The Next Rembrandt is a multi-million dollar project, funded in part by a Big Bank and Microsoft, which trained AI to mimic the style of the great master in order to paint a mediocre original painting (left). In this article, J. Augustus Bacigalupi, Òscar Castro Garcia and I show how complex and sophisticated even the most primitive forms of life are as they sense and respond to their worlds. Artificial Intelligence, in comparison, is slow-witted, boring, and completely unable to get puns or jokes, much less to make art. We caution against anyone who might argue that current AI can begin to replace human judgement in, for instance, medicine or education. We also offer a means by which machine sensors might be designed so that they are a little bit closer the abilities of slime mold. Enjoy the article. You can download it from BioSystems for free for the next 50 days.
Synopsis: The Schwartz-Johnson family can’t wait to get to their new home in Paradise, a high-security gated community in Dallas, Texas. They are willing to sacrifice privacy for the ultimate in safety against any kind of terror threat –until Mr. & Mrs. Schwartz-Johnson are accused of terrorism themselves.
TheModCon London Film Festival aims to “promote and recognize those that have walked the extra mile and shown commitment to the international community to inspire others to take action in solving some of the many conflicts we face today.”
V.N. Alexander is a fan of Wes Anderson and Monty Python, and counts Napoleon Dynamite by Jared Hess and Canadian Bacon by Micheal Moore among her favorite comedy films.
Find out more about “Terrodise” here.
Set in the nearby Harlem Valley region of New York, the story involves a 9/11 widow, Gertrude, and her son, Hamlet, who move to the country to run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately, they find their neighbors prefer the starchy products of industrialized agriculture. On the 8th anniversary of Hamlet senior’s death, Gertrude marries an incompetent federal bureaucrat named Claudius, who tries to get the eighteen-year-old Hamlet to “move on.” As Hamlet is becoming more and more disgusted by the hypocrisy of the adult world he’s entering, Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, tells Hamlet that his new stepfather is a fraud and something is rotten in the United States of America. With gallows humor, Alexander looks at the tragedy that is contemporary post 9/11 politics, as it plays out in small town America where health and happiness have been traded for processed foods, cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, and endless war.
Kirkus Reviews likened Alexander’s Hamlet to Holden Caulfield (the angry hero of The Catcher in the Rye), but he is more like his namesake, plagued with doubt about the news that Horatio brings him.
In the Wild River Review, cultural critic William Irwin Thompson compares Alexander to Thomas Pynchon and calls Locus Amoenus “an important contribution to contemporary American fiction.”
Man Booker Prize finalist Josip Novakovich praises Alexander for her critique of American consumerism: “despite the tragedy, we have the consolation of her humor. I haven’t laughed this well while reading in a long time.”
Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, is the author of three other novels, Smoking Hopes (Washington Prize for Fiction), Naked Singularity (Dallas Observer‘s “Best of 2003”), and Trixie, and a work of philosophy, The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature. Alexander’s fiction is published by The Permanent Press, one of the finest small presses in the U.S., which has been “turning out literary gems…on a shoestring,” since 1978, according to The New York Times. Locus Amoenus is set in Amenia, New York, an upstate rural community where Alexander’s family owns a sheep farm.
Upstate Novelist, Victoria N. Alexander, To Give Reading at the Golden Notebook
by Gary Alexander
Have you spent too much time trying to convince your girlfriend that ‘Decadent’ is not a flavor? Or are you ticked off that some nutritional idealist wants your school cafeteria to use coconut oil on something your kid might eat for lunch? (Not here! We don’t have coconut trees along the Hudson River!) The most stark divisions in America may spring not from political, ethnic or racial backgrounds but from informational sources and a currently prevailing chasm between American cultural lifestyles.
This is a theme explored in the darkly humorous novel, “Locus Amoenus” by Victoria N. Alexander, Ph.D. (my new bride-just joking; she’s no relation), who will be reading at the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock at 6 PM on Saturday, August 1st. Continue reading
WBAI 99.5 FM with host Barry Seidman
Developing a Progressive Narrative
As many may already know, science fiction and speculative fiction in general can investigate and articulate the state of our nation and/or world in very direct but also metaphorical ways. We have talked about Star Trek, for instance, on Equal Time and how Gene Roddenberry was able to discuss humanism and naturalism via the small and large screen. And there have been many novels and short stories since at least the late 19th Century which have done the same.
Victoria N Alexander and Adrienne Maree Brown are two authors who have relatively new speculative fiction books out. Victoria, who has a PhD in English and philosophy of science, is also a novelist and the founder of Dactyl, a foundation that fosters dialogue between artists and scientists. She is the author of several novels including the topic of today’s discussion, Locus Amoenus. The novel brings Shakespeare into the post-9/11 world we currently experience and sows an emotionally powerful geopolitical drama.
