Network Realism: William Gibson and New Forms of Fiction

network realism

Gibson’s been talking a lot lately about atemporality, this idea that we live in a sort of endless digital now. In “Zero History” we have an echo of “No Future”: everything compressed into the present. This idea is what Zero History is really about. (This is the Order Flow: the future is defined by the present; who pinpoints the present controls the future.)

While not one to contradict Gibson himself, I’m not sure I buy this exactly: indeed, the wikihistoriography project was, in part, a refutation of this view. But it’s undeniable that something is happening, a network effect produced by the sudden visibility of just how unevenly distributed those futures are.

I want to give it a name, and at this point I’m calling it Network Realism.

Network Realism is writing that is of and about the network. It’s realism because it’s so close to our present reality. A realism that posits an increasingly 1:1 relationship between Fiction and the World. A realtime link. And it’s networked because it lives in a place that’s that’s enabled by, and only recently made possible by, our technological connectedness.

Zero History is Network Realism because of the way that it talks about the world, and the way its knowledge of the world is gathered and disseminated. Gibson seems to be navigating the spider graph of current reality as wikiracing does human knowledge.

booktwo.org: Network Realism: William Gibson and new forms of Fiction

(via Justin Pickard)

Alan Moore Interview in The Quietus

Alan Moore

I’ve been aware that Moore doesn’t use the Internet for several years now (though he recently admitted in the page of Dodgem Logic that he’s now seen the Dodgem Logic web site but it’s the first and only site he’s ever seen), and I’ve always been curious as to why not. He explains:

I’m practically Amish when it comes down to it. I practically mistrust any technology that came after the buggy. What I tend to think is that the internet is fine for everyone else in the world. I can see that it may have some disadvantages. In fact, I can see a few problems arising from it, but, by and large… everybody in the entire world apart from me uses the internet and seems to get on quite well with it. For my part, I don’t want to be connected to that all-pervasive kind of cyber culture any more than I want to be connected to the physical world that is around me, more than I can help it [laughs]. I’m largely a solitary creature, just by nature and by my work. That said, I venture out into town, but I very seldom leave Northampton.

He also talks a little bit about hypersigils (but of course doesn’t use the term):

We look into the place, but it’s more an excavation of Steve’s peculiar life which crosses into all sorts of different areas and crosses over with my life to a certain degree. It was certainly an odd little story that was self-referential. I’ve often found that if you write self-referential stories that feedback into your actual life then all sorts of weird things start to happen, or at least appear to start happening.


Working as a writer, one of the reasons I got into magic was because you start to notice this feedback between the writing and real life. It might be entirely in my head, but it seems significant. I mean, there was a conference last weekend in Northampton called Magus. It was academics coming from all over the world to talk about me and my work. So I went down with Melinda. They were nice people. One of the academics at this conference was saying that he was working on a book which was about Watchmen as a post-9/11 text. I can see what he means to a degree. One of my friends over there, Bob Morales, said he’d been talking to some people on Ground Zero on September 12, 2001 and he was asking them if they were alright and what it had been like. Two of them, independently of each other, said that they were just waiting for the authorities to find a giant alien sticking half way out of a wall.

The Quietus: Hipster Priest: A Quietus Interview With Alan Moore

(Thanks Josh)

Interesting living as magic

This is an old article I wrote for the now defunct Key 23/Key 64 web site. It’s old piece of writing that I don’t stand by any more, but it does provide some background for the concepts I’ll be exploring here. The archive.org version contains the original comments, which are also worth reading.

From hypersigils to hyperstition or even Michael Moore’s claim that we’re living in fictitious times, the life as fiction meme seems stronger than ever.

Grant Morrison often talks about hypersigils, which to him seem to represent one of the highest workings of magic. In his “Pop Magic!” chapter of the Disinfo Book of Lies, he writes “The hypersigil can take the form of a poem, a story, a dance or any other extended artistic activity you wish to try.” His own famous hypersigil, the Invisibles, came in the form of a comic book serialized over six years. He’s been inconsistent about the intent and the effects of this hypersigil, but I think he sums it up when he says it “enveloped me in a shiny, global sci-fi lifestyle I was really only dreaming of when I started writing the book in 1994” (CBR interview).

In other words, it made his life more exciting. For Morrison this is one of the most important aspects of magic (though he also says “… if you’re going to be a magician at all it’s not about wanting to be scary and wearing a robe or something, what you have to do is you have to do things for people” [Disinfo interview]).

R.U. Sirius describes a rather easier method of achieving a “narrative lifestyle”:

In terms of social engineering, I think that, you know, you think of yourself as being in a story, and life will start to have the kind of dynamics that you would have if you were in a story, rather than if you were part of some dire laborious mechanism, you know… ( Better Propaganda interview)

And, actually, Morrison sort of backs this up:

I’d say to myself or whoever I was with, ‘It’ll look good in the biography.’ and then I’d go ahead and do whatever daft thing it was – like taking acid on the sacred mesa or doing the bungee-jump, getting the haircut, dancing with the stranger, talking to the crowd – whatever I was ’scared’ of mostly, or fancied doing, or never dared before, I’d try it on the basis that it would make for a more interesting read one day. (Pop Image interview)

At the other extreme, hyperstition, a confusing theory getting a thorough discussion on the Hyperstition blog, is more work than hypersigilization. Although loosely defined as “fictions that make themselves real” hyperstitions have more complex characteristics than hypersigils. Anna Greenspan elucidates this in several posts on the blog, but a good starting point is here.

