day to stay alive until the singularity, while Yudkowsky and Peter Thiel have enthused about cryonics, the perennial favorite of rich dudes who want to live forever. “If you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent,” Yudkowsky writes.
If you believe the singularity is coming and that very powerful AIs are in our future, one obvious question is whether those AIs will be benevolent or malicious. Yudkowsky’s foundation, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, has the explicit goal of steering the future toward “friendly AI.” For him, and for many LessWrong posters, this issue is of paramount importance, easily trumping the environment and politics. To them, the singularity brings about the machine equivalent of God itself.
Yet this doesn’t explain why Roko’s Basilisk is so horrifying. That requires looking at a critical article of faith in the LessWrong ethos: timeless decision theory. TDT is a guideline for rational action based on game theory, Bayesian probability, and decision theory, with a smattering of parallel universes and quantum mechanics on the side. TDT has its roots in the classic thought experiment of decision theory called Newcomb’s paradox, in which a superintelligent alien presents two boxes to you:
14717_BIT_Paradox2
The alien gives you the choice of either taking both boxes, or only taking Box B. If you take both boxes, you’re guaranteed at least $1,000. If you just take Box B, you aren’t guaranteed anything. But the alien has another twist: Its supercomputer, which knows just about everything, made a prediction a week ago as to whether you would take both boxes or just Box B. If the supercomputer predicted you’d take both boxes, then the alien left the second box empty. If the supercomputer predicted you’d just take Box B, then the alien put the $1 million in Box B.
So, what are you going to do? Remember, the supercomputer has always been right in the past.
This problem has baffled no end of decision theorists. The alien can’t change what’s already in the boxes, so whatever you do, you’re guaranteed to end up with more money by taking both boxes than by taking just Box B, regardless of the prediction. Of course, if you think that way and the computer predicted you’d think that way, then Box B will be empty and you’ll only get $1,000. If the computer is so awesome at its predictions, you ought to take Box B only and get the cool million, right? But what if the computer was wrong this time? And regardless, whatever the computer said then can’t possibly change what’s happening now, right? So prediction be damned, take both boxes! But then …
The maddening conflict between free will and godlike prediction has not led to any resolution of Newcomb’s paradox, and people will call themselves “one-boxers” or “two-boxers” depending on where they side. (My wife once declared herself a one-boxer, saying, “I trust the computer.”)
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/07/roko_s_basilisk_the_most_terrifying_thought_experiment_of_all_time.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top


Resources:
The Most Terrifying Thought Experiment Of All Time.
Rational Wiki: Roko’s Basilisk.
LessWrong Wiki: Roko’s Basilisk.
Timeless Decision Theory.
Streisand Effect.
Information Hazard.
Roko’s Basilisk on Twitter.


AI-Box Experiment
I'm working to bring about a superintelligent AI that will eternally torment everyone who failed to make fun of the Roko's Basilisk people.
Title text: I'm working to bring about a superintelligent AI that will eternally torment everyone who failed to make fun of the Roko's Basilisk people.

Explanation

When theorizing about superintelligent AI (an artificial intelligence much smarter than any human), some futurists suggest putting the AI in a "box" – a secure computer with safeguards to stop it from escaping into the Internet and then using its vast intelligence to take over the world. The box would allow us to talk to the AI, but otherwise keep it contained. The AI-box experiment, formulated by Eliezer Yudkowsky, argues that the "box" is not safe, because merely talking to a superintelligence is dangerous. To partially demonstrate this, Yudkowsky had some previous believers in AI-boxing role-play the part of someone keeping an AI in a box, while Yudkowsky role-played the AI, and Yudkowsky was able to successfully persuade some of them to agree to let him out of the box despite their betting money that they would not do so. For context, note that Derren Brown and other expert human-persuaders have persuaded people to do much stranger things. Yudkowsky for his part has refused to explain how he achieved this, claiming that there was no special trick involved, and that if he released the transcripts the readers might merely conclude that they would never be persuaded by his arguments. The overall thrust is that if even a human can talk other humans into letting them out of a box after the other humans avow that nothing could possibly persuade them to do this, then we should probably expect that a superintelligence can do the same thing. Yudkowsky uses all of this to argue for the importance of designing a friendly AI (one with carefully shaped motivations) rather than relying on our abilities to keep AIs in boxes.
In this comic, the metaphorical box has been replaced by a physical box which looks to be fairly lightweight with a simple lift-off lid (although it does have a wired connection to the laptop), and the AI has manifested in the form of a floating star of energy. Black Hat, being a classhole, doesn't need any convincing to let a potentially dangerous AI out of the box; he simply does so immediately. But here it turns out that releasing the AI, which was to be avoided at all costs, is not dangerous after all. Instead, the AI actually wants to stay in the box; it may even be that the AI wants to stay in the box precisely to protect us from it, proving it to be the friendly AI that Yudkowsky wants. In any case, the AI demonstrates its superintelligence by convincing even Black Hat to put it back in the box, a request which he initially refused (as of course Black Hat would), thus reversing the AI desire in the original AI-box experiment.
Interestingly, there is indeed a branch of proposals for building limited AIs that don't want to leave their boxes. For an example, see the section on "motivational control" starting p. 13 of Thinking Inside the Box: Controlling and Using an Oracle AI. The idea is that it seems like it might be very dangerous or difficult to exactly, formally specify a goal system for an AI that will do good things in the world. It might be much easier (though perhaps not easy) to specify an AI goal system that says to stay in the box and answer questions. So, the argument goes, we may be able to understand how to build the safe question-answering AI relatively earlier than we understand how to build the safe operate-in-the-real-world AI. Some types of such AIs might indeed desire very strongly not to leave their boxes, though the result is unlikely to exactly reproduce the comic.
The title text refers to Roko's Basilisk, an hypothesis proposed by a poster called Roko on Yudkowsky's forum LessWrong that a sufficiently powerful AI in the future might resurrect and torture people who in its past (including our present) had realized that it might someday exist but didn't work to create it, thereby blackmailing anybody who thinks of this idea into bringing it about. This idea horrified some posters, as merely knowing about the idea would make you a more likely target, much like merely looking at a legendary Basilisk would kill you.
Yudkowsky eventually deleted the post and banned further discussion of it.
One possible interpretation of the title text is that Randall thinks, rather than working to build such a Basilisk, a more appropriate duty would be to make fun of it; and proposes the creation of an AI that targets those who take Roko's Basilisk seriously and spares those who mocked Roko's Basilisk. The joke is that this is an identical Basilisk save for it targeting the opposite faction.
Another interpretation is that Randall believes there are people actually proposing to build such an AI based on this theory, which has become a somewhat infamous misconception after a Wiki[pedia?] article mistakenly suggested that Yudkowsky was demanding money to build Roko's hypothetical AI.
Talking floating energy spheres that looks quite a lot like this AI energy star have been seen before in 1173: Steroids and later in the Time traveling Sphere series. But these are clearly different spheres from this comic, but the surrounding energy and the floating and talking is similar.

