By Alice Bishop
Go, you say, before he gets in the mustard-coloured Nissan and winds the window down.
Mandy Lingard is lying prone in her backyard at 553 The Esplanade, wearing only a g-string. This is her right as a private citizen in a free goddamned country. The drone sees Mandy Lingard, doing as she bloody well pleases, and photographs her. The drone has no choice. It rises slowly over Mt Martha, buzzing, riding each gust and vesper to a height of approximately sixty metres. Four rotors, two spinning clockwise, two counter-rotating, each with two blades. This drone is an extension of the surveillance organism; a creature created to record and reify human existence. Seeing is its business – unseeing is not.
You don’t have to be a programmer to create computer-generated poetry. You just need to search around for text-generating software, and then appropriate it for poetry making. If a software developer creates a tool that generates text, and then provides open access to that tool, anyone can then use those tools to experiment with creating computer-generated poetry.
Ever since reading Neuromancer as a teenager, enamoured by the gritty, neon-lit, technological pessimism of cyberpunk, something about this scene has stuck in my mind as being especially disconcerting, and it is only now that I realise the extent to which this peculiar uneasiness has everything to do with the absence of the horse in Gibson’s bleak portrayal of humanity’s future.
An American family, nuclear to the point of glowing, unbox a product they will spend the next four minutes soliloquising. Echo is a small, black cylinder, halfway between a legless Roomba and a tea canister. It can play music and record lists and alert you to important events. It can answer factual questions and make jokes, interactive through Alexa, its vocal component. The family treat this last feature as polite bourgeoisie meeting the new help, and subsequently seem to struggle with nomenclature: ‘Do we address the product as “her”, “Alexa”, or “it”, Echo?’
The first time I saw Dale, he was pulling algae off the lake. A thick skin of green and brown, creasing and folding on top of the water. It came off in swathes, heavy and slick. He dragged it out by the armful and laid it on the grass of his father’s property, where it would turn pale and dry in the sun.
He did this every summer.
I watched him most in the evenings and the early mornings, when the light would only half find him against the shoreline. I would watch him walk between his house and his father’s truck, grey on grey, and I’d map the details of him later, behind my closed eyes.
A jawline and a collarbone picked out in shadow. Some thought made his mouth pull up at its corner. That old t-shirt, with holes at the shoulder seams, I decided it would smell like cut grass under my fingers.
We had been there for a year, my mother and I, when things started turning up in the lake. They seemed to surface overnight, or maybe just when no one was looking. Lawn furniture. Plastic dolls. A yellow lampshade.
Are we living a nightmare? Consider rising tides, mass surveillance, an elected government that doesn’t believe in climate change. This month I’ve been reading Anna Kavan’s classic speculative fiction novel Ice, published in 1967. Ice is definitely a nightmare, in both logic and tone. A male protagonist follows his obsession, a young girl, to the ends of the earth. Around them the ice encroaches, encasing the world portion by portion in arctic frost. Talking about the ice is disallowed. What few resources remain are traded on the black market as each major nation-state freezes. Kavan writes, ‘to speak of the catastrophe was an offence under the new regulations. The rule was to choose not to know.’
Orla had been doing well in the session up until the point where the young Thai masseuse who called herself Rabbit asked her to sit up and cross her legs.
Orla did as she was told. Rabbit squatted behind her and began digging her elbow into the back of Orla’s shoulder. Orla held the towel over her breasts with one hand, and bowed her head. That’s when she began to cry. The tears dripped right into her lap.
Rabbit stopped. ‘I make you hurt?’
‘It’s not you,’ said Orla. ‘Just another bad day.’
Odin the Allfather has a pair of ravens. At dawn he sends them into the world, where they cover every inch of the earth, seeing and hearing all that comes to pass. At dusk they return to their master and tell him what they have learned. Odin needs them more than any of his powers: despite being King of the Gods, he is often uninformed; drunk, forgetful and prone to war. But when the ravens furnish him with their knowledge, his flaws are compensated – his might is matched by his omniscience. At the setting of the sun they perch on his shoulders and whisper in his ears; suddenly, Odin sees and knows all. His power is complete.
In March 2014, Tony Abbott announced that the Federal Government of Australia would be spending $3 billion on Triton surveillance drones. The number of drones was not disclosed, thought they were described as a ‘large fleet’ by the media at the time.
The first time I saw the film I was pressed between some pierced burnout I had a crush on, and a mature-aged student who was actually the coolest woman I’d ever met. Our tutor only showed us censored stills and told us we could watch the whole thing at home if we wanted, so all I remember are these striking aerial landscapes with fuzzy, fleshy smears showing up suggestively between grapevines or pine trees. That was years ago. I never did see it properly until this week.