As a completely lazy writer, I’ve had more luck with R.U.’s method. There was a thread on Barbelith a while back asking if your life was written and drawn by comics creators, who would do it? I determined that my life was currently being written and drawn by Peter Bagge, but that I’d like it to be written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Philip Bond, and have a soundtrack by Gold Chains. But I never did any ritual to invoke a creative change in my life. But I did eventually write a statement of intent on my blog, and it seems to have worked. Since then my life’s been a bit more exciting. Among other things I’ve traveled across Europe, taken up rock climbing, and joined this elite band of occulture thinkers.

I’m curious to hear personal experiences of hypersigilization, hyperstition creation, and fiction as life, as well as ideas for furthering the process.

Narrative magic/hypersigils on Sorceryforge

Nice to see running notes on this particular technique.

A hypersigil is a narrative work which includes the author (and/or other targets of the working). Aspects of the story will tie with elements of the real world targets and their pasts, and also to events and changes that have not yet happened but you want to happen. A hypersigil is intended to be read or otherwise experienced by many people, ideally as a published book.

A hypersigil can also be a work of fiction intended to bring about a change in the mental state of the reader. Beware the Golden Barge by Michael Moorcock. Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott and White Light by Rudy Rucker are both hypersigils in as much as they help open the mind of the reader to the fourth dimension and some of the various infinities.

Maybe all good fiction is a hypersigil at some level.

Sourceryforge: Narrative Magic

(via Xiombarg)

also via this article: Hypersigil wiki by some of the Barbelith crew.

Excellent interview with RU Sirius

Best interview I’ve read with RU in a long time. I know from experience he’s a sort of difficult interview subject. Not that he isn’t forthcoming, but I think he’s a bit sick of talking about all the same things. This guy had some good questions and got some good stuff out of him.

R.U. Sirius is kind of a pseudo-occult name that I took up in the mid 1980s, when I was doing ludicrous magic with the magazine High Frontiers, trying to bring about a psychedelic renaissance. High Frontiers eventually became Mondo 2000, and R.U. Sirius developed as a character also, I’m not quite sure, in the mid-90s R.U. Sirius became a combination of Marquis De Sade and a raver. […]

In terms of social engineering, I think that, you know, you think of yourself as being in a story, and life will start to have the kind of dynamics that you would have if you were in a story, rather than if you were part of some dire laborious mechanism, you know…

Better Propaganda: R.U. Sirius Interview

(via New World Disorder)

Grant Morrison Stuff on Pop Image

I was just going to add this as a comment to the earlier Grant Morrison interview, but I think there’s enough going on here to warrant its own post. Grant Morrison interview:

‘Sigil’ as a word is out of date. All this magic stuff needs new terminology because it’s not what people are being told it is at all. It’s not all this wearying symbolic misdirection that’s being dragged up from the Victorian Age, when no-one was allowed to talk plainly and everything was in coy poetic code. The world’s at a crisis point and it’s time to stop bullshitting around with Qabalah and Thelema and Chaos and Information and all the rest of the metaphoric smoke and mirrors designed to make the rubes think magicians are ‘special’ people with special powers. It’s not like that. Everyone does magic all the time in different ways. ‘Life’ plus ‘significance’ = magic. See Pop Mag!c for more.

Perhaps “Hyperstition“?

There’s also an interview with Human Traffic writer Craig McGill who is working on a biography of Morrison.

Grant comes from Govan – which is a hellhole in Glasgow. It’s truly one of the most deprived parts of the city and also the country – terrible housing, squalor. I mean politicians have written off a lot of these people – something for which I think some of them should be brought up on charges of dereliction of duty for. Not many go to
University, many more end up with drug habits, poor health. For many, social aspirations is getting their next benefit cheque or being a drug dealer. Basically, there’s not much hope and what there is can be snuffed out by day-to-day life. That’s not to say there’s not a lot of good people there – there are, but the environment they are in stacks the odds against them.

Grant came from that and more or less off his own back, is now mingling with celebrities and is relatively comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, he probably couldn’t afford to stop working tomorrow and never type again, but he owns a quality house and is certainly doing a lot better than many from his generation. In his own way he’s a role model. He shows that there’s a way out. You can live your dreams, even if you can’t go down the traditional route of being a sportsman. We should be shouting about people like Grant from the rooftops. He’s the boy who done good. Now I know he’s not unique by any stretch of the imagination in that regard, but it never hurts to highlight another success tale.

And there’s also an interview with the Filth artist Chris Weston and a review of Anarchy for the Masses


Hyperstition is a new blog by Reza Negarestani, K-Punk, and a bunch of other people (and hosted by William Blaze) that merits a little more introduction. Hyperstitions are, in short, “fictions that make themselves real.”

K-Punk recommends Lemurian Time War and this article as an introduction to Hyperstion:

The situation is closer to the modern phenomenon of hype than to religious belief as we’d ordinarily think about it. Hype actually makes things happen, and uses belief as a positive power. Just because it’s not “real” now, doesn’t mean it won’t be real at some point in the future. And once it’s real, in a sense, it’s always been.”

Sounds very much like Grant Morrison’s idea of the hypersigil, especially when he talks about emergence.

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