Two Of The Greatest Comic Book Writers Have Been In An Occult War For 25 Years

by Urbanski on Feb. 13, 2017

http://www.break.com/article/alan-moore-and-grant-morrison-occult-war-for-25-years-3080666

Two of the world’s greatest comic book writers are wizards. No, seriously. Their work has not only changed comics forever, they’ve spilled over into literature and especially film. A lot of the movies you loved, and even more of the movie-plots you loved, were influenced by these two guys. So even if you never actually heard of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, you know their work.

Both men are British; both are only a few years apart in age. Both present themselves as rebels of a sort. Both are passionately dedicated to a personal practice of the occult, and their occult writing has been taken seriously and influenced the scene.

But here’s the kicker: Moore and Morrison freaking despise each other. So much so that it’s actually bled into their work. Some of the greatest comics of the last 25 years have been a direct product of Moore and Morrison’s wizard-fight.

First, some background: both men started out writing comics in the 1970s, and became famous in the 1980s (internationally, Moore became famous a few years earlier than Morrison).

Alan Moore is probably most famous for V for Vendetta, From Hell, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and a little miniseries called “Watchmen” that changed comics forever.

Morrison wrote Animal Man, and Doom Patrol, and The Invisibles. He was the driving force behind the ‘vertigo’ line of DC comics which focused on weird fiction with occult/horror overtones, which had a huge influence on subsequent movies and TV.

His work was groundbreaking, but he was also responsible for incredibly significant work on mainstream comics like the X-Men, the Justice League, Superman and Batman, radically renovating each of those titles and producing some of their most memorable stories of recent years.

Moore did mainstream superhero comics too: in the 1980s his writing on Green Lantern had a significant influence on that character, he turned Swamp Thing from a failing monster-comic into a major character, invented John Constantine, wrote “The Killing Joke” for Batman and a couple of Superman stories that were extremely memorable. But he had a falling out with DC comics over royalties for “Watchmen” and in opposition to a plan to put ratings systems in their comics; after that he quit working for the big mainstream comic companies and never looked back.

By the early 90s, it was already obvious Moore had issues with Morrison. He claimed to have helped give Morrison a leg up in his career (Morrison later pointed out he was making comics, though much less famous ones, before Moore had become known at all), and that Morrison in return just ripped-off all of Moore’s work.

Morrison, on the other hand, claimed that Moore’s own work was derivative of a 1977 novel called Superfolks, and that “Watchmen” was not as great as everyone thought, and that Moore wants to take credit for everything great in comics while slagging anyone he sees as competition.

Moore has continued to insinuate throughout the years that Morrison has kept ripping off his ideas, once notably saying, “I’ve read Morrison’s work twice: first when I wrote it, then when he wrote it.”

Even the question of which one of them is the more “occult” comic book guy has been a bone of contention. Moore’s coming out as a magician was better known and got way more press, and he did that in 1993. On the other hand, Morrison was talking publicly about being involved in Chaos Magick a few years earlier than that, and Morrison has claimed that Moore only decided to come out because Morrison was already public about it.

It’s not as if either of them were really secretive about it. Moore’s magical ideas were already mostly evident in his early work, and Morrison’s pre-1993 work was already highly esoteric. Moore’s V for Vendetta openly espoused gnostic concepts and Aleister Crowley‘s magical philosophy.

Magically, the two believe in very different things. Neither of them are exactly orthodox, but Moore is a more traditionalist kind of wizard. He is an admirer of Aleister Crowley’s “Thelemic” magick, and the philosophy in his Book of the Law. He appreciates the value of magick as a kind of art form, and in turn, considers art to be a kind of magick.

Grant Morrison is from the school of “chaos magick”, who practice magick that is less worried about rules and ritual and more about trying to get things done. Magick can be done from just about anything, as long as you have the right intention. Chaos magicians tend to like mixing up elements from a whole variety of different cultures and history, to reinvent it all to fit whatever they’re in the mood for, and have no problem with doing magick for personal gain (or to change the world) rather than just for human transcendence.

Moore’s very loud statement of declaring himself a Magician in public may just have been a factor in motivating Morrison to go whole-hog with the ‘occult comic book’ thing, when he started on “The Invisibles” in 1994.

“The Invisibles” is a 1500 page (59 issue) masterpiece of Occult Literature, written in comic book form. Its winding plotline tells a single long story (with various sub-plots) about a group of occult rebels using magick to try to liberate mankind, opposed by a cabal of black magicians in positions of power and authority trying to use sorcery to control and oppress humanity. It is, simply put, one of the greatest comic series of all time.

According to Morrison, if you want to take him at his word and not just assume it’s a chaos-magician metaphor, he was told parts of the story by space aliens when he was abducted by them in Kathmandu. The entire comic was intentionally designed to function as a kind of spell’, meant to create powerful changes in consciousness in whoever reads it. It also had weird effects on Morrison’s own life.

His character “King Mob” was meant to be based on Morrison’s ideal version of himself as an occult rebel-hero; Morrison started to find that when he wrote bad things happening to King Mob, bad things happened to himself. When King Mob nearly died from magical bacteria in one of the comic’s issues, Morrison himself caught a life-threatening infection. Later, King Mob was shot and almost killed, and Morrison himself had to be hospitalized for blood poisoning. After that, Morrison started writing King Mob as having great things happening to him, and Morrison started to have unexpected fame and fortune of his own.

While “The Invisibles” hasn’t got its own movie or TV series yet (it’s probably too weird and too hard to make), it was enormously influential on a ton of sci-fi and fantasy writers, as well as filmmakers. In particular, the creators of The Matrix were hugely influenced by “The Invisibles.”

So here’s where we get to the part that most articles on the Moore/Morrison feud have missed. I’m a comics reader but probably not expert enough to really detail the history or quality of work other than at the ‘fan’ level. But I am an expert on occultism. And I can say this: the war between Moore and Morrison isn’t just a “writers’ fight”, it’s a “wizards’ feud.” It is two very different views on magick using comics as a medium to fire salvos at each other.

A few years after Morrison started on “The Invisibles,” Alan Moore came out with “Promethea” – a 32-issue comic about a young woman who becomes the latest host for the spirit of an ancient superpowerful demigoddess of the imagination. Incarnating in the modern world, she takes on the role of a wonder-woman-style Super-heroine.

Like “The Invisibles,” “Promethea” is full of occult symbolism and esoteric philosophical ideas. It’s lavishly beautiful and brilliantly written. Just as The Invisibles served as a showcase for Morrison’s own ideas about chaos-magick, buddhism, conspiracy theories, psychedelia, UFO-fanaticism, esoteric psychology, punk politics and apocalypticism; Promethea became a showcase for Moore’s ideas about Magick, Thelema, the Qabalah, gnosticism, art-as-magick, imagination-as-reality, transcending the shallowness of the modern world, and apocalypticism.

Yes, both comics end with the ‘end of the world’. But the way these end up is very different from each other, and reflect the different views of the two magicians. In the Invisibles, the apocalypse is a humanity-transcending singularity. In “Promethea,” it is a divine union which makes us all more totally human than ever. This difference, like almost all the content in both comics, serve to highlight how Moore and Morrison have very different ideas about occult philosophy:

Morrison on magick:

Moore on magick:

I could have picked some other quote from Moore, like his manifesto about how magick should be stripped of its nostalgia or its introverted edginess and be treated as an expression of art, and how learning how to use words is what magick is all about (that you cast a spell in the same sense as ‘spelling’ a word). But the quote above in some ways seems more appropriate. Morrison wants to be precise and coherent, and he wants to present an image of himself in everything he does; he’s a kind of preacher for magick. Moore doesn’t give a crap what you think of him, and he just wants to drop hints of wisdom at you, and then you need to figure the rest out yourself.

Moore seemed to be mocking Morrison’s style of chaos magick in “Promethea,” basically calling it wankery. In one scene in the comic, Moore has a character point out that in the 1920s, (ritual) magick was all about “turbans, tuxedos and tarts in tiaras,” but now modern (chaos) magick is all about “sigils, stubble, and self abuse.”

In response, Morrison called Moore’s Promethea “elitist.” He seems to want magick to be both accessible to everyone, and revolutionary at the same time.

As a wizard myself, I’d say that both comics are absolute masterpieces of modern occult literature. “Promethea” probably includes the greatest explanation ever made of the “Tree of Life” – the roadmap of traditional western magick. It’s glorious. “The Invisibles” is probably the most complete compendium of occult ideas of the modern age. That’s how they’re different: “Promethea” shows you magick, teaches you why it’s important, and invites you to make your own humanity magical. “The Invisibles” doesn’t give you a choice: just reading it changes you, it blows your mind like it was a supernatural drug. It’s not an instruction; it’s an experience.

