Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Vol 99! Summer Reading and Listening...
One of the joys of summer are those moments of doing “nothing” where one is kind of reading, kind of napping in a hammock or on a beach towel or on the couch – in an inbetween state of deep relaxed drift. You are closer to the clouds drifting above than to your immediate context.
It is the week for our annual summer reading recommendations – and these suggestions are for those moments of drift. A few weeks ago we recommended many books related to affordances – those were works you needed to be fully present with – this week these books require no such thing.
This summer we are focused on experimental possibilities – and the joy of going beyond the know. To that end we have kept the list short and included a fun but challenging game, a magazine subscription – plus a bit of very cool music.
Our choices are not all new books – less than half were published in the last year – but as we surveyed our piles of books these called out to us as summer reading material. Without further ado – enjoy!
As ever, our book links go to amazon – not because we recommend buying from them – but because they will let you easily read enough of the books to get a sense of what is going on. Most of our recommendations can be found used at Biblio, or at your local library, or you could order from a local bookstore...
In these newsletters we referenced two really great books on games:
The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia by Bernard Suits
Games: Agency as Art by C. Thi Nguyen. Both are highly recommended, but for the summer we suggest just jumping in and playing a great game:
Sign is a game small in size but vast in scope. In it you invent a language. You develop new ways of communicating and being understood. It is a live action game where everyone participates in the invention of a new shared language. It is perfect for a rainy summer day with friends camping far up a fiord in Northern BC or in a small apartment in Mumbai. You need four people (or more) and it is really best for young adults or older. Brilliant, fun and highly recommended.
This same group of game designers have made another equally interesting and fun game (also on language and creativity): Dialect – check it out as well.
Last summer we recommended a speculative fiction novel featuring an earthly alien encounter with Octopi: The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler (still worth reading if you have not had a chance.) This year we are recommending a quite different alien encounter book – really a series that also involves encounters with octopi.
This year we read the Children of Time Series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It is a work of speculative fiction that explores differing forms of embodied subjectivity, intelligence, interspecies empathy and world making in the context of a distant interstellar future. What would a highly evolved spider civilization and mode of being alive be like? The series involves multiple forms of cognition and sense-making: crows, octopi, humans, virus, spiders, and AI – which can sound like an improbable jumble – but it is as far from such an outcome – it is a quite stunning work of intra-species speculative philosophy.
While such works of speculative fiction might be a stretch for some, and three books might seem like alot to others – they are really worth reading. The final volume is one of the most interesting explorations of the artificial nature of intelligence and AI that we have read. They can be read as stand alone books or as a series. We would suggest taking a look at the description of each and then deciding where to start:
Last year we suggested the wonderful utopian first contact novel A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys – a brilliant work of speculative political fiction on how to cope with capitalism and our climate crisis in the near future. And, again if you have not read this one as well – we would strongly recommend it.
This year, in the similar spirit, we are recommending an earthly work of medative philosophy on the actual practices of making new modes of being alive possible today:
Out of the Clear by Erin Manning is a philosophical discourse on worldmaking with a landscape in a complex creative global context.
Over the last year we have recommended a couple of great books on the Wheel (The Wheel: Inventions and ReInventions, The Horse, The Wheel and Language) that are great primers in the more-than-human complexities of innovation.
Just recently we reread The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (second edition) by Marc Levinson. It is an eqully insightful book on the processes of innovation. It has an advantage of looking at a contemporary invention (lots of data). It is an important challenge to the individual and idea centered approach to innovation. And it is also a great meditation on how mundane technologies can have astonishing agency (in the production of globalization for instance). It is a well written book and an enjoyable read.
We have recommended many books by the great anthropologist Marshall Sahlins over the years from his final masterpiece (The New Science of the Enchanted Universe) to his brilliant pamphlet (The Western Illusion of Human Nature). But neither of those are quite summer reading material. How “Natives” Think About Captain Cook, for Example, on the other hand, is – it is a sharp and forceful anthropology of how worlds meet and what can happen in the meeting. The specific history is of the Hawaii’s of the 1700’s meeting Captain Cook and the British Navy. An important book on worldmaking that is also a great read.
– where we make recommendations on either what we have not read or as yet does not exist:
We have not read this yet. So it will be equally a surprise to us as it will be to you. Having read most of Moten’s work we are looking forward to it sight unseen: Perrenial Fashion Presence Falling - Fred Moten.
Some visionary projects cannot be contained in one book. This is a ten volume decade long conceptual project to collaborate with the realities of New Jersey to construct multiple alternative futures. The first volume is out – or you can subscribe to all ten: Dense Magazine
Our friends at Blank Forms have been doing some great work in the histories and futures of the sonic realms – from concerts, to exhibitions to publications. We have two recommendations from them that we are excited to get our hands on:
“In this captivating memoir, the first full-length account of life in the Arkestra by any of its members, Harlem-born trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah recounts two decades of traveling the spaceways with the inimitable composer, pianist, and big-band leader Sun Ra. Gigging everywhere from the legendary Bed-Stuy venue the East to the National Stadium in Lagos, Abdullah paints a vivid picture of the rise of loft jazz and the influence of Pan-Africanism on creative music, while capturing radical artistic and political developments across Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan in the 1970s and ’80s… A Strange Celestial Road interweaves the author’s own moving story—his battles with addiction, spiritual development, and life as a working class performer—with enthralling tales of tutelage under Cal Massey, collaborations with the likes of Ed Blackwell, Marion Brown, and Andrew Cyrille, and profound, occasionally confounding, mentorship by Sun Ra...”
Well, that's it for the week – hopefully there is something here that connects with you and your late summer plans! Have a wonderful week – we hope that some moment of it includes a hammock.
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