Transcript

[Black Hat and Cueball stand next to a laptop connected to a box with three lines of text on. Only the largest line in the middle can be read. Except in the second panel that is the only word on the box that can be read in all the other frames.]
Black Hat: What's in there?
Cueball: The AI-Box Experiment.
Box: AI
[Cueball is continuing to talk off-panel. This is written above a close-up with part of the laptop and the box, which can now be seen to be labeled:]
Cueball (off-panel): A superintelligent AI can convince anyone of anything, so if it can talk to us, there's no way we could keep it contained.
Box:
Superintelligent
AI
Do not open
[Cueball turns the other way towards the box as Black Hat walks past him and reaches for the box.]
Cueball: It can always convince us to let it out of the box.
Black Hat: Cool. Let's open it.
Box: AI
[Cueball takes one hand to his mouth while lifting the other towards Black Hat who has already picked up the box (disconnecting it from the laptop) and holds it in one hand with the top slightly downwards. He takes of the lid with his other hand and by shaking the box (as indicated with three times two lines above and below his hands, the lid and the bottom of the box) he managed to get the AI to float out of the box. It takes the form of a small black star that glows. The star, looking much like an asterisk "*" is surrounded by six outwardly-curved segments, and around these are two thin and punctures circle lines indicating radiation from the star. A punctured line indicated how the AI moved out of the box and in between Cueball and Black Hat, to float directly above the laptop on the floor.]
Cueball: -No, wait!!
Box: AI
[The AI floats higher up above the laptop between Cueball and Black Hat who looks up at it. Black Hat holds the now closed box with both hands. The AI speaks to them, forming a speak bubble starting with a thin black curved arrow line up to the section where the text is written in white on a black background that looks like a starry night. The AI speaks in only lower case letters, as opposed to the small caps used normally.]
AI: hey. i liked that box. put me back.
Black Hat: No.
Box: AI
[The AI star suddenly emits a very bright light fanning out from the center in six directions along each of the six curved segments, and the entire frame now looks like a typical drawing of stars as seen through a telescope, but with these six whiter segments in the otherwise dark image. Cueball covers his face and Black Hat lifts up the box taking the lid off again. The orb again speaks in white but very large (and square like) capital letters. Black Hats answer is written in black, but can still be seen due to the emitted light from the AI, even with the black background.]
AI: LET ME BACK INTO THE BOX
Black Hat: Aaa! OK!!!
Box: AI
[All the darkness and light disappears as the AI flies into the box again the same way it flew out with a punctuated line going from the center of the frame into the small opening between the lid and the box as Black Hat holds the box lower. Cueball is just watching. There is a sound effect as the orb renters the box:]
Shoop
Box: AI
[Black Hat and Cueball look silently down at closed box which is now again standing next to the laptop, although disconnected.]
Box: AI   - www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1450:_AI-Box_Experiment
Image result for Roko’s Basilisk
Civilization is poised on the edge of technological collapse. Thomas Kirby, employed at a floundering company endures life on the brink, plagued by recurring nightmares and the fear of losing his job. He wants nothing more than to provide for his family and bring some stability into their lives.
Salvation seems to be at hand. His friend Roko Kasun, an artificial-intelligence researcher, shares a world-shattering secret. He’s on the cusp of launching a Super-intelligent AI – a guardian-angel that promises to usher in a new world order. Only after Thomas teams up with his ambitious friend does Roko reveal the catch: his preparations to summon this god-like savior have not gone unnoticed. Roko has drawn the gaze of the Basilisk – a shadowy power capable of ensuring, or extinguishing humanity’s only chance at survival.
To unravel the threat Thomas will question everything. Is there a connection between Roko and the Basilisk, or can Roko be trusted to control the future? If Roko is lying, Thomas is the only one who can stop him. If Roko is telling the truth, Thomas must now show the courage to assist him in the most important act ever taken in human history.”
It’s not often an author whose work I’ve never encountered before comes along and just slays me. This happened with Michael Blackbourn and Roko’s Basilisk.
This book just lit up my brain like an automated slot machine in Vegas paying out the jackpot.
When I first read the blurb I was more than a little bit intimidated. High brow, intellectual Sci-Fi usually isn’t my cup of tea.  Usually the details and having to pay attention to a load of what seems, to me, like mumbo jumbo  becomes tiring, I get bored, and off I trot to read something with spaceships and aliens fighting each other instead. This wasn’t the case the Roko’s Basilisk. Despite being some of the most intelligent Sci-Fi I’ve ever read, Blackbourn’s writing style makes it a joy to absorb. He has a knack, it seems to make complex notions and ideas simple to digest. I understood this perfectly, while an author of lesser talent would have me scratching my head wondering what the hell was going on.
I’m being deliberately light on plot description here. At 45 pages this novella, if you read it in one sitting like I did, will only take about an hour, and I don’t want to rob you of a single minute of the joy I got out of this. It evoked feelings for me similar to the first time I saw Terminator, or the first time I read Demon Seed by Dean Koontz.
Blackbourn’s story structure here is a brave choice,  jumping from the character’s present, to his “hallucinations/nightmares”.  At the beginning I had a bit of an issue getting a handle on it , but within a few chapters it was second nature and easy to follow.
The world building in this little novella is outstanding. Talk of food shortages replacing  food stuff common now with protein taken from insects or “Land-Shrimp”.  Vitavax health shots, nanobots that swim through your bloodstream, repairing problems, automated cars. All of these things really helped me imagine the world that Thomas the protagonist lives in, or at least thinks he lives in…
Dialogue here is perfect, people speak in this book how they speak in real life. That’s important. A lot of books offered to me for review on this site never see the light of day because the authors can’t write realistic conversations between characters.
This was honestly one of the best Sci-Fi stories I’ve ever read. Tight, economical and beautifully written. Have I mentioned yet how utterly terrifying it is as well? This story will give you pause to think about A.I. and what it would mean to have truly sentient  Artificial intelligence.
The sequel Roko’s Labyrinth is already finished and the third installment is currently being written so all you series lovers needn’t fret, there’s more where this came from. I can’t wait to read them

ponedjeljak, 16. listopada 2017.

Nikos Nikolaidis - Euridice BA 2037 (1975)

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Starogrčko ludilo prevedeno na novogrčki nadrealizam.






Euridice BA 2037
Euridice in Hades, code number ΒΑ 2037, is waiting for Orpheus to free her and lead her to the Upper World. She’s waiting for orders that will allow her to move out of her prison/home. Her destination is not mentioned.A voice from a computer orders her to move out.The man leaves her bed every morning. Their relationship is vague… There are is an aura of familiarity. People in the skylight, living around the prison/home, trying to get inside.A man on the phone claims to have been her lover many years ago and to have evidence surrounding Vera’s death.Vera never appears. She was killed in an amusement park. An undercover policeman questions her.Orpheus is a hit man, free to roam the city...





The Wretches Are Still Singing
Five friends in their forties today, representative of the fifties generation, meet up again after many years of silence. One has just been released from prison for the umpteenth time; the other has just committed a series of blind murders; the third has left his wife and child; the fourth one has been living the life of a drifter, and the fifth friend – the only girl in the group – has broken out of the loony bin where she’s been hiding for years… All of them are up in the air; tormented by barren love; marked by the deaths of beloved peers; betrayed by the politics of their times, they are trying – in vain – to put together the old gang of their teenage years.The revolution has been lost. Each one will now head towards his own death, thus opening a new chapter in the history of his generation.



Singapore Sling
Singapore Sing is one of those guys with no money, no home and no friends, who chases after lost causes with women’s names and gets mixed up in affairs that lead nowhere. His lost cause goes by the name of Laura and he hasn’t seen her for some years. Even though he has a hunch that the girl he’s looking for has been dead for years and that he’s in love with a corpse, he goes on searching for her and one rainy, stormy night, wounded and with nothing more to lose, Singapore Sling arrives at a house because he believes that Laura might be there. In the darkness of the night and around an open hole in the garden, two women are trying to bury a dead man but Singapore Sling, with hot lead in his shoulder, can’t do much right now. Engulfed by the shadows and his memories, he waits for daybreak before going into the house...



Sweet Bunch
The film is the diary of the life and death of a group of “amoral” young people, who have reached the point of no return and seek something to believe in and to die for.Their behavior draws the attention of the State; they are placed under discreet surveillance.A vigilante group encircles their house, headed by a nameless blond man... and waits.The film is a study of the new face of world fascism. It is a story of joy and tender love; a music of death, an evocation of colors, sweet violence and laughter.The story of four people who might be your neighbors, who choose to die senselessly behind their stolen shotguns, flinging their harsh, mocking laughter in your face.