But it’s too easy to try to write the conflict off by painting Moore as some kind of grumpy old traditionalist, and Morrison as the bold in-your-face counter-culture rebel.

Remember, it was Moore who argued his way out of mainstream comics forever. On the other hand, Morrison plays the rebel but has become an icon of Mainstream Comics (though anyone reasonable would agree he’s transformed that mainstream and helped enormously to raise the quality of mainstream comics writing).

Morrison even got an MBE from the Queen, which Moore saw as the ultimate proof of Morrison’s fake rebel act being exposed as conformity. For it, he called Morrison a “Tory” (which, from Moore, is like the dirtiest word imaginable).

Morrison once claimed that Moore only had one “Watchmen”, while he does “one Watchmen a week”; which frankly is complete bullcrap. And you could laugh at Morrison’s arrogance for saying something like that, except that then he went on to launch a magical attack directly at Watchmen just to prove his point, with his comic “Pax Americana.”

“Watchmen” had started out as an idea Moore had using a certain group of DC-owned characters (Captain Atom, Peacemaker, The Question, Nightshade, the Blue Beetle, Thunderbolt) which DC wasn’t really using. Luckily for us all, DC didn’t let him use them, so he reinvented them as the Watchmen characters (Dr.Manhattan, Comedian, Rorschach, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Ozymandias) and created a masterpiece.

But in “Pax Americana,” Morrison reversed the situation. First, he did get to use the DC characters; but he wrote them in a style that imitated (almost but not quite to the point of mockery) the style of Moore’s “Watchmen” characters. Then he makes a complete story in just one issue, that is just as much a work of genius as Moore’s 12 issues of “Watchmen.” This too is a magical technique, once again, Morrison has turned a comic book into a spell. “Pax Americana” itself even deals with the nature of time, and the keys to the universe in the number 8; he even magically over-rides “Watchmen”’s base-3 (9 panel) format with a base-4 (8 or 16 panel) format. It’s like a wizard crafting a more powerful magical square-talisman than his rival.

The first page of the story actually shows you the ending of it, and you can read “Pax Americana” from front to back, back to front, or starting from anywhere in the middle. By playing with time in this way, and using the older characters Moore’s “Watchmen” was based on, Morrison’s comic-spell is essentially trying to retroactively change history, and to neuter Moore’s claim that he was there first. “Pax Americana” isn’t just an amazing comic – it’s an amazing spell.

For his part Moore hasn’t responded to this latest volley quite yet, having been too busy working on his decade-long novel project Jerusalem, which he finally published last year. It’s one of the ten longest novels of the English language, and got some pretty good reviews. But I’m guessing comics will pull him back in again, and Alan Moore’s magical duel with Grant Morrison won’t be over until one of the two is dead. Maybe not even then.

Deserting the Digital Utopia COMPUTERS AGAINST COMPUTING

“There is an invisible world connected at the handle to every tool—use the tool as it is intended, and it fits you to the mold of all who do the same; disconnect the tool from that world, and you can set out to chart others.”

Hunter/Gatherer

The ideal capitalist product would derive its value from the ceaseless unpaid labor of the entire human race. We would be dispensable; it would be indispensable. It would integrate all human activity into a single unified terrain, accessible only via additional corporate products, in which sweatshop and marketplace merged. It would accomplish all this under the banner of autonomy and decentralization, perhaps even of “direct democracy.”

Surely, were such a product invented, some well-meaning anti-capitalists would proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was nigh—it only remained to subtract capitalism from the equation. The anthem of the lotus-eaters.

It would not be the first time dissidents have extrapolated their utopia from the infrastructure of the ruling order. Remember the enthusiasm Karl Marx and Ayn Rand shared for railroads! By contrast, we believe that the technology produced by capitalist competition tends to incarnate and impose its logic; if we wish to escape this order, we should never take its tools for granted. When we use tools, they use us back.

Here follows our attempt to identify the ideology built into digital technology and to frame some hypotheses about how to engage with it.

The Net Closes

In our age, domination is not just imposed by commands issued from rulers to ruled, but by algorithms that systematically produce and constantly recalibrate power differentials. The algorithm is the fundamental mechanism perpetuating today’s hierarchies; it determines the possibilities in advance, while offering an illusion of freedom as choice. The digital reduces the infinite possibilities of life to a lattice of interconnecting algorithms—to choices between zeros and ones. The world is whittled down to representation, and representation expands to fill the world; the irreducible disappears. That which does not compute does not exist. The digital can present a breathtaking array of choices—of possible combinations of ones and zeros—but the terms of each choice are set in advance.

A computer is a machine that performs algorithms. The term originally designated a human being who followed orders as rigidly as a machine. Alan Turing, the patriarch of computer science, named the digital computer as a metaphorical extension of the most impersonal form of human labor: “The idea behind digital computers may be explained by saying that these machines are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human computer.” In the fifty years since, we have seen this metaphor inverted and inverted again, as human and machine become increasingly indivisible. “The human computer is supposed to be following fixed rules,” Turing continued; “he has no authority to deviate from them in any detail.”

Just as timesaving technologies have only made us busier, giving the busywork of number crunching to computers has not freed us from busywork—it has made computing integral to every facet of our lives. In post-Soviet Russia, numbers crunch you.

Since the beginning, the object of digital development has been the convergence of human potential and algorithmic control. There are places where this project is already complete. The iPhone “Retina display” is so dense that an unaided human eye cannot tell it is comprised of pixels. There are still gaps between the screens, but they grow smaller by the day.

The Net that closes the space between us closes the spaces within us. It encloses commons that previously resisted commodification, commons such as social networks that we can only recognize as such now that they are being mapped for enclosure. As it grows to encompass our whole lives, we have to become small enough to fit into its equations. Total immersion.

The Digital Divides

Well-intentioned liberals are concerned that there are entire communities not yet integrated into the global digital network. Hence free laptops for the “developing world,” hundred-dollar tablets for schoolchildren. They can only imagine the one of digital access or the zero of digital exclusion. Given this binary, digital access is preferable—but the binary itself is a product of the process that produces exclusion, not a solution to it.

The project of computerizing the masses recapitulates and extends the unification of humanity under capitalism. No project of integration has ever extended as widely or penetrated as deeply as capitalism, and the digital will soon fill its entire space. “The poor don’t have our products yet!”—that’s the rallying cry of Henry Ford. Amazon.com sells tablets below cost, too, but they acknowledge it as a business investment. Individual workers depreciate without digital access; but being available at a single click, compelled to compete intercontinentally in real time, will not make the total market value of the working class appreciate. Capitalist globalization has already shown this. More mobility for individuals does not ensure more parity across the board.

To integrate is not necessarily to equalize: the leash, the rein, and the whip are also connective. Even where it connects, the digital divides.

Like capitalism, the digital divides haves from have-nots. But a computer is not what the has-not lacks. The has-not lacks power, which is not apportioned equally by digitization. Rather than a binary of capitalists and proletarians, a universal market is emerging in which each person will be ceaselessly evaluated and ranked. Digital technology can impose power differentials more thoroughly and efficiently than any caste system in history.

Already, your ability to engage in social and economic relations of all kinds is determined by the quality of your processor. At the lower end of the economic spectrum, the unemployed person with the smartphone snaps up the cheaper ride on Craigslist (where hitchhiking used to be equal opportunity). At the upper end, the high-frequency trader profits directly on the processing power of his computers (making old-fashioned stockbroking look fair by comparison), as does the Bitcoin miner.

It is unthinkable that digital equality could be built on such an uneven terrain. The gap between rich and poor has not closed in the nations at the forefront of digitization. The more widespread digital access becomes, the more we will see social and economic polarization accelerate. Capitalism produces and circulates new innovations faster than any previous system, but alongside them it produces ever-increasing disparities: where equestrians once ruled over pedestrians, stealth bombers now sail over motorists.11. You can use a 3D printer to make a gun, but the NSA can make computer worms that seize control of entire industrial systems. And the problem is not just that capitalism is an unfair competition, but that it imposes this competition on every sphere of life. Digitization makes it possible to incorporate the most intimate aspects of our relations into its logic.

The digital divide doesn’t just run between individuals and demographics; it runs through each of us. In an era of precarity, when everyone simultaneously occupies multiple shifting social and economic positions, digital technologies selectively empower us according to the ways we are privileged while concealing the ways we are marginalized. The grad student who owes fifty thousand dollars communicates with other debtors through social media, but they are more likely to share their résumés or rate restaurants than to organize a debt strike.

Only when we understand the protagonists of our society as networks rather than freestanding individuals can the gravity of this hit home: digital collectivity is premised on market success, whereas we all experience failure in isolation. In the social networks of the future—which advertisers, credit agencies, employers, landlords, and police will monitor in a single matrix of control—we may only encounter each other insofar as we affirm the market and our value on it.

The System Updates

Competition and market expansion have always stabilized capitalism by offering new social mobility, giving the poor a stake in the game just when they had no more reason to play along. But now that the entire world is integrated into a single market and capital is concentrating in the hands of a shrinking elite, what could forestall a new wave of revolt?

The aforementioned Henry Ford was one of the innovators who responded to the last major crisis that threatened capitalism. Raising salaries and increasing mass-production and credit, he expanded the market for his products—undercutting the revolutionary demands of the labor movement by turning producers into consumers. This encouraged even the most precarious workers to aspire to inclusion rather than revolution.

The following generation’s struggles erupted on a new terrain, as consumers reprised producers’ demand for self-determination in the marketplace: first as a demand for individuality, and then, when that was granted, for autonomy. This culminated with the classic imperative of the do-it-yourself counterculture—“Become the media”—just as the global telecommunications infrastructure was miniaturized to make individual workers as flexible as national economies.

We have become the media, and our demand for autonomy has been granted—but this has not rendered us free. Just as the struggles of producers were defused by turning them into consumers, the demands of consumers have been defused by turning them into producers: where the old media had been top-down and unidirectional, the new media derive their value from user-created content. Meanwhile, globalization and automation eroded the compromise Ford had brokered between capitalists and a privileged subset of the working class, producing a redundant and precarious population.

In this volatile context, new corporations like Google are updating the Fordist compromise via free labor and free distribution. Ford offered workers greater participation in capitalism via mass consumption; Google gives everything away for free by making everything into an unpaid job. In offering credit, Ford enabled workers to become consumers by selling their future as well as present labor; Google has dissolved the distinction between production, consumption, and surveillance, making it possible to capitalize on those who may never have anything to spend at all.

Attention itself is supplementing financial capital as the determinant currency in our society. It is a new consolation prize for which the precarious may compete—those who will never be millionaires can still dream of a million youtube views—and a new incentive to drive the constant innovation capitalism necessitates. As in the financial market, corporations and individuals alike may try their luck, but those who control the structures through which attention circulates wield the greatest power. Google’s ascendancy does not derive from advertising revenue or product sales but from the ways it shapes the flows of information.

Looking ahead down this road, we can imagine a digital feudalism in which finance capital and attention have both been consolidated in the hands of an elite, and a benevolent dictatorship of computers (human and otherwise) maintains the Internet as a playpen for a superfluous population. Individual programs and programmers will be replaceable—the more internal mobility a hierarchical structure offers, the more robust and resilient it is—but the structure itself will be nonnegotiable. We can even imagine the rest of the population participating on an apparently horizontal and voluntary basis in refining the programming—within certain parameters, of course, as in all algorithms.

Digital feudalism could arrive under the banner of direct democracy, proclaiming that everyone has the right to citizenship and participation, presenting itself as a solution to the excesses of capitalism. Those who dream of a guaranteed basic income, or who wish to be compensated for the online harvesting of their “personal data,” must understand that these demands would only be realized by an all-seeing surveillance state—and that such demands legitimize state power and surveillance even if they are never granted. Statists will use the rhetoric of digital citizenship to justify mapping everyone in new cartographies of control, fixing each of us to a single online identity in order to fulfill their vision of a society subject to total regulation and enforcement. “Smart cities” will impose algorithmic order on the offline world, replacing the unsustainable growth imperative of contemporary capitalism with new imperatives: surveillance, resilience, and management.22. Smart cities will not be based on greener buildings, but on the surveillance and control of our personal possessions: Walmart is already using RFID chips, the same chips used in US passports, to track the flows of its commodities across the globe.

In this dystopian projection, the digital project of reducing the world to representation converges with the program of electoral democracy, in which only representatives acting through the prescribed channels may exercise power. Both set themselves against all that is incomputable and irreducible, fitting humanity to a Procrustean bed. Fused as electronic democracy, they would present the opportunity to vote on a vast array of minutia, while rendering the infrastructure itself unquestionable—the more participatory a system is, the more “legitimate.” Yet every notion of citizenship implies an excluded party; every notion of political legitimacy implies a zone of illegitimacy.

Genuine freedom means being able to determine our lives and relations from the ground up. We must be able to define our own conceptual frameworks, to formulate the questions as well as the answers. This is not the same as obtaining better representation or more participation in the prevailing order. Championing digital inclusivity and “democratic” state stewardship equips those who hold power to legitimize the structures through which they wield it.

It is a mistake to think that the tools built to rule us would serve us if only we could depose our masters. That’s the same mistake every previous revolution has made about police, courts, and prisons. The tools of liberation must be forged in the struggle to achieve it.

The Google logo, with a snappy promotional subtitle reading: Digital feudalism

The Social Networks

We contemplate a future in which digital systems will meet our every need, as long as we ask only for the present order delivered instantly. Tracing the trajectory of our digital imaginary, we will soon be always voting, always working, always shopping, always in jail. Even fantasies that separate the soul from the body to travel inside the computer leave the liberal subject intact: every post-humanism we have been offered has been a neoliberalism, every one.

Liberal gradualists fighting for online privacy and net neutrality figure the subalterns they are defending as individuals. But as long as we operate according to the paradigm of “human rights,” our attempts to organize against systems of digital control will only reproduce their logic. The regime of constitutions and charters that is presently coming to an end didn’t just protect the liberal subject, the individual—it invented it. Each of the rights of the liberal subject implies a lattice of institutional violence to ensure its functional atomization—the partitioning of private property, the privacy of voting booths and prison cells.

If nothing else, the ostentatious networking of daily life underscores the fragility of liberal individuality. Where does “I” begin and end, when my knowledge is derived from search engines and my thoughts are triggered and directed by online updates? Countering this, we are encouraged to shore up our fragile individualism by constructing and disseminating autobiographical propaganda. The online profile is a reactionary form that attempts to preserve the last flickering ember of the liberal subjectivity by selling it. Say, “identity economy.”

But the object of exploitation is a network, and so is the subject in revolt. Neither have ever resembled the liberal individual for very long. The slave galley and the slave uprising are both networks composed of some aspects of many people. Their difference consists not in different types of people, but different principles of networking. Every body contains multiple hearts. The perspective that digital representation provides on our own activity enables us to clarify that we are pursuing a conflict between rival organizational principles, not between specific networks or individuals.

The networks produced and concealed by liberalism are inevitably hierarchical. Liberalism seeks to stabilize the pyramid of inequality by forever widening its base. Our desire is to level pyramids, to abolish the indignities of domination and submission. We do not demand that the rich give to the poor; we seek to cut down the fences. We cannot say that the digital is essentially hierarchical, because we know nothing of “essences”; we only know that the digital is fundamentally hierarchical, in that it is built upon the same foundation as liberalism. If a different digital is possible, it will only emerge on a different foundation.

We don’t need better iterations of existing technology; we need a better premise for our relations. New technologies are useless except insofar as they help us to establish and defend new relations.

Social networks preexist the internet; different social practices network us according to different logics. Understanding our relations in terms of circulation rather than static identity—in terms of trajectories rather than locations, of forces rather than objects—we can set aside the question of individual rights and set out to create new collectivities outside the logic that produced the digital and its divides.

The Force Quits

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Integration creates new exclusions; the atomized seek each other. Every new form of control creates another site of rebellion. Policing and security infrastructure have increased exponentially over the past two decades, but this has not produced a more pacified world—on the contrary, the greater the coercion, the more instability and unrest. The project of controlling populations by digitizing their interactions and environments is itself a coping strategy to forestall the upheavals that are bound to follow the economic polarization, social degradation, and ecological devastation wrought by capitalism.

The wave of uprisings that has swept the globe since 2010—from Tunisia and Egypt through Spain and Greece to the worldwide Occupy movement, and most recently Turkey and Brazil—has largely been understood as a product of the new digital networks. Yet it is also a reaction against digitization and the disparities it reinforces. News of Occupy encampments spread via the Internet, but those who populated them were there because they were unsatisfied with the merely virtual—or because, being poor or homeless, they had no access to it at all. Before 2011, who could have imagined that the Internet would produce a worldwide movement premised on permanent presence in shared physical space?

This is only a foretaste of the backlash that will ensue as more and more of life is fitted to the digital grid. The results are not foreordained, but we can be sure there will be new opportunities for people to come together outside and against the logic of capitalism and state control. As we witness the emergence of digital citizenship and the identity market, let us begin by asking what technologies the digitally excluded non-citizen will need. The tools employed during the fight for Gezi Park in Istanbul in summer 2013 could present a humble starting place. How can we extrapolate from protest mapping to the tools that will be necessary for insurrection and survival, especially where the two become one and the same? Looking to Egypt, we can see the need for tools that could coordinate the sharing of food—or disable the military.

