Meathooks, Andy Warhol, And The End Of Spaceflight
I sat down with the intention of writing about all the things that are going on in my working life right now, and then immediately realised that half of them are Top Secret and not for publication on the internet. That’s a shame because they’re really rather interesting. What I can say a little bit about is the new book, which I’ve now started working on in earnest, thanks to the labours of a splendid literary agent.
I’m aiming to expand on a few of the more interesting themes that I touched on in This Gaming Life, particularly those related to the social and psychological uses of gaming, and the role of boredom. For a while there I thought I was going to write a book on boredom, which itself is a fascinating topic. The word first turns up in print in 1852, in Dickens’ Bleak House, and then proliferates through English. What’s interesting is that similar words appeared in a number of European languages about that time, and etymological investigation shows that it is, linguistically at least, a fairly new concept. There are words for idleness, isolation, and derivations of disliking or hating something that go right back into Latin, but the specificity of boredom seems new. It’s as if it has evolved to fill a particular need, and as if modern life demanded it. We took boredom to peculiar heights in the 20th century, with some people even making an artform out of it (Warhol) or predicting that it was the whole of our future (Ballard), while the general public used it with increasing frequency to describe their experiences, or their state of mind. Boredom, punctuated by moments of extreme horror, is the Grim Meathook Future. Interestingly, the word “interesting” has also seen a correlating increase in its use.
Anyway, as I looked into boredom I realised that it’s the reactions to the condition that really what’s worth investigating. In This Gaming Life I basically posited that videogames are part of a complex response to boredom, but it’s worth taking that a little further, since videogames represent only one of a number of ways we might deal with boredom, or avoid it altogether. I’ve realised that I’m one of those people who is seldom bored when left to my own devices, and that’s because my behaviour is always to read, research, or play with something. When I’m trapped and unable to do these things is when boredom strikes, and how horrible it can be. The next book, then, explores wider, into realms of imaginative activity other than videogames, and gets to work on the rich tapestry of entertainments and distractions that we’ve created for ourselves. This week I’ve been constructing a piece that examines how a book, a film, and a videogame might all deal with the same topic, and how the technological differences between these formats changes both the experience as well as the subject that is being explored. Beyond that I’ve got some plans to look at how books, the moving image, and the interactive experience are all connected, and how the 20th century coughed them up to give us the culture we have today.
To take some samples from the text, it seems that book two will include such topics as: hippies and computers, the dream machine developed by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, the weather behind Frankenstein, the all-time total number of novels published, why I am jealous of the protagonist of The Truman Show, why a space programme could be replaced with an inner-space programme, and what World Of Warcraft players and cyborgs have in common. And more!
Anyway, more news on those secret projects soon, and maybe even some extracts from the book-in-progress.