Thursday, December 23, 2010

Serling on Wikileaks; The Caryatids

I freeze up when trying to blog about stuff Bruce Sterling writes. It's important, but hard to summarize without making it sound trite. At his best, Sterling's clearly producing art, because any attempt to explain it rather than experience it falls short.

Having said that, Stephen provides a good introduction to Sterling's long (and essential) piece on Wikileaks:

Bruce Sterling mixes John le Carré and Edgar Allen Poe and comes up with a sharp and insightful analysis of the Wikileaks scandal. You have to read it as Sterling the novelist speaking - it doesn't much matter whether Manning is guilty, that's just the role he plays. But as an account of the fiction that is global intelligence, it's cracking good reading, and keenly straddles the contradictions that are the grist for a novelist's mill.

I've also been completely stuck for over a year trying to say something about Sterling's novel, The Caryatids. I love the central conceit, a delineation of two poles of global techno-revolutionaries. To quote the jacket:

There is the Dispensation, centered in Los Angeles, where entertainment and capitalism have fused with the highest of high-tech. There is the Acquis, a Green-centered collective that uses invasive neurological technology to create a networked utopia.

Any quick summary doesn't quite do the ideas justice -- they need a novel to spread out. Yet as a novel, I can't help but feel the book fails. I had to make myself plow through to the end. So I can't quite recommend it... yet there are some great ideas in there. And I truly don't have time to try to write a substantive review.

If anything, the book has become more clearly relevant in terms of the politics of school reform, which has become quite clearly Dispensation in its outlook the past six months, with an ever-increasing emphasis on celebrity, spectacle and technology. In the world of The Caryatids, when Joel Klein wanted to close some schools, the combined Bloomberg/Hearst/Fox News media convergence would stage a climactic must-see-TV battle between Geoffrey Canada's and Randi Weingarten's battle mechs, which would rampage across enough of the city to coincidentally destroy most of the targeted schools. The big finish could be Oprah's titanic battle bot falling flaming from the sky to save the day, like Battlestar Galactica liberating New Caprica.

On the other hand, we only have bits and pieces of the Acquis educational agenda, particularly in the US.

No comments: