Originally published on Blue Ant, August 31, 2015.
Victorian English literature is filled with angst about what chaos lies behind proper and unassuming exteriors. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow says Brussels always reminds him of a “whited sepulchre,” a biblical reference to hypocrisy by which things “appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
William Gibson’s London puts a psychedelic twist on this notion, with all manner of sinister weirdness lying in wait behind plain facades. This is most true in Cabinet, the hotel and private club that serves as home base for our heroes in Zero History.
Cabinet is “(h)alf the vertical mass of an eighteenth-century townhouse, one whose facade reminded her of the face of someone starting to fall asleep on the subway,” with the interior decor “ragingly, batshit insane.” Read More
Surveillance is a part of how we live now, and how we respond to that runs throughout the Blue Ant trilogy. The books are laced with true developments like widespread CCTV, drone surveillance, and computer spying. Like Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, Zero History traffics in crafty ways to dodge prying eyes. One of these techniques, at the time of the book’s publication, was entirely fictional, but perhaps less so today. And of course, since it’s on the surface a book about fashion and marketing, the secret weapon in question is a T-shirt. Read More
Originally on Blue Ant blog.
Gabriel Hounds is a brand of jeans in the same sense that Zero History is a book about fashion. Both statements are technically accurate, but only as a gateway to something…slippery. In Gibson’s 2010 novel, the Gabriel Hounds are a “secret brand.” The Kaizer Soze of pants. The smoke monster of denim. The brand is the MacGuffin in a hunt for truth beyond brand names, knockoffs, seasons, and flickering atemporality in a world that is evolving faster than we can focus our eyes.
Setting aside for a moment the product itself, and the very concept of a secret brand or a microbrand, a line of products marketed through non-marketing and secrecy (we can get to that later), the concept of a Gabriel Hound is a fitting one for the brand at the center of Zero HIstory. Read More
For all of technology’s efforts to improve upon nature, sometimes the most challenging feat is simply matching it, or even coming close. Take, for example, the endlessly versatile muscle, or the light and load-bearing bone. Imitating the latter poses a unique problem for surgeons repairing damaged, aging or diseased bones in humans, leaving us with metal or ceramic replacement parts that are imperfect or intolerable to a patient’s system, often needing to be replaced with painful and debilitating surgery. A solution to that mismatch may be on the horizon, as researchers in Italy have turned right back to nature, albeit a different kingdom, to find what may sound like an archaic bone replacement—wood. Rattan, to be specific, a flexible palm wood used in furniture and baskets.
In William Gibson’s Zero History, a novel laced with technology just barely within reach, one unlucky daredevil is the beneficiary of such a rattan bone replacement after a base-jumping stunt gone awry. Read More
Rhenium is the last stable element to be discovered, found in 1925, before all of the nuke-y ones. It’s extremely rare, and one of the densest of elements. It’s used in alloy form, primarily in high-tech purposes like combustion chambers, turbine blades, and exhaust nozzles of jet engines.
And darts. Read More
A HERF gun, or an otherwise-nicknamed personal electromagnetic device, is the fantasy weapon of anti-government drone-haters and corporate saboteurs. As in William Gibson’s Zero History:
Originally published in Souciant Magazine on December 12, 2012. The back cover and spine of Punk: An Aesthetic are almost entirely white, with a clean, black typeface. Seen from a distance on a bookshelf, it could be any modern art book. But the front cover — punk cartoonist Gary Panter’s illustration of the singer for The Screamers — is another matter, a large, low-quality print of a black-and-white face fixed in what looks like a scream of rage, befitting the book’s innards.
Look inside and you’ll see a riot of images: hand-scrawled political rants, shredded clothing, swastikas, pornography, violent photomontage and hundreds of others from the 1970s punk movement. That screaming face on the front cover gives you the feeling the content inside doesn’t want to be contained. Read More
Cayce Pollard in Pattern Recognition has a unique ability to judge how the market will respond to logos and brands. At the root of this rare talent, for which Bigend employs her, is a “phobic reaction” to trademarks she’s had since age 6 when she threw up after seeing The Michelin Man in a French catalog. Otherwise known as “Bibendum,” the 114-year-old, anthropomorphic stack of tires remains her biggest weakness. Read More
Buzz Rickson’s Black MA-1 Bomber Jacket Cayce Pollard, brand-phobic coolhunter at the center of Pattern Recognition, adores her Japanese-made replica of a standard issue U.S. Air Force flying jacket.
The Rickson’s is a fanatical museum-grade replica of a U.S. MA-1 flying jacket, as purely functional and iconic a garment as the previous century produced…Cayce’s MA-1 trumps any attempt at minimalism, the Rickson’s having been created by Japanese obsessives driven by passions having nothing at all to do with anything remotely like fashion…It is an imitation more real somehow than that which it emulates.
The Rickson’s is a quite real jacket, emblematic for Gibson of the almost religious craftsmanship of Japanese garment makers. Buzz Rickson’s is, in fact, a Japanese clothing company founded in 1993 that specializes in replica vintage flight jackets, one of which is the MA-1. Read More