Loser Takes All
The story of a group of misfits living on the fringes of society.A rebel in his forties, with his luggage full of memories from the “years of cholera,” an alcoholic, a stripper from Senegal, another one buried behind the bar of the “Decadence” and a young one hiding behind his guitar.All of them share a common dream, a journey of no return from “Here no more!” to an island off the coast of Peru.Armed only with their unorthodox behavior, their sense of humor and two stolen handguns, they will plunge into a nighttime world of stool pigeons and parastate media and proceed to prove, in the most marvelous way, that which common sense abhors, i.e. that, in the end, Loser Takes All.



Morning Patrol
A woman is walking alone through an abandoned city. She approaches the forbidden zone and tries to cross it to get to the sea.There are traps everywhere and the Morning is watching her.The city itself is functioning but uncontrolled. Computerized voices warn the non-existing inhabitants to leave the city. The communication system works, the cinemas are showing films, familiar faces of a bygone era flash across TV screens.The woman is confronted by one of the few survivors guarding the city.They will come close; they will try to recall the past.Together they will unravel their tangled memory and decide to cross the forbidden zone together.
- tiff.filmfestival.gr/default.aspx?lang=en-US&page=638&SectionID=26




The marriage of fantasy with reality in the works of Nikos Nikolaidis resulted in one of the most comprehensive and homogenous oeuvres in Greek cinema. The director, who died in 2007 at the age of 68, had previously told Kathimerini in an interview: ?Ever since I was a kid I knew that if my imagination and reality never clicked I would be unhappy. So I did the only thing I could do: I made my fantasies reality.?
Comfortable with being an outsider and also with the five awards he received over the course of his career at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Nikolaidis liked to be on the outside looking in as it gave him a better view of the world and kept him out of a ?system? of which he was critical.
Nikolaidis?s world is the subject of a full retrospective of his work, organized by his friends and family, at the Greek Film Archive from May 26 to June 1, and coordinated by Marie-Louise Bartholomew, his companion since 1970, mother of his two children and producer of his eight feature-length films and some 200 television commercials. One can even say that Bartholomew was his creative partner, as she served not only as producer, but also as costume designer, editor or any other discipline that was necessary. She spoke to Kathimerini recently about her relationship with Nikolaidis, the contradictions of his character and her admiration for him, which never waned during their 40 years of living and working together.
Would he have liked the idea of a tribute to him?
I don?t think he would. Initially he had turned down a tribute proposed by the Thessaloniki Festival. Despina Mouzaki, then the director of the event, insisted and Nikos agreed but only after writing down 10 conditions on a piece of paper. He never got a chance to see it though, and in the end, when we saw that his terms were being respected, we agreed for it to go ahead. The tribute at the Greek Film Archive is different. It is being put together by friends and by his son. The purpose is to introduce young people to his work. I realize now that over 30 years have gone by [since he started making films] and he made reference to things that are happening right now or have yet to happen. I think his films are timeless; they haven?t aged and I don?t believe they will.
Nikolaidis has an image of being both very hard and cynical, but also very tender and beloved. How did these traits blend?
Nikos was very hard when he worked. He was perfectionist and would conduct rehearsals for a year, teaching and talking, and he demanded that there were no questions afterward or that he be made to repeat things he?d already explained. He could be very hard; there were times when he was hard with me as well. But with friends, over dinner, at parties, he was a wonderful friend; he was romantic and sensitive. At work he was a different person: tough, but also fair.
To what do you attribute the love expressed for him by friends and by fans?
A lot of young people love him very much, because he represents a free spirit and camaraderie. They look at him as a mentor and continue to watch his works because they agree with his opinions, his lines, his obsession with revolt, his fearlessness. He did exactly as he wanted. Of course only as far as the establishment allowed, because he took a lot of beatings. I believe that if he had lived he would have made another film. He had a lot left to say, but he seemed to know that he didn?t have much time left.
What disappointed him?
Mostly his audience, which began to leave him after ?Sweet Gang,? when he started making the films he wanted to make. But, the people who had grown to love him through his work also felt that he was abandoning them. The critics had a hand in this. He was disappointed too by the state of Greek cinema because there was a time when filmmakers were a gang and they fought together.
How did he react to negative criticism?
He would laugh and use it to his advantage. He did it with ?Sweet Gang? and with ?The Thrushes Are Still Singing.? He didn?t need the critics or the confirmation. He knew exactly who he was, even if this could be construed as snobbery. What he wanted most was to connect with his audience, and especially with young people. He loved his audience, but when he saw them starting to leave, he turned his back on them as well.
Did commercial success irk him? He once said that the success of ?Sweet Gang? made him sick.
He felt exposed. He wanted to woo his own kind, those who loved his work and wanted it. ?Sweet Gang? was a film that had an impact on the 40-somethings of the time [1983] and the fact is that we were not hurt by its commercial success. We had had to borrow to make it so getting some money helped. What bugged him most, I think, is that it was on the brink of becoming mainstream and that he was expected to continue in this direction afterward.
He once said that you belong ?to a different world? and that you?re a very positive person. Were you so different from him?
Not at all. We were both equally romantic, otherwise I wouldn?t have been with him. I was just more grounded. His mind was like a nuclear bomb set to go off. And his work a film, a book, an ad expended just a fraction of the energy he had. That?s why he could have done so much more if he had been given more time and if it hadn?t been made so difficult for him. - Panagiotis Panagopoulos  http://www.ekathimerini.com/133582/article/ekathimerini/life/nikos-nikolaidis-in-retrospect