Understanding the expansion of the digital as an enclosure of our potential doesn’t mean ceasing to use digital technology. Rather, it means changing the logic with which we approach it. Any positive vision of a digital future will be appropriated to perpetuate and abet the ruling order; the reason to engage on the terrain of the digital is to destabilize the disparities it imposes. Instead of establishing digital projects intended to prefigure the world we wish to see, we can pursue digital practices that disrupt control. Rather than setting out to defend the rights of a new digital class—or to incorporate everyone into such a class via universal citizenship—we can follow the example of the disenfranchised, beginning from contemporary uprisings that radically redistribute power.

Understood as a class, programmers occupy the same position today that the bourgeoisie did in 1848, wielding social and economic power disproportionate to their political leverage. In the revolutions of 1848, the bourgeoisie sentenced humanity to two more centuries of misfortune by ultimately siding with law and order against poor workers. Programmers enthralled by the Internet revolution could do even worse today: they could become digital Bolsheviks whose attempt to create a democratic utopia produces the ultimate totalitarianism.

On the other hand, if a critical mass of programmers shifts their allegiances to the real struggles of the excluded, the future will be up for grabs once more. But that would mean abolishing the digital as we know it—and with it, themselves as a class. Desert the digital utopia.

How Sunn O)))’s Subversive Metal Birthed An Album With A Buddhist Heart

This past February, the Brooklyn Rail published an essay on black metal by the critical theorist and artist Aliza Shvarts. “Metal is an overwhelmingly white and heteromasculinist subculture,” she wrote. “Yet as such, it offers something useful to a prurient queer feminist interest…metal is a relevant site to dark radical queers and feminists precisely because it is usually not for us but about us.” She proceeds her argument not by decrying sexism in metal music, but rather by singling out of one the genre’s more avant-garde outfits, Sunn O))). As she sees it, the band—a remote project between Paris-based guitarist Stephen O’Malley and Los Angeles-based bassist Greg Anderson—has been queering metal itself, subverting rather than entrenching patriarchy.

Shvarts isn’t alone in this outlook. Sunn O))) have developed a steady fan base as a metal band that doesn’t play to the conventionalities of the genre. Instead, their music has long been characterized by their meditations on distorted guitar chords, a sound much indebted to the raga work of the drone music pioneer La Monte Young. The band’s percussion-less compositions have no discernible verse or chorus structure, yet typically push past the ten minute mark. One such track, a 20-minute instrumental dedicated to jazz legend Alice Coltrane, features trombones and major chords held until their natural dissipation. The latter, especially, is a common trait of the band. In a genre largely dominated by stomping rhythms and chaotic speed, Sunn O))) rewards those who are willing to immerse themselves in their patient music.

For the band’s seventh studio album—titled Kannon, their first in six years—O’Malley had turned the band’s attention to the calm and merciful manner of the Buddha. “[In Buddhist teaching] ‘Kannon’ is the aspect that hears the suffering of the universe and then transforms that energy into compassion and relief,” O’Malley tells me during an interview in Brooklyn’s East River Park. He adds that Kannon is usually depicted in Zen teachings as a female Buddha. It was during the band’s exploration of this concept back in February that Shvarts’ article was published. One of the things she argued is that the immersive quality inherent in Sunn O)))’s music has more in common with the sounds of reproductive labor—“it’s magic, horror, and drone”—than the industrial, mechanized sound that is more common to metal. It is in this deviation from the status quo that Shvarts sees Sunn O)))’s power. O’Malley was impressed with Shvarts’ ideas and he invited her to expand on them in an essay that would become the liner notes to Kannon. In turn, the record grew into a triptych of mantra-like compositions that subvert common notions of metal music—dark distorted guitars, howling vocals, tightly threaded song partitions—by channeling them into amorphicity.

“We’ve worked with concepts before,” says O’Malley, “but we’ve never gone this deep with one.” Black One (2005), he explains, challenged the aesthetic confines of black metal, while Monoliths and Dimensions (2009) instigated a conversation between distorted drone and orchestral arrangement. Kannon doesn’t just further Sunn O)))’s philosophical investigations into metal, it’s an inquiry into the band’s continued existence. It was largely developed during the band’s live shows, the only time its two core members ever see each other. Though they founded Sunn O))) in their hometown of Seattle in 1998, O’Malley and Anderson have lived in different cities since 2001, with O’Malley residing for many years in New York, and now in Paris, and Anderson raising a family in Los Angeles. “Playing with Stephen and keeping this band going,” says Anderson over the phone from his L.A. home, “has been one of the most awesome challenges in my life.”

In eschewing the meticulousness of their previous studio albums for a more raw and stripped sound, Kannon demonstrates the quintessence of Sunn O))). O’Malley and Anderson slowly churn guitar chords as Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar—who also appeared on Monoliths and Dimensions—delivers snarling and rapturous incantations. Both members acknowledge that Kannon largely matured with Csihar as the fulcrum. “In the last four or five years our live show has kind of turned from a wall of fog into a triangle with Attila in the foreground,” says O’Malley. Csihar and Shvarts are just two of the contributors on Kannon’s personnel, which also includes longtime producer Randall Dunn, Moog player Steve Moore, and experimental guitarist Oren Ambarchi, amongst others.

Here, Anderson and O’Malley tell the story of Kannon and the continued evolution of Sunn O))) in their own words.

Greg Anderson, Sunn O))) Photo by Peter Best

 

Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O))) Photo by Peter Bes

 

O’Malley: Kannon originated from a demo I made in New York in 2006. Greg was into it, and we slowly began introducing early versions of that material into our sets.

Anderson: An early version of “Kannon 3” is actually on our live album Dømkirke (Dome Curve, 2008), that was recorded at the Bergen Cathedral in Norway.

O’Malley: On Dømkirke, it’s called “Cannon” with a C, which carries a different meaning than when it’s spelled with a K. It’s been part of our live set for a few years now.

Anderson: Compositionally, Kannon represents we’ve been doing live over the last eight years. Whereas the other records were really developed and created in the studio, this record was most inspired by and developed through our performances. And one of the great impacts of our live show has been to work with Attila Csihar, who has become, sort of, our vocalist. Our last couple records have been sort of half-vocal, half-instrumental pieces where this album is really more stuff that we were developing live, and that including his parts as well. He’s participated in developing these songs from the beginning.

O’Malley: Attila’s totally integrated into the reality of the live band, and we had worked together on Dømkirke and Monoliths and Dimensions. The one track we kept instrumental on that album is “Alice,” which is a tribute to Alice Coltrane. Funny anecdote about that song: I met that dude Flying Lotus at the Oya Festival in Oslo this past summer. It had this crazy backstage with a massage parlor, a hair salon, and a swimming pool. We all got our beards trimmed at the salon, and he was sitting next to me getting a haircut. I didn’t recognize him, but he recognized me. He was like “Hey, you’re Sunn O))) right? I really liked your tribute to my aunt!” I thought it was cool that he knew about it, and he seemed equally grateful it existed. “Alice” was also how Soused (4AD, 2013) happened; I’d sent Scott Walker the recording and we batted around the idea of having him put vocals on it. That didn’t happen, but then you know, we ended up making a whole album with him later on. Attila wasn’t involved with the Soused sessions, but he was incredibly gracious about stepping aside and letting us work with Scott. I think that experience made us all more confident in what we were doing, maybe more ambitious. Maybe it has also given us a chance to feature Attila as the frontman in the next step of our evolutionary process.

“In the late ‘90s, it was a much more rigid and narrow-minded community. If you didn’t dress a certain way, or play a certain way, than you weren’t metal.”—Grey Anderson, Sunn O)))

Anderson: [Making] Kannon has been a useful way to investigate our sound and to stretch and morph these songs in ways we might not have done had we recorded them all in a studio. It’s kind of ironic that this album reflects our live sound, because at first we weren’t sure if the band was going to continue to play live—we thought we might just turn this into a studio project. So when we did decide to keep playing live, that aspect of Sunn O))) really took on a life of its own. We tried to keep those elements somewhat loose as far what we were going to do, and what we were going to play, and we were open to possibilities about where to go with the music, in order to keep us going.

O’Malley: When we took this stuff into the studio to record it, we wanted to present it in a way that our people could provoke a discussion with something other than just the music. Aliza’s essay on feminism in metal was a big part of that. There’s a huge sexist problem in metal—“problem” isn’t the right word, it’s traditionally a sexist culture—but the way Aliza broached the topic of sexism in metal, and put a feminine spin on our own music, was pretty original and refreshing. No one had approached our work with this perspective. So I reached out to her about contributing liner notes. There she discusses this idea of [our sound] from the perspective of feminist and Buddhist thought, how it [immerses the listener] in an all-encompassing feminine embrace—you’re within—as opposed to a more masculine, a more directional, opposal way of thinking.

