What is Science Fiction?


I am:

Isaac Asimov

One of the most prolific writers in history, on any imaginable subject. Cared little for art but created lasting and memorable tales.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Yeah, fuck you, Art! You owe me like $200! I’m sending 60-y.o. Rocky after you to break your thumbs!

I would’ve been happy to be that guy that came up with Intel-gent Design, you know the theory about how Intel is inside everything… no, wait, I mean how God is inside everything, or something… No, now I got it, how Intel designed my PC as the ecological ergonomic equivalent of a Soviet industrial potato picking machine… to be God.

Or something. (Isn’t that the classic condition of science fiction nerds: “you are not smart but you admire smarts, so imagine something that is the smartiest thing in teh eva”)

But, yeah, I am prolific (when not being gleefully distracted, woot!)

Accelerate! (just under 44,000!)

EDIT: 2am happy dances around the smiles in my pocket. 45,000 words!

…and what happens to Foucault’s work when you read the transition from archaeology to genealogy in terms of the ‘event’? You stop moving and the whole fucking universe accelerates around that little crack in the cosmos, that’s what.

(oh, and did a PB on the ergo yesterday, 6:26.5)

8 replies on “What is Science Fiction?”

  1. I just don’t buy the whole periodisation of Foucault.

    In fact, a big chunk of my thesis was on problematising that move.

    Just thought I’d share …

  2. Hmmm, well I argue there is definitely a shift. I am not interested in producing two different foucaults. I remember him saying somewhere that if he didn’t change his thinking then he would be a bad thinker or something like that. In all your readingas did you come across anyone who read the (alleged) shift in terms of the event? I have been reading madly and most people seem to either ignore the event, or simply paraphrase what Foucault wrote with examples.

    ok, so what am I doing? I call it “the mobilization of Foucault’s event” and this is some of my proper thesis thinking: I frame it in terms of Foucault freeing the event from the archive (determined by the distribution of statement-singularities) to including the distribution of singularities across the archive, bodies and stratified arrangements of institutions (diagram). The consistency of the event changes slightly. My ultimate goal is to then get at post-Foucaultian conceptions of the event, such as Massumi’s and Wark’s. It is a move to set events free completely from the dead inertia of the archive and positivity of history and arrive at what Massumi calls the “becoming of the event”. The mobility of the event is what is at stake. Understanding how events are mobilised by and distributed through the media is extremely important. Some quotes from the draft diss [below, ‘perspective’ is explained in the technical sense that Deleuze gives it in The Fold]:

    There are various interpretations of this shift in the secondary commentary on Foucault’s work, but I read the change between the two as a shift in perspective regarding the distribution of singularities.

    The traces of these singularities still exist in the archive as a singular discursive event. However, instead of the statement being the only inculcation of such singularities and the sole ‘archaeological’ concern being determined by the rules of the statements’ formation, Foucault incorporates the distribution of singularities across non-discursive bodies and the concern of genealogy shifts to the “reactivation of local knowledges” against what he calls “the scientific hierarchicalization of knowledge and its intrinsic power-effects [i.e. incorporeal transformations]” (2003: 10). There is a rotation of perspective along an axis formed by connecting 1) the discursive event on the surface of language, amid words and objects, and determined by the constellation of statements to 2) a more expansive event determined by the distribution of singularities across concepts and bodies enacted in configurations of power.

  3. I don’t deny that “shifts” are observable in Foucault’s work; it’s just that I’m suspicious of the effects of “mastery” that are produced by attempts to pinpoint and/or diagnose those shifts. These effects of mastery are undoubtedly unintentional, but they are all the more interesting for being unwitting.

    To put the point in the context from which it was derived: nearly every attempt at specifying the “discontinuity” of Foucault that I’ve read has been undertaken in the context of a discussion of the (conjoined?) problems of “commentary” and “discontinuity” — problems that are themselves discussed in Foucault’s work. In each case, Foucault’s “discontinuity” is taken as presenting a problem for the task of commenting on or “interpreting” his work. The specification of that discontinuity thus becomes the means for “solving” the problem and thus revealing “finally what has silently been articulated deep down” (“Discourse on Language”, p.221).

    Consequently, and ironically, “discontinuity” becomes the princple of unity to Foucault’s work. The situation is complicated by the fact that these commentaries — again, in every one I’ve read — appeal to Foucault’s “self-commentaries” as evidence for their various accounts of “the” discontinuity to his work. Such appeals, of course, institute an unproblematised discontinuity within Foucault’s work — the discontinuity between two forms of discourse (primary and secondary, or “work” and “commentary”). The discontinuity is unproblematised to the extent that it reconstitutes Foucault-as-author and thereby divides his commentaries from the (rest of the) corpus that has been argued as constituting a problem for commentary. Foucault’s self-commentaries are isolated from the imperative to problematise Foucault’s work in terms of the question of discontinuity.

    So that’s why I’m sceptical of existing attempts to account for F’s work in terms of some shift. At the same time, though, I pursue that argument not just as a challenge to the “accuracy” (or whatever) of those attempts but also in order to question the imperative (hence the “ethics”) to order F’s work in terms of “its” discontinuity. Without going into detail, my concern with that imperative is with the way that plays into the role of commentary to say “finally what has silently been articulated deep down”. In other words, the imperative functions to close down possibilities rather than to multiply them.

