Emanations V

 The memory man wanted to leave scars. To stun and ravish, scorch and discard, slice and heal. He wanted to cleanse the mind, beating thought down as it arose to leave a blank canvas for the marking. It was said that he would bind his victims to chairs and play heavy, emotion-laden songs while whispering stories to complicate their depth. I was all ears.

I was all eyes for the images he tied to scents. All skin for the scraping he tied to taste. He parcelled them up with pretty pink ribbons and hooked them onto my neurons with bent silver pins. His name was etched upon every one because that’s how the magic worked.

The magic. The pain. The scars of remembering. Will they ever be gone?

Laying me down on a child’s bed and showing me the moon. Hanging a playing card on a chain around my neck and shooting the Joker. Blood running down my collarbone, words only gurgles and spits. Filling in the holes with soft towels and expensive shampoos, unwashed bedsheets and no safety catches.

Locking me out but forcing me to look in, lids forced open with drops of barbed verity. The pages of the memory book jumbling before my eyes, but don’t worry. The magic will stick them back together with sour milk and tears, all in the wrong order. Force them into geometric shapes with folds that shouldn’t exist. Boxes and boxes and boxes filled with terror and a hint of lust ‘n’ lemon. They might be here forever.

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‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness; windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Sex Appeal: A Found Poem

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I was thinking about the confused mash-up of media, sensation, product and role in JG Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. The impact of the snippets we take in without context; that we stitch together ourselves behind the scenes to create strange, private narratives.

The assault of information and imagery has increased immensely since that book was written in the late 1960s. Many times a day social media gives us an abundance of raw sentiments, adverts and articles, and we process them all in parallel to real-world stimuli, hungers and emotions. To take it all in we skim-read, we focus on what draws the eye or persuades the dopamine receptors. What kind of stream of consciousness does that create? Continue reading “Sex Appeal: A Found Poem”

Emanations III

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In October of last year, I fell into my shadow. She was vicious, bold and offensive; unafraid to say everything I never could. And she was so damn attractive with it! I never stood a chance.

As soon as she knew she had me, I found myself alone on her shore. The sun had set long ago, but a cold glimmer from her skin lit up my world. Her eyes brimmed with the awe of all I could become. How do you extract your good potential when it’s so mixed up with the bad? Everything beyond ego, including the shadow, cares little for the distinction. I didn’t know the answer, and that could only mean she held that particular key.

So, when I raised the question, she raised her mace. I cowered. I screamed. I tried desperately to claw my way out through the sand. But she was quick, and she had no mercy. She swung her weapon and thumped me right in the chest with it. My rib cage shattered into a thousand jagged pieces, and moths burst out in a cloud. Some turned to dust upon contact with the air; others flew away across the sands. I strained to take a breath, but my lungs and throat were pierced in too many places. Through fading consciousness, I could just make out my shadow picking up a piece of bone, turning it over in her fingers and admiring herself in its reflective surface. With the other hand, she ripped out my heart.

The life poured out of my veins. I could do nothing but lay in wait of the tide. It was over.

My shadow flicked away her makeshift mirror, and pulled a jar out of her back pack. She squeezed the contents of my heart into it: a deep iridescent red. Memory, personality, soul. As she took a sip, her sharp posture began to dissolve. Her black hair softened to light grey, her fur robe melted away to reveal the pink butterfly dress I’d been wearing that day, and her smile turned from cunning to kindness. At first I could only see through her eyes from a distance, but it didn’t take long for my mind to recognise its home. Everything came into focus. I screwed the lid tightly onto the jar, strapped it to my back pack, and began my ascent back to the village.

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Emanations is an experiment in automatic flash fiction writing. These stories are intended to be read as streams of consciousness; little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations II

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Is that a uterus or a spaceman with his arms outstretched? The rose-lit dome I visit in my dreams has begun to play tricks on me over the last few nights. The hospital say it’s one of the signs. I know that should terrify me, but it doesn’t. It just makes me feel I’ve been taking the pills properly.

His thoughts are channeling through my veins. I can hear him in my spleen. He’s saying something important.

“I don’t know if you can understand me. They say you can’t, that you aren’t developed enough. But I believe there’s a chance, and it feels only right for me to talk to you. I’ll be the provider of your nourishment, after all. I’ll be your guide. So we need to establish our bond, don’t we? You need to know it’s all going to be ok.

You are in the womb of the fourth dimension. Everything you’ve learned in your ‘lifetime’ is simply the pieces clicking into place to prepare you for a normal birth up here. You have to learn three to know four. All the sights, sounds, smells: they’re chemical reactions as your mind builds itself. Side effects. Echoes. A vague awareness of what’s beyond.

Linear time is a weird phenomenon that happens only while in the womb, too. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But please know that all the mental suffering, the cognitive dissonance, and the sense of taking a one way trip is because you are not here. You are not where you belong. You are contained in a space of limitations that is unnatural to our kind. You are but a cross-section of what your whole self will be.

When you take your infinite breath, there’ll be treasures you can’t imagine. I promise you that, my angel. Movement without boundaries, and a plane of time. You and me. One more pill. Just one more pill.”

*

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~ C S Lewis.

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‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic (but human) fiction writing. The words come from states of meditation, excitement, or indifferent vacuity and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. They are intended to be read as streams of consciousness to open windows to the back rooms of the mind.

Emanations I

I had a date with chaos. I knew it would come, but never when, until one Tuesday when it spontaneously crashed in around me. It sent wine bottles flying and blasted out the music of my scent. Static interference. Sferics, I thought, as I bit my tongue. Chaos struggles with language, so, as it made itself at home in my cellar, I translated its vibrant colours for the sake of conversation.
“Human beings always coming with their whys,” it said. “Making connections. Putting meaning on my doings. The only disease that afflicts me. Billions of whys.”
“Giving things meaning is what we do,” I replied, curling my forefinger around a lock of hair. “We are castle builders. We pull the loosest of your sands into mind-buckets and force them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. We do it because we can, but also because it’s fun. Don’t you like the whys?”
The skies opened then, and flies with beating red hearts for eyes poured upon us. In seconds they covered every bit of visible skin. They crawled and buzzed and ate and loved. Grotesque things. So I said, in the most flirtatious tone I could muster, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness: windows into the back rooms of the mind.

The Tattva Experiment: Dreaming Yellow Squares

I’ve done dream work for many years. I keep journals, both written and visual, to record symbols, factors and outcomes. I experiment with levels of lucidity. And I’ve become quite adept at interpreting dreams from a Jungian perspective.

Over time I’ve come to understand there are ordinary dreams, which feel like the processing of information, and then there are big dreams, which feel like they are saying: “Hey you! Sit up and listen. This is important.” Those dreams are the ones that seem to have an ‘otherness’ to them, as though what’s in the mind of the dreamer is being combined with something that resides far deeper than we normally go. For me, these are accompanied by an omnipresent glow, and the sense that a guide is communicating. Sometimes this type of dream is sporadic, but more often they come as a result of active scrying for information or probing the mystical.

Most recently I decided to experiment with tattvas in conjunction with dreaming to see if it would produce any insightful results, and since a few of your have expressed an interest in my ‘mind explorations’, I thought I’d share this one.

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Tattvas

Tattvas are elements or aspects we can use to analyse reality, and feature in several eastern religions. In some traditions they are considered to be aspects of a deity, but in Hindu Tantrism they are seen as global energy tides as follows:

Akasa (Spirit Tattva) – symbolised by a black egg
Vayu (Air Tattva) – symbolised by a blue circle
Tejas (Fire Tattva) – symbolised by a red triangle
Apas (Water Tattva) – symbolised by a silver crescent
Prithvi (Earth Tattva) – symbolised by a yellow square

This version of tattvas was also adopted by The Golden Dawn in their mystical practices. In accordance with that tradition and its instruction on familiarisation with the symbols, I have done work with these in the past: I have a set of cards with each symbol on and every combination of two, and use them to meditate upon. For the dream experiment, I decided to begin with Prithvi: an arbitrary, or perhaps intuitive, choice. Continue reading “The Tattva Experiment: Dreaming Yellow Squares”

Telepathic AI, Neuronal Art and Squids, Everywhere!

Pierre Huyghe Image from The guardian

Technology in the Gap

This is the first in a little series of posts about the real-life developments in technology that led to the bizarre extrapolated versions in my new book, Mind in the Gap. In this one, I share some of my research on the possibilities of creating art directly from the brain.

Squids, Everywhere

SQUID is a real device used to detect minute changes in electromagnetic fields, including those in the brain. It stands for Superconducting Quantum Interference Device, and has been used in science fiction for years, most memorably in William Gibson’s novels as a way to read-out information stored in neural circuitry.

The current method for brain imaging, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), has limitations in that it is blind to detailed and direct neuronal activity. SQUID is one of the developments being investigated as a replacement for the future.

I used this idea in my story Frankie. I wanted to show such technology becoming so canonical and safe that it was used in a socio-commercial setting as opposed to only in medicine. I created an alternate reality where people no longer carry around mobile devices to interact with the world, but instead wear headpieces that continually read and output brain signals (and actually look like a squids!).

Telepathic AI

Scientists in a Kyoto laboratory have been working on a project that uses AI to analyse data collected during fMRI scans, and to interpret them into visual representations of what the individual was imagining at the time from a database of photographs. They call it Deep Image Reconstruction. Artist Pierre Huyghe worked with this recently by asking volunteers to imagine things he described, and then getting the AI to create a visual from their brain signals.