I’m not the most scholarly person on this subject, but that way of thinking interests me. I’m not calling this our “Buddhist record,” but we wanted to give Kannon a twist, to present something that has a little bit more of a philosophical angle. Why don’t we take this intense, brutal consuming sound, and present it as a sort of merciful, almost relief, music? Attila took this Buddhist concept and worked it into the language and voice. His way of looking at things is very visual, event-based, and phenomenological, where every line is very rich and poetic.

Anderson: Attila’s pretty great at pulling from a wide variety of influences that can range from a David Icke book to a Diamanda Galas record. The imagery of his lyrics are as much a part of the concept as everything else.

“Why don’t we take this intense, brutal consuming sound, and present it as a sort of merciful, almost relief, music?”—Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O)))

O’Malley: There’s a hope that there might be some reaction to this concept from the East. We have a lot of fans in Asia, like in China, but we’ve never played there. I don’t even know what it’s like. There’s a lot of people who think of concepts like [the ones explored on Kannon] on a daily basis, but probably less so here than there; in many Asian countries, it’s a fundamental thing. We’re in a position where people are looking at what you’re doing, and listening to what you’re saying, so what are you going to talk about? You have the opportunity to make statements, whether they be philosophical or political ones. Though, as a band, you have to share a message or you’ll just splinter.

When we were invited to play in Israel in 2006, some of the band members didn’t want to go. So Attila, Oren, and I went, and performed as a sort of side project to Sunn O))) called Gravetemple, which we created just to go and have that experience. But while we were there, war broke out with Lebanon. It was crazy. There’s something about going to a country as an artist, where you’re not a political ambassador or endorsing the beliefs of the government so much as you are there for your fans. They’re so grateful for you to go past politics and just be there with your music. Maybe it’s a bit irresponsible to think about it that way, but it’s also important to remember that these things don’t always have to be tied up in the political media frenzy and fear—this paranoia and all this racist shit that gets programmed by the media. A place like Israel is just so intense on that level—but I’ve also met amazing people there, who try to avoid all that and make art.

Anderson: Even the attitude of the metal community can be polarizing, though it has significantly progressed toward openness since we first started. Back then, in the late ’90s, it was a much more rigid and narrow-minded community. If you didn’t dress a certain way, or play a certain way, or even shared the same beliefs, than you weren’t metal, and therefore not really accepted. No one understood us, or really cared to. People just said it was garbage and noise. But it never deterred us from exploring our own sound within a metal palette, and now we have a huge following and sell out shows because we didn’t conform to doing metal by the book. This has caused some people within the metal community to ask if we still respect and love it, and the answer is absolutely.

Stephen and I are extremely obsessed with, and incredibly influenced by metal. We eat, breathe, and sleep metal. Even if we don’t wear it on our sleeves, we have it in our hearts. And maybe that won’t satisfy everyone. Certainly people have tried to expose us: “They claim they’re making metal, but they’re not. They’re not metal!” Or they want to know what kind of metal that we play. That’s why we get these awkward descriptions of our sound, like “avant-garde drone doom metal.” I understand that people have these terms so that they can easily describe us, but talking about something just in terms of labels also prevents people from forming independent thoughts about our music. So if people ask, at the end of the day, I always just say that we’re experimental. It’s a broad enough term to satisfy most people and they can make what they want of it.


Kannon is out December 4th via Southern Lord Records (order it here).

Daesh runs its own sites within Darkweb to escape notice

RIYADH — The Daesh Organization (so-called IS) owns different sites within the Darkweb aiming to protect its members and financers against being hacked or caught, said Abdulrahman Al-Shehri, who formed the Tweetso Technical Team, Al-Madina daily reported.

“There are several files online that explain how to make a donation to Daesh and to transfer money through the Darkweb, which is another world that not many know or aware of. A large amount of secret information pertinent to Daesh is being exchanged through this platform,” he explained.

The Darkweb is also the perfect platform through which weapon dealers and terrorists exchange information that will slip under the radar of official authorities and will never be caught.

This platform is not accessed through Google Chrome, Firefox and other search engines where the history of searches can be tracked down.

Accessing the Darkweb is done through special search engines or browsers such as Tor, which allows the users the browse anything securely and anonymously without traffic monitoring.

“The Darkweb is a safe haven for murderers, child molesters and all suspicious and criminal activities. It is a vast world that uses a de facto currency called Bitcoin, which keeps the identity of perpetrators of illegal action anonymous. Bitcoin can hide the identity of sellers and buyers and not let banks and monitoring authorities know about them,” he said.

Because of difficulty in monitoring traffic on the Darkweb, many terrorist organizations continue to prefer it to Surface Web platforms.

The Darkweb helps such organization recruit young men and women and even talk with them inside private online chat rooms.

Daesh has developed its capabilities on the Darkweb and launched an application called “Alrawi” to promote the news and videos of the organization.

The Darkweb has several advantages, the most important of which is it offers a safe and secure platform for people who live under despotic regimes such as Syria and allows them to talk and communicate with one another.

Data Selfie

We want to give you back your Facebook data.

Data Selfie is a browser extension that tracks you while you are on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality.

The tool explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks – the information you share consciously and unconsciously.

Want A Job In The Future? Get Ready To Become A Cyborg — Companies Have Begun Implanting Employees With RFID Chips

By Melissa Dykes

The dystopic future is quickly becoming the dystopic present.

This is something we’re about to see a lot more of in the coming years.

A Belgian marketing firm called NewFusion has microchipped its staff, replacing their traditional ID cards with RFID chips implanted in their hands.

The Daily Mail reports:

The radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are about the same size as a grain of rice and store personal security information which can be transmitted over short distances to special receivers.

RFID chips can already be found in contactless cards, including banks cards and the Oyster system which is used by more than 10 million people to pay for public transport in London.

They are also similar to the chips implanted in pets.

The ones used at NewFusion cost around €100 each (£85 or $106) and are inserted between the thumb and index finger…

In 2015, a Swedish company implanted microchips in its staff which allowed them to use the photocopier, open security doors and even pay for their lunch.

More and more companies are going to start implanting their workers with RFID chips.

At least 10,000 people worldwide have already willingly microchipped themselves, and the practice has progressed to the point that RFID chip implant kits complete with a sterile injector system can be purchased online.

Hannes Sjoblad, the chief disruption officer at the Swedish bio-hacking group BioNyfiken, which implanted the chips into the Epicenter workers, told The Times: “We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip…”

The Facebook chip?

Physically microchipping one’s self is already being normalized and pushed as the next technological advance for safety and security. You can already see talk of how “convenient” and “secure” chipping one’s self will be in the future because passwords and ID cards can so easily get lost, right?

Mega tech companies already have microchips for payment like its mark of the beast straight out of the Bible … they just haven’t found a way to necessitate and sell it to the public yet. The casual programming of the population to accept this new tech can be found all over, including commercials like this one:

Every time I see this commercial about our trendy, microchipped future, I wonder what happens if someone’s chip were to say get turned off, like Sandra Bullock’s life was in The Net?

The US military has already held meetings to discuss the feasibility of microchipping all of its soldiers to be able to track them via GPS.

In addition, big pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline are working on “bioelectronics” — implanted microchips that will send electrical signals to various parts of the brain for medical purposes such as healing ailments. Sounds good initially until you think about it for more than two seconds.

This is to say nothing of the legal and health issues surrounding the implantation of these chips.

And yet, tech experts claim that within the next decade, at least half of Americans will be microchipped.
You might say that sounds crazy, but if you’ve been to Disneyland or Disneyworld any time in the last decade, then you will see how ready and willing people are to scan their fingers and give up their biometric information for convenience. Sure, there’s an opt-out option, but does anyone actually bother or do the majority just go along with whatever they’re told to do for their “safety and convenience”?

If there was for example a “Facebook chip” that allowed people to interact with Facebook faster or a Google chip or a Smartphone texting chip or a video game chip or an insert a thousand other examples here chip … how many millions if not billions of people do you think would readily line up to get one in the name of “safety and convenience”?

But, for all those dissenters who wouldn’t make that choice, there’s always the fact that the House just passed a vaguely worded bill that will allow the government to microchip citizens including children with “mental disabilities.”

Welcome to the dystopic present.

 

How criminals use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

It has become common practice for attackers to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to link tools together so that they can be run in parallel when conducting an attack.

Attackers use AI and ML to take the results from one tool and then allow the other tools to “learn” about the finding and use it against other systems. As an example, if a one tool finds a password, that tool can feed the information to another tool or bot that may conduct the exploitation of one or many systems using the discovered password.

AI and ML allows for an attacker to program a toolset or bot to act like a “real” attacker. As an example, the tool or bot may launch a phishing attack against an organization and then take the results of the phishing tool and conduct other types of attacks just as a human would.

Attackers are building toolsets and bots that use AI and ML techniques to evade detection and blocking the methods already in place within most organizations. Many of these tools (typically open source) can be easily obtained from the Internet.  This gives anyone the ability to run the tools against target organizations.