    Now, of course, that’s not to suggest that it is possible to avoid saying “finally what has silently been articulated deep down”. And certainly, I’m not arguing that one should refrain from approaching F’s work in terms of some discountinuity (and by now it should be obvious that this is an “in-princple” argument, and thus not to be limited solely to Foucault’s work). But there are different ways of responding to the problem of commentary. One such way — one less dogmatic, less “discplinary” way, perhaps — is to approach F’s work precisely in terms of “events”.

    Crucially, though, I don’t mean in terms of F’s (shifting) relations to the concept or the analysis of the event (although I don’t rule that approach out, either). Rather, I mean approaching F’s work as an event, or as a series of events. In fact, that’s still not right: I prefer to approach F’s work as a series of events-in-waiting. And even though I’m deliberately using a Deleuzean vocabulary here, I’m evoking a concept of immanence that may or may not accord with Deleuze’s (I’m simply not up enough on Deleuze to be sure). When I talk of approaching Foucault’s (or any other writer’s) work as a series of events-in-waiting, I mean that the approach itself must be constituted as part of the configuration of the event or events in question.

    To put it in very simple terms (now that we’ve gone through the minimal yet insufficient reasoning), I advocate an approach to “the” discontinuity of Foucault that conceives of that discontinuity as provisional and pragmatic: i.e. it is usefu,l in the context of this particular investigation, for that particular purpose, to think imagine Foucault’s work in this way; or, we learn something “new” from Foucault if we approach his work thus; etc.

    Accounting for Foucault in terms of the shift you’ve described (i.e. the mobilisation of the event), then, is undoubtedly very useful — and I applaud you for it. But it can only be taken as a description of “the” shift in his work to the extent that one is willing to confirm the role of commentary as saying “finally what has silently been articulated deep down” and thereby to dispense with a concern for the singularity/alterity of “the event”.

  4. Ahh! This is very interesting, Rob. Firstly, no, I am certainly not trying to enunciate the ‘final word’ or for that matter the ‘first word’ in the sense of explicating a ‘truth’ of Foucault’s work (however tempting to my ego it may to entertain such a delight!).

    I agree 110% about reading Foucualt’s work and the sum of Foucaultian scholarship as an architecture of events (and series of ordinary points between singularities of events, sometimes very ordinary, lol). I also come from the POV of D&G’s _Kafka_ where each dimension of a body of work has a machinic function. So the different elements of FOucault’s scholarship and intellectual work (lectures, essays, interviews, papers, books, etc) have different machinic functions. However, I agree ‘Foucault’ is no different to the question of authorship and bodies of work that he discussed in his own work. I have been tempted to talk about it in these terms (architecture of events, machinic functionings, etc) in my diss but I think it will complicate things too much for a dissertation that is ostensibly about contemporary modified-car culture in Australia.

    The shift I am arguing exists is not _the_ shift, in the sense of _the_ singularity that determines the path of Foucault’s own intellectual development, rather it is the singularity I am extracting from the baroque architecture of events known as ‘Foucault’ and reconstructing in a series with others (Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Massumi, Levy, Wark). This is the event-series I am identifying not in Foucault’s work, but across various elements of the work represented by these ‘proper names’. I would argue my work is, in turn, an actualization of the event constructed by the redistribution of singularities in what Massumi calls a “transductive conversion” (from the brilliant “The Political Economy of Belonging and the Logic of Relation” chapter of _Parables of the Virtual_):

    The transductive conversion is an ontological vector that in-gathers a heterogenity of substantial elements along with the already-constituted abstractions of language (“meaning”) and delivers them together to change. (76)

    Some of the elements (such as Massumi’s, which are readings of Deleuze’s and others work) that simply did not exist when Foucault was alive. I am representing the singularities extracted from the various works not as unadorned truth excavated from the depths of intellectual obscurity but together in a singular change (ie my argument).

    Lastly, regarding Foucault’s work, I think there are many shifts! It is a question of accent, no? At a bare minimum, the alleged archaeology-genealogy shift is useful because it is a well known sign post.

  5. oh, and regarding the notion of identifying _the_ shift. I completely ignore the ‘late’ “technologies of the self” Foucault!! (Except to note in passing that in _Hermeneutics of the Self_ he describes the ancient self dude as an athlete of events or contingency, rather than an athlete of the self of the Christians, etc. which is a different sense of events than the earlier work.) There are too many shifts to possibly argue that a shift is the shift.

  6. Regarding the “final word” approach, I never really doubted you on it, Glen. I think you’re way too on top of this sort of stuff to go down that path.

    I guess I just stuck my nose in simply because the shift you mentioned maps onto the one that I think is particularly debatable: archaeology v. genealogy. I guess my real quibble with that form of the shift has as much to do with the depiction of those two precisely as methodologies as with complaints about the ordering(s) of disconituity.

    At any rate, I should’ve identified the clues and known that you’d agree with me (pretty much) on the question of F as event: “…and what happens to Foucault’s work when you read …”

  7. I welcome nose sticking! totally! love it! stick away! i have a real hunger to talk about this stuff and talk with people about it and hear/read others talk about it. i think it is a confidence thing to do with teaching myself all this stuff.

    oh, actually there may something in the works regarding this, for sydney-siders, with Michael Goddard coming back to town for a visit. (_may_ be something in the works, the idea of a deleuze seminar has been floated and he has responded positively to it, but we haven’t actually discussed it yet properly)

    … and did someone say “just under 47,000 words”?


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