Adrienne Maree Brown is an author, a life/love work coach, a singer (including wedding singer), events facilitator and a scholar on the late Science Fiction novelist Octavia Butler. In Octavia’s Brood, Adrienne has co-edited a collection of both speculative and science fiction stories founded on the spirit and creativity of the late author.
Tune in, pay if forward, and question everything
Kevin is such an interesting and intelligent person to talk with. In the course of the hour-long interview, I was drawn into mentioning a thing or two about my favorite philosopher C.S. Peirce in relation to the plot of one of Pynchon’s earlier conspiracy novels, The Crying of Lot 49. Years ago I wrote about Pynchon and the link between teleology and conspiracy theory, here. We went on about Noam Chomsky’s ridiculously unscientific, because unfalsifiable, “theory” of universal grammar. (Chomsky has sent some hate Kevin’s way because Kevin has said that sometimes some people in or associated with the U.S. government some times to do corrupt things.) With his semiotic theory, my favorite philosopher (uh oh, Peirce again) explains the emergence of grammar much better than Noam. (Terrence Deacon provides a good slap down of Chomsky in The Symbolic Species.) And yes, we did talk about Locus Amoenus too, as well as Tom Breidenbach’s book of poems Wicked Child/IX XI. Tom, a mutual friend, was the initial inspiration for the Horatio character in my novel.
The interview is now archived online here: http://noliesradio.org/archives/99840
The wonderful tiny library in the hamlet of Amenia will be hosting a book signing for Locus Amoenus, the story about Hamlet, set in Amenia. There will also be a book fair (with used books) and bake sale to raise money for the library. The Presbyterian Church behind the library will be hosting its annual strawberry fair in conjunction with the book fair. This time I won’t be sharing my book table with a celebrity author like last week in Millbrook. I will be sharing my table with muffins and scones baked by some of Amenia’s baking masters.
Please come out and support the library, which has been the heart of our life in Amenia for these last twelve years. Lucian got his library card when he was a week old. And the librarian, Mrs. Devine, was the first friend I made in the hamlet.
All proceeds from book sales to benefit the library. Unfortunately, I will only have a handful of preview copies available for sale. Last week the publisher let me know that the hardcover release has been delayed again for another week. Books ship on the 14th or so. But the Kindle and Nook versions have been released ahead of the hardcover.
Friends who have already read the preview copy of Locus Amoenus can now post reviews on Amazon. Please do so! For more info about the book go to http://amzn.to/1JwwkmO Get the Kindle version today or pre-order the hardcover at a big discount.
Victoria Alexander’s Honest Look at American Culture
In much the same way that James Joyce used Homer’s Odyssey to create a classical stage set for the characters of Ulysses in the dear dirty Dublin in 1904, V. N. Alexander’s new novel uses Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an archetypal structure that casts a shadow over the stereotypes of our new American life of junk food, junk politics, and NSA/Homeland Security.
Like the tight narrative and focused attention of Thomas Pynchon’s shortest novel, The Crying of Lot 49, Locus Amoenus uses hilarity and conspiracy theories to present the tragicomedy of a contemporary America that is beyond belief. Alexander has a good ear for prose rhythms, and the uplifting wave of her prose style picks you up and carries you all the way to her Coda—a coda that reminds us as her story becomes framed in journalistic reporting that American History is a dumpster and not an Akashic Record backing up karmic justice. From Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase that made Manifest Destiny and the American Empire inevitable to Jackson’s Cherokee Trail of Tears to Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus to FDR’s Day of Deceit with Pearl Harbor to Wolfowitz’s and the Neocons’ call for a new Pearl Harbor that became 9/11 to Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act and Arctic Drilling for the oil companies, the United States has always been bad while believing itself to be good.
Alexander is truly humorous in a bittersweet way that never becomes nihilistic. Everyone notices European Evil, whether it is the case of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror or Hitler’s Holocaust, but no one noticed when Obama shredded the Constitution of Madison and Jay in the National Defense Authorization Act, and no one noticed when the One Percent bought out the country in a hostile takeover brokered by Goldman Sachs.
Locus Amoenus is an important contribution to contemporary American fiction, and perhaps it is time now for Alexander to move up from the small arty presses to the major publishing houses in Manhattan. (Farrar Strauss take note.) But, on the other hand, since the large publishing companies now are all owned by the giant corporate conglomerates who produce our junk food for the mind, we should celebrate the contribution of The Permanent Press of Sag Harbor for being, like the Farmers Market in Union Square and the Berkshares local currency of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a healthy alternative to airport fiction.