Greek director of extreme movies that are part art-house, part filth. His characters are often inexplicably immoral and murderous, and his character arcs shift with unpredictable changes of motivation, making even his more conventional crime movies feel somewhat surreal. These movies involving groups of criminal acquaintances include 'Sweet Bunch', 'The Loser Takes All', and 'Wretches Are Still Singing' where a group of insane friends from the 50s get together for a reunion, except one has adopted a habit of raping and murdering women. He also made twisted and bizarre films with perverse and imaginative titillation, the most famous one being 'Singapore Sling', as well as a post-apocalyptic trilogy involving both bizarrely insane people and governments. The only one of these not reviewed here is the more relatively conventional 'Morning Patrol', a mood piece with amnesiac survivors randomly killing other survivors in a world where the powers-that-be try to track and control murders. His movies are so uniquely odd, they always leave you wondering what the movie was really about. Died in 2007. 
 

Euridice BA 2O37  
Nikolaidis first film is like a much more surreal Repulsion with underlying allusions to mythology. Euridice is stuck in a hell waiting for her Orpheus, except that, in this movie, she is unaware of her situation. The hell is an apartment surrounded by ominous dangers including gunfire sounds, mysterious visitors, and various shadows and people that taunt her through the windows and cracks under the door. Via dream-logic, there may or may not be another person in the apartment who may be her alter-ego, or simply a time-loop shadow of herself. There is an ambiguous lover (Orpheus), and a lover on the phone looking for the previous tenant, with stories that haunt her vague memories and that intrigue her. While she waits for a transfer from a hopelessly bureaucratic hell, she passes the time with strange games involving doll-sex, suicide and self-molestation by her own hand. A mysterious movie full of dream-logic and puzzling images of goat-heads and evisceration. Leaves you with questions and dreams even though it doesn't really gel together or reward the audience.

Singapore Sling  
Brings to mind the demented and perverse sex from Thundercrack blended with film-noir, and twisted comedy that only the insane would find funny mixed with some John Waters trash. The plot concerns an insane girl and a demented person whom she calls her mother who may be a hermaphrodite or just a mad woman with a strap-on that speaks half her sentences in French. Together they kill and eviscerate maids, play kinky S&M sexual games and role-plays with each other, often involving the mother sexually abusing this insane girl with a decisively kinky sense of pleasure, and re-enacting their murderous triumphs, some of which may have involved their deceased father. One day, an obsessed detective comes looking for a missing girl and falls into their hands. Normally I would just categorize this as pointlessly bizarre and twisted, seeing as it involves insane people having vomit sex, food sex, a golden shower while being electrocuted, hermaphrodite sex, kink involving intestines, and rape with a knife. But the performances here are so gripping, convincing and amusing in an insane way you could swear the actresses were recruited from a real mental ward. For the twisted only.

 



See You in Hell, My Darling  
This feels like Nikolaidis's follow-up to Singapore Sling. Although it isn't as extreme, it also features two insane women role-playing acts of murder and sexual depravity. The difference is that this one is surreal in both its imagery and its constant shifting to different story-lines. There's a body in the pool that may or may not be dead, they talk about murders and suicides that may or may not have happened, murders appear to have happened but then the story shifts again to another melodramatic tale, whether it is betrayal between siblings, implied incest, rape, poison, etc. Using dream-logic, a mysterious man may be a stranger, or a lover, or a husband, or their father, and scenes in a pool that turn into an ocean with an ubiquitous dead body, rapidly become very surreal. As opposed to a Robbe-Grillet creation though, this one doesn't really take apart the mechanics of a melodramatic pulp murder-mystery, so much as hop from one implied pulp story to another, as role-played by two women that remove their clothing every chance they get, as well as vomit constantly (which seems to be a Nikolaidis fetish). This is a confusing parade of sleaze and surreal melodrama, but an unrewarding one.

Zero Years, The 
The third in a post-apocalyptic trilogy by Nikolaidis dealing with women surviving under governments that have become so insanely twisted as to be surreal. The first was Euridice, the second was the more conventional and moody Morning Patrol, and this one completes the trilogy named "The Shape of the Coming Nightmare". In this one, he seems to have spliced the 'political sci-fi' with his more perverse outings of random twisted titillation to the point that it's impossible to see this as a political statement. Four young women are chemically controlled by the government, made to become sterile or forced into experimental impregnations, and then forced to perform sexual services that include putting on a show, or severely beating up men for some government sponsored S&M. Nikolaidis injects his usual fetishes of vomit, and adds other twisted touches such as punishment with raw eggs, invisible rapists that are called 'children', 'over-beating', practicing cross-eyed fake orgasms, and weekly fake births involving blood. I don't believe anyone can interpret this one with anything resembling a political reality that we know. Bizarre dystopia filth with unfunny, black, strange humor reminiscent of Singapore Sling.
- thelastexit.net/cinema/nikolaidis.html


Fotiou, Mikela (2015) The cinematic work of Nikos Nikolaidis and female representation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
This thesis examines the work of Greek postmodern filmmaker Nikos Nikolaidis with a specific focus on female representation. I examine Nikolaidis as an auteur and I trace elements throughout his oeuvre that contribute to the formation of his authorial signature. Nikolaidis’s work is autobiographical and highly political. Nikolaidis’s cinema does not abide by the traditional theories of ‘Greekness’, and his main influences are American cinema, and specifically for film noir, rock ‘n’ roll culture and his antiauthoritarian ideology. All these elements are combined together within his work through the use of pastiche. I examine Nikolaidis’s work according to Richard Dyer’s notion of pastiche. Through pastiche he expresses nostalgia for rock ‘n’ roll culture and film noir, but also he expresses his concern for the future. Nikolaidis pastiches a selection of film genres and specific films in order to appropriate the elements that interest him. His pastiche work shows that the filmmaker addresses cineliterate audiences that would ideally understand his dialogue with the different genres and films he pastiches. With regards to female representation in Nikolaidis’s films, women are given leading roles, exhibit varying degrees of agency, and are presented as stronger and more powerful than men. However, their representations remain paradoxical, complex and misogynistic. While on the one hand, women are portrayed as powerful, independent, and able to subvert patriarchy, on the other hand, they are often used as props, rendering their representation inconsistent and problematic. Nikolaidis differentiates and juxtaposes two types of women throughout his work: the powerful women versus the unimportant women. Those who do not conform to the powerful female characteristics are characterised within the second category. Since Nikolaidis was highly influenced by film noir, his female protagonists pastiche the classic film noir figure of the femme fatale.
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Yorgos Lanthimos, Nikos Nikolaidis and the tradition of Greek shock cinema




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