In an article in Wired President Obama expressed his concerns about AI-enabled bots attacking nuclear weapon silos and causing a launch. This intimates that the threat of AI and ML enhanced attacks are a major concern even at the highest level of government.

Advice and Recommendations

  • Use defense in depth mechanisms to defend against automated/AI-based attacks. As an example, consider using more than one anti-virus product to protect your systems, one on desktops, one on servers, and one at the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA).  This improves your chances of detecting the attack.
  • Utilize Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) to evaluate log data from systems and protection mechanisms. As an example, capture data from firewalls, Intrusion Detection/Prevention (IDS/IPS), and from workstations and servers.  Look for anomalous behavior such as systems trying to connect to other systems that normally would not have anything to do with each other.
  • Ensure that all systems require users to use strong passwords comprised of alpha, numeric, and special characters. Put polices in place that require the users of these systems, including administrators, to change their passwords at least every 90 days.
  • Train your employees on a regular basis on what to do when they notice anomalous events on their computers (mouse pointer moving with no user interaction, etc.).
  • Shut down unnecessary services on all systems. As an example, if you have a file server running a web server but that web server is never used, shut it down to reduce the attack surface of the host.  Tools and bots using AI/ML will hunt for systems with exploitable services first so that they can be used as pivot points to attack other systems on the network.
  • Stay abreast of new threats to ensure that the protection mechanisms you have in place still provide the level of security that you are expecting.
  • Conduct ongoing vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to discover weaknesses in your computing infrastructure that may be exploited by a bot or other tool that seeks out and exploits vulnerabilities.

Snuff Real Death and Screen Media

The phenomenon of so-called snuff movies (films that allegedly document real acts of murder, specifically designed to entertain and sexually arouse the spectator) represents a fascinating socio-cultural paradox. At once unproven, yet accepted by many, as emblematic of the very worst extremes of pornography and horror, moral detractors have argued that the mere idea of snuff constitutes the logical (and terminal) extension of generic forms that are dependent primarily upon the excitement, stimulation and, ultimately, corruption of the senses. Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media brings together scholars from film and media studies to assess the longevity of one of screen medias most enduring cultural myths. Thorough, provocative, and well argued, the contributions to this volume address areas ranging from exploitation movies, the video industry, trends in contemporary horror cinema, pornography and Web 2.0.

Download: http://libgen.io/book/index.php?md5=D8C26F13DB06BB9419DA55325B396BEB

Apocalypse island: Tech billionaires are building boltholes in New Zealand because they now fear social collapse or nuclear war. So what do they know that we don’t?

You’re all set — your bags were packed long ago, there’s a dozen solid gold coins stashed inside your belt and a pistol strapped round your waist.

There’s no need to say goodbye to the wife and children as they’re already waiting for you 6,000 miles away in New Zealand, having slipped off quietly at the first whiff of global catastrophe.

Now, they’re making themselves comfortable in that fortress home you’ve spent years preparing. They’ve got store-loads of food and enough guns and ammunition to start World War III – which might, anyway, have begun by the time you arrive.

New Zealand – thousands of miles away from North Korea, ISIS and all the social tensions in Europe and the United States – is seen as the ideal ‘safe’ place for billionaires

The high-powered motorbike you’ve never used is waiting outside to whisk you to the private airport where your plane sits waiting.

A helicopter-ride at the other end, pull up the drawbridge — yes, you have one — and you’re ready to wait, for years if necessary, for civilisation to return.

Never mind the warnings about stocking up on vegetables after awful weather has ravaged the Mediterranean farming belt. Some of America’s richest people are spending billions quietly preparing for a global Apocalypse.

The world of Doomsday survivalists or ‘Preppers’ — those preparing themselves for total social collapse — is usually associated with wild-eyed eco-beardies hiding in the woods.

Nuclear war is just one of the fears driving the billionaire ‘refugees’

But the existence of a very different group of Preppers was laid bare by a political row in New Zealand this week. 

Attracted by a remote First World country that has the potential to be self-sufficient and is on no one’s list of nuclear targets, the super-rich kings of Silicon Valley and Wall Street are buying up vast tracts of its land — in anticipation of the day when they may need to live there.

The controversy has revealed the extraordinary precautions being taken by the mega- rich to ensure that WTSHTF — a crude survivalist acronym for ‘when the **** hits the fan’ — they and their loved ones will be safe and comfortable.

What the catastrophe will precisely be remains unclear, but possibilities include a devastating asteroid impact, giant earthquake, nuclear war, civil war, pandemic, zombie invasion and the Second Coming.

Tellingly, the geeks of Silicon Valley appear to be most worried that it will be a struggle between rich and poor in a world economy turned upside down by new technology — with them as the main targets.

The row in New Zealand involves scores of mega-rich Americans but has specifically centred on Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of the internet payment system PayPal and an early investor in Facebook.

Thiel, a libertarian supporter of Donald Trump, paid $10million for a 477-acre lakeside estate in the country’s beautiful but isolated Southern Alps, which provided much of the staggering landscape in the Lord Of the Rings and Hobbit films.

Amid a public outcry over the invasion of U.S. internet and finance billionaires, the New Zealand government has released papers detailing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ under which the American tycoon was quietly given a New Zealand passport.

Peter Thiel (pictured, centre) is a big supporter of Donald Trump but he has an insurance plan if it all goes pear-shaped, having bought a 477-acre estate in New Zealand

Peter Thiel (pictured, centre) is a big supporter of Donald Trump but he has an insurance plan if it all goes pear-shaped, having bought a 477-acre estate in New Zealand

It is difficult to understand how this complied with the rules, including one that insists foreigners must live there for three years beforehand.

Mr Thiel has gushed about his ‘great pride’ in his new citizenship and how he has ‘found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future’.

Perhaps what he really meant was exposed, after one of his Silicon Valley chums, the venture capitalist Sam Altman, revealed that, at the first sign of global disaster, he and Thiel would fly to New Zealand.

Other uber-rich Americans who have recently bought homes there include the billionaire hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson and the Hollywood film director James Cameron.

Local estate agents say their U.S. clients rarely intend to live in New Zealand, but cite reasons for their purchases such as the toxic presidential election and the spate of mass shootings in America.

In the first ten months of last year, foreigners — mainly Australians and Americans — bought nearly 1,400 square miles of land there, more than four times what they bought in the same period the previous year.

When they’re not buying up land abroad (Chile is also popular as it has low taxes, a good climate and good air links), rich survivalists like to swap tips on private Facebook groups or at regular dinners.

Popular subjects range from buying internet currencies such as Bitcoin, as protection against a central banking meltdown, to which foreign countries are most likely to hand them a passport and so the chance to relocate there in a crisis.

Some have planned for every eventuality. Steve Huffman, the 33-year-old co-founder of the internet discussion forum Reddit, which is valued at $600 million, is one of several Silicon Valley barons who has had laser surgery to correct poor eyesight.

If society collapses, he reasons perversely, getting hold of new spectacles might be a challenge. Ammunition could run out, too.

   
 Steve Huffman (left), co-founder of Reddit, has had laser surgery because he does not want to rely on post-apocalyptic opticians, while Oracle founder Larry Ellison (right) is readying an escape hatch in Hawaii

Steve Huffman (left), co-founder of Reddit, has had laser surgery because he does not want to rely on post-apocalyptic opticians, while Oracle founder Larry Ellison (right) is readying an escape hatch in Hawaii

Marvin Liao, a former senior executive at web giant Yahoo, has taken classes in archery and has amassed a small arsenal of other non-firearm weapons to protect his wife and daughter.

Survivalists have their own set of acronyms, including WROL (Without Rule Of Law) and LIA (Little Ice Age). (Some of them worry that the latter has just started).

They also have secret buzzphrases. ‘Saying you’re “buying a house in New Zealand” is kind of a wink, wink — say no more,’ Reid Hoffman, a venture capitalist told the New Yorker magazine.

‘Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they’ll be, like: “Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.” ’

These brothers in paranoia don’t necessarily agree on how to survive the approaching cataclysm. Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook product manager, bought five wooded acres on an island off America’s north Pacific coast.

For this refuge, he brought in solar panels, power generators and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

He chose the spot because it’s far from cities — but not completely remote, as ‘one guy alone’ couldn’t hope to stand up to a ‘roving mob’. One would need to set up a ‘local militia’ with others, he says. And when you have your hundred or so acres of land, what do you put there?

Post-apocalypse design for the money-no-object brigade tends to involve creating a home with a huge bomb-proof basement. The home must be self-contained, not only ‘off the grid’ (with its own power and water supplies), but with tanks for raising tilapia — a hardy, fast-growing fish — to eat, and facilities in which to grow vegetables hydroponically without soil.