“If I tell you to think of an apple, the apple you think of will not be the same apple I think of,” he told The Guardian. It is one subjective impression (quale) informing another, which is then interpreted by an artificial intelligence. The resulting images are far from accurate according to those involved; they look nightmarish, fleshy and deformed (see the image above). They are uncanny: somehow recognisable to us but just strange enough that we know they can’t be real. You can read the whole article here.

I like to imagine these are the kind of images AI could think up independently in the future if we tried to simulate human perception. Would these grotesque mashed up images define us as a species in the mind of a robot? And I’m not even going to get into the possibilities of AI becoming capable of spontaneously reading our minds. I’ll save that for when I come to post about the horrors of my story One…

Painting with Thoughts

For several years we have been able use a brain-computer interface to command painting software: painting pictures with our thoughts, choosing colours and placement based on the way we focus our attention. It has been used to help people who don’t have use of their motor functions, and is hoped to even become an effective communication channel for people suffering locked-in syndrome.

Some say we can also use brain painting as a meditative therapy of sorts. If we ‘map’ our thought patterns and create a visual representation of what altering that would look like. It’s a bit like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with a visual aid and creative output, and I’d be very interested to see whether this is proven effective in the future.

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Do Androids Dream?

A type of AI called a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) has filters capable of abstracting out aspects of images in layers. This has been used in various experiments. For example, we know that CNN can produce new images that combine the ‘content’ of one existing image and the ‘style’ of another – think of the filters you have on your phone.

Google’s DeepDream uses a CNN to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic Pareidolia to produce psychedelic, over-processed images (pictured above) These experiments with neural nets are already evolving at pace. Artwork created by CNN is selling for thousands of dollars, and is informing the way virtual and augmented reality develops.

Frankie

In Frankie, I combined the general ‘output’ ideas of Deep Image Reconstruction, CNN and Brain Painting with the ‘input’ of advanced brain scans at neuronal level. I imagined a little piece of worn tech taking minute signals from the brain, that could output them instantly onto the surfaces around us to create a sort of communal psychedelic wonderland. I thought about what it could be like if certain skilled individuals were able to build the output images up in layers to create hologram-like objects for as long as concentration would allow. My nameless protagonist lives in a world where this is what memes have become.

Being a lover of psychology, I then began to wonder: what, then, might happen if the headpieces could take readings from the subconscious mind to show us things we didn’t realise we were thinking? It could tell us ‘You share an exciting chemistry with that person over there,’ or ‘you are harbouring deep-set doubts about this.’ And what if those thoughts in the subconscious weren’t intermittent, but ever-present in the background, and ever-growing? You’ll have to read Frankie to find out!

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If you’ve already read Mind in the Gap, have you seen the Connections and Easter Eggs page? People are starting to add their theories and findings, and I’d love you to join in. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out the blurb or pick up a signed copy here. It’s also available as an ebook on Kindle or as a paperback from anywhere that sells books. Thank you!

The Soldier, the Hunchback, and the Master of Meditation

!?

In his humorous essay Liber CLVIII, Aleister Crowley refers to the exclamation point and the question mark as the Soldier and the Hunchback due to their shapes. The question mark is symbolic of doubt and enquiry; the exclamation point of startling revelation. As we progress along our chosen path of thinking and learning, we continuously meet doubts followed by revelations that in turn lead us to new doubts. What is this? A-ha! But then, what is this? It is the rhythm of science and the curious mind.

It is also the spirit of my stories: both Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap are streams of questions and revelations. Often everything is called into question for the character as the walls of their assumptions come tumbling down, but it is rare that I would leave them without an ‘a-ha’ moment, a revelation, or a point at which they begin to understand the world again in a new pattern. It is also rare for me to leave it without a further question or doubt for the reader… Continue reading “The Soldier, the Hunchback, and the Master of Meditation”

Toxic Duck Inc.

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My life was pretty peachy before I caught the virus. At least, that’s what they tell me.

My partner, Jaz, and I had managed to save up enough money to travel the world and stay comfortable. We lived in full colour then; climbing mountains, skiing down them, eating in fancy restaurants… And at night, just like everyone else, we would put those little squashy pads against our temples and plug into our phones to upload the memories of the day to the cloud. They say it not only preserves your special moments for ‘fully immersive enjoyment’ another day, but it also improves the efficiency of sleep, security, and peace of mind. Except I have no peace, not anymore.

One evening, after a few drinks in the famous old Tokyo Mixology Lab, Jaz and I got back to our hotel and plugged in. No way were we going to risk losing the memories of that day! Then an alert box appeared on my screen:

Free updates are available. Apply now for extra security?

And I hit ‘yes’. Continue reading “Toxic Duck Inc.”

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