Naturally, property developers are eagerly capitalising on such concerns. The Survival Condo Project, a former underground nuclear missile silo in Kansas, has been converted into a 15- storey luxury apartment complex with a pool, gym, classroom and a miniature hospital.

It also has ground-level security cameras, electric fences, an on-site armoury, a sniper post and even a prison cell in which to put unwanted visitors. Instead of windows, giant LED screens show live pictures of the prairie above.

Its creators, who’ve sold all 14 of the $3m homes and are developing a string of new sites, say it can sustain 70 people indefinitely. That is, as long as they can put up with living in what a visitor compared to a well-furnished submarine — silent and rather oppressive.

Project boss Larry Hall says he gets more phone inquiries every time North Korea tests a bomb.

His team promise to send a Pit-Bull VX armoured truck to collect a resident from within a 400-mile radius of the silo.

Others prefer to put their own plans in place. Reddit founder Huffman says he realised a motorbike would be a necessity after watching the disaster film Deep Impact, in which people try to flee a tsunami caused by a comet-strike, clogging the streets so cars are brought to a standstill.

All this panic among the super-rich begs an obvious question: what do they know that the rest of us don’t?

Certainly, preparing for the Apocalypse has been a multi-billion dollar business for many years.

Polls have shown around 22 per cent of Americans believe the world will ‘end’ in their lifetime. Many right-wingers were convinced that Barack Obama would start a civil war by trying to seize citizens’ guns.

Now, there’s the unpredictable Donald Trump to disturb their dreams. More than 13,000 Americans registered to buy a home in New Zealand — 17 times the usual rate — in the week after he was elected president.

There are TV shows about so-called preppers, a survivalist radio network and disaster readiness conventions. There are estate agents dedicated to the task, scouting out easily defendable properties, and even ‘Doomsday dating’ sites such as Survivalist Singles (motto: ‘You don’t have to face the future alone’).

But why are the country’s most privileged people, protected by immense wealth, quite so in fear?

For it is believed that at least 50 per cent of Silicon Valley billionaires have taken out so-called ‘apocalypse insurance’ by finding a refuge at home or abroad. Reluctant to admit the truth, they often describe it as a holiday home, so it’s difficult to know whether or not Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg bought a 750-acre estate in Hawaii ‘just in case’.

Similarly, his fellow tech billionaire Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, who has not only bought 98 per cent of Hawaii’s sixth largest island, Lanai, but — handily — its own airline.

Of course there is the possibility that these fretting tech wizards’ prescience is justified. For many have made their fortunes out of predicting mankind’s dependence on digital gadgets and so we should respect their Doomsday hunches. Survivalists say the first signs of crisis often appear on internet chat forums, as they reportedly did before the 2008 financial crash.

Yishan Wong, another Silicon Valley multi-millionaire who has had eye surgery in readiness for a world without opticians, argues that techie types see risk in a clear-headed way. An apocalypse may be a remote possibility but, if you have money to burn, it’s ‘logical’ to take out insurance, he says.

A less flattering theory is that they’re simply bored nerds who long for adventure and fantasise about a future in which they’ll be a woman-magnet cross between apocalyptic hero Mad Max and environmentally friendly chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Romanian riot police detain a man after clashes erupted during a protest in Bucharest this week. But many fears the world is going to Hell in a handcart

 

Thousands protest against Romanian government’s emergency decree

A New York architect told me he was hired by a senior partner at the bank Goldman Sachs to build a post-Apocalypse house far outside the city. His client wanted it to be a rallying point for local people, gathering — of course — to fall into line under his leadership.

Certainly, Reddit founder Mr Huffman claims he’s ‘a pretty good leader’ who ‘will probably be in charge, or at least not a slave’ if civilisation falls to pieces.

For these great Silicon Valley egalitarians fear that if society collapses, vengeful mobs will look for the super-rich. And, in particular, for the tech wizards whose robots and artificial intelligence systems are taking humans’ jobs.

A critic might ask why, if they’re so alarmed by a battle between rich and poor, they don’t stop wasting their billions on stockpiling armouries and islands and spend it helping the less fortunate?

But then what sort of red-blooded tech king wants to sign a cheque to charity when they could splash out on helicopters, Ducati motorbikes and an assault rifle for every family member?

It’s easy to laugh at the obscenely rich finding grotesque new ways to waste their money. But it’s undeniably disconcerting when it’s the lords of our digital age.

After all, everyone in Silicon Valley claims they want to save the world, not run away from it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4190322/Tech-billionaires-building-boltholes-New-Zealand.html

William S. Burroughs, The Art of Fiction No. 36

Firecrackers and whistles sounded the advent of the New Year of 1965 in St. Louis. Stripteasers ran from the bars in Gaslight Square to dance in the street when midnight came. Burroughs, who had watched television alone that night, was asleep in his room at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, St. Louis’s most elegant.

At noon the next day he was ready for the interview. He wore a gray lightweight Brooks Brothers suit with a vest, a blue-striped shirt from Gibraltar cut in the English style, and a deep-blue tie with small white polka dots. His manner was not so much pedagogic as didactic or forensic. He might have been a senior partner in a private bank, charting the course of huge but anonymous fortunes. A friend of the interviewer, spotting Burroughs across the lobby, thought he was a British diplomat. At the age of fifty, he is trim; he performs a complex abdominal exercise daily and walks a good deal. His face carries no excess flesh. His expression is taut, and his features are intense and chiseled. He did not smile during the interview and laughed only once, but he gives the impression of being capable of much dry laughter under other circumstances. His voice is sonorous, its tone reasonable and patient; his accent is mid-Atlantic, the kind of regionless inflection Americans acquire after many years abroad. He speaks elliptically, in short, clear bursts.

On the dresser of his room sat a European transistor radio; several science fiction paperbacks; Romance, by Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford; The Day Lincoln Was Shot, by Jim Bishop; and Ghosts in American Houses, by James Reynolds. A Zeiss Ikon camera in a scuffed leather case lay on one of the twin beds beside a copy of Field & Stream. On the other bed were a pair of long shears, clippings from newspaper society pages, photographs, and a scrapbook. A Facit portable typewriter sat on the desk, and gradually one became aware that the room, although neat, contained a great deal of paper.

Burroughs smoked incessantly, alternating between a box of English Ovals and a box of Benson & Hedges. As the interview progressed, the room filled with smoke. He opened the window. The temperature outside was seventy degrees, the warmest New Year’s Day in St. Louis’s history; a yellow jacket flew in and settled on the pane. The bright afternoon deepened. The faint cries of children rose up from the broad brick alleys in which Burroughs had played as a boy.

INTERVIEWER

You grew up here?

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

Yes. I went to John Burroughs School and the Taylor School, and was out West for a bit, and then went to Harvard.

INTERVIEWER

Any relation to the adding-machine firm?

BURROUGHS

My grandfather. You see, he didn’t exactly invent the adding machine, but he invented the gimmick that made it work, namely, a cylinder full of oil and a perforated piston that will always move up and down at the same rate of speed. Very simple principle, like most inventions. And it gave me a little money, not much, but a little.

INTERVIEWER

What did you do at Harvard?

BURROUGHS

Studied English lit. John Livingston Lowes. Whiting. I sat in on Kittredge’s course. Those are the main people I recall. I lived in Adams House and then I got fed up with the food and I moved to Claverly Hall, where I lived the last two years. I didn’t do any writing in college.

INTERVIEWER

When and why did you start to write?

BURROUGHS

I started to write in about 1950; I was thirty-five at the time; there didn’t seem to be any strong motivation. I simply was endeavoring to put down in a more or less straightforward journalistic style something about my experiences with addiction and addicts.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you feel compelled to record these experiences?

BURROUGHS

I didn’t feel compelled. I had nothing else to do. Writing gave me something to do every day. I don’t feel the results were at all spectacular. Junky is not much of a book, actually. I knew very little about writing at that time.

INTERVIEWER

Where was this?

BURROUGHS

In Mexico City. I was living near Sears, Roebuck, right around the corner from the University of Mexico. I had been in the army four or five months and I was there on the GI Bill, studying native dialects. I went to Mexico partly because things were becoming so difficult with the drug situation in America. Getting drugs in Mexico was quite easy, so I didn’t have to rush around, and there wasn’t any pressure from the law.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you start taking drugs?

BURROUGHS

Well, I was just bored. I didn’t seem to have much interest in becoming a successful advertising executive or whatever, or living the kind of life Harvard designs for you. After I became addicted in New York in 1944, things began to happen. I got in some trouble with the law, got married, moved to New Orleans, and then went to Mexico.

INTERVIEWER

There seems to be a great deal of middle-class voyeurism in this country concerning addiction, and in the literary world, downright reverence for the addict. You apparently don’t share these points of view.

BURROUGHS

No, most of it is nonsense. I think drugs are interesting principally as chemical means of altering metabolism and thereby altering what we call reality, which I would define as a more or less constant scanning pattern.

INTERVIEWER

What do you think of the hallucinogens and the new psychedelic drugs—LSD-25?

BURROUGHS

I think they’re extremely dangerous, much more dangerous than heroin. They can produce overwhelming anxiety states. I’ve seen people try to throw themselves out of windows; whereas the heroin addict is mainly interested in staring at his own toe. Other than deprivation of the drug, the main threat to him is an overdose. I’ve tried most of the hallucinogens without an anxiety reaction, fortunately. LSD-25 produced results for me similar to mescaline. Like all hallucinogens, LSD gave me an increased awareness, more a hallucinated viewpoint than any actual hallucination. You might look at a doorknob and it will appear to revolve, although you are conscious that this is the result of the drug. Also, van Goghish colors, with all those swirls, and the crackle of the universe.

INTERVIEWER

Have you read Henri Michaux’s book on mescaline?

BURROUGHS

His idea was to go into his room and close the door and hold in the experiences. I had my most interesting experiences with mescaline when I got outdoors and walked around—colors, sunsets, gardens. It produces a terrible hangover, though, nasty stuff. It makes one ill and interferes with coordination. I’ve had all the interesting effects I need, and I don’t want any repetition of those extremely unpleasant physical reactions.

INTERVIEWER

The visions of drugs and the visions of art don’t mix?

BURROUGHS

Never. The hallucinogens produce visionary states, sort of, but morphine and its derivatives decrease awareness of inner processes, thoughts, and feelings. They are painkillers, pure and simple. They are absolutely contraindicated for creative work, and I include in the lot alcohol, morphine, barbiturates, tranquilizers—the whole spectrum of sedative drugs. As for visions and heroin, I had a hallucinatory period at the very beginning of addiction, for instance, a sense of moving at high speed through space. But as soon as addiction was established, I had no visions—vision—at all and very few dreams.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you stop taking drugs?

BURROUGHS

I was living in Tangier in 1957, and I had spent a month in a tiny room in the Casbah staring at the toe of my foot. The room had filled up with empty Eukodol cartons; I suddenly realized I was not doing anything. I was dying. I was just apt to be finished. So I flew to London and turned myself over to Dr. John Yerbury Dent for treatment. I’d heard of his success with the apomorphine treatment. Apomorphine is simply morphine boiled in hydrochloric acid; it’s nonaddictive. What the apomorphine did was to regulate my metabolism. It’s a metabolic regulator. It cured me physiologically. I’d already taken the cure once at Lexington, and although I was off drugs when I got out, there was a physiological residue. Apomorphine eliminated that. I’ve been trying to get people in this country interested in it, but without much luck. The vast majority—social workers, doctors—have the cop’s mentality toward addiction. A probation officer in California wrote me recently to inquire about the apomorphine treatment. I’ll answer him at length. I always answer letters like that.

INTERVIEWER

Have you had any relapses?

BURROUGHS

Yes, a couple. Short. Both were straightened out with apomorphine, and now heroin is no temptation for me. I’m just not interested. I’ve seen a lot of it around. I know people who are addicts. I don’t have to use any willpower. Dr. Dent always said there is no such thing as willpower. You’ve got to reach a state of mind in which you don’t want it or need it.

INTERVIEWER

You regard addiction as an illness but also a central human fact, a drama?

BURROUGHS

Both, absolutely. It’s as simple as the way in which anyone happens to become an alcoholic. They start drinking, that’s all. They like it, and they drink, and then they become alcoholic. I was exposed to heroin in New York—that is, I was going around with people who were using it; I took it; the effects were pleasant. I went on using it and became addicted. Remember that if it can be readily obtained, you will have any number of addicts. The idea that addiction is somehow a psychological illness is, I think, totally ridiculous. It’s as psychological as malaria. It’s a matter of exposure. People, generally speaking, will take any intoxicant or any drug that gives them a pleasant effect if it is available to them. In Iran, for instance, opium was sold in shops until quite recently, and they had three million addicts in a population of twenty million. There are also all forms of spiritual addiction. Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways, that is, if we have sufficient knowledge of the processes involved. Many policemen and narcotics agents are precisely addicted to power, to exercising a certain nasty kind of power over people who are helpless. The nasty sort of power: white junk, I call it—rightness; they’re right, right, right—and if they lost that power, they would suffer excruciating withdrawal symptoms. The picture we get of the whole Russian bureaucracy, people who are exclusively preoccupied with power and advantage, this must be an addiction. Suppose they lose it? Well, it’s been their whole life.

INTERVIEWER

Can you amplify your idea of junk as image?

BURROUGHS

It’s only a theory and, I feel, an inadequate one. I don’t think anyone really understands what a narcotic is or how it works, how it kills pain. My idea is sort of a stab in the dark. As I see it, what has been damaged in pain is, of course, the image, and morphine must in some sense replace this. We know it blankets the cells and that addicts are practically immune to certain viruses, to influenza and respiratory complaints. This is simple because the influenza virus has to make a hole in the cell receptors. When those are covered, as they are in morphine addiction, the virus can’t get in. As soon as morphine is withdrawn, addicts will immediately come down with colds and often with influenza.

INTERVIEWER

Certain schizophrenics also resist respiratory disease.

BURROUGHS

A long time ago I suggested there were similarities in terminal addiction and terminal schizophrenia. That was why I made the suggestion that they addict these people to heroin, then withdraw it and see if they could be motivated; in other words, find out whether they’d walk across the room and pick up a syringe. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far, but I think it would be interesting.

INTERVIEWER

Narcotics, then, disturb normal perception—

BURROUGHS

And set up instead a random craving for images. If drugs weren’t forbidden in America, they would be the perfect middle-class vice. Addicts would do their work and come home to consume the huge dose of images awaiting them in the mass media. Junkies love to look at television. Billie Holiday said she knew she was going off drugs when she didn’t like to watch TV. Or they’ll sit and read a newspaper or magazine, and by God, read it all. I knew this old junkie in New York, and he’d go out and get a lot of newspapers and magazines and some candy bars and several packages of cigarettes and then he’d sit in his room and he’d read those newspapers and magazines right straight through. Indiscriminately. Every word.

INTERVIEWER

You seem primarily interested in bypassing the conscious rational apparatus to which most writers direct their efforts.

BURROUGHS

I don’t know about where fiction ordinarily directs itself, but I am quite deliberately addressing myself to the whole area of what we call dreams. Precisely what is a dream? A certain juxtaposition of word and image. I’ve recently done a lot of experiments with scrapbooks. I’ll read in the newspaper something that reminds me of or has relation to something I’ve written. I’ll cut out the picture or article and paste it in a scrapbook beside the words from my book. Or, I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly see a scene from my book and I’ll photograph it and put it in a scrapbook. I’ll show you some of those. I’ve found that when preparing a page, I’ll almost invariably dream that night something relating to this juxtaposition of word and image. In other words, I’ve been interested in precisely how word and image get around on very, very complex association lines. I do a lot of exercises in what I call time travel, in taking coordinates, such as what I photographed on the train, what I was thinking about at the time, what I was reading, and what I wrote; all of this to see how completely I can project myself back to that one point in time.

INTERVIEWER

In Nova Express, you indicate that silence is a desirable state.

BURROUGHS

The most desirable state. In one sense a special use of words and pictures can conduce silence. The scrapbooks and time travel are exercises to expand consciousness, to teach me to think in association blocks rather than words. I’ve recently spent a little time studying hieroglyph systems, both the Egyptian and the Mayan. A whole block of associations—boonf!—like that! Words, at least the way we use them, can stand in the way of what I call nonbody experience. It’s time we thought about leaving the body behind.

INTERVIEWER

Marshall McLuhan said that you believed heroin was needed to turn the human body into an environment that includes the universe. But from what you’ve told me, you’re not at all interested in turning the body into an environment.

BURROUGHS

No, junk narrows consciousness. The only benefit to me as a writer (aside from putting me into contact with the whole carny world) came to me after I went off it. What I want to do is to learn to see more of what’s out there, to look outside, to achieve as far as possible a complete awareness of surroundings. Beckett wants to go inward. First he was in a bottle and now he is in the mud. I am aimed in the other direction—outward.

INTERVIEWER

Have you been able to think for any length of time in images, with the inner voice silent?

BURROUGHS

I’m becoming more proficient at it, partly through my work with scrapbooks and translating the connections between words and images. Try this. Carefully memorize the meaning of a passage, then read it; you’ll find you can actually read it without the words making any sound whatever in the mind’s ear. Extraordinary experience, and one that will carry over into dreams. When you start thinking in images, without words, you’re well on the way.

INTERVIEWER

Why is the wordless state so desirable?

BURROUGHS

I think it’s the evolutionary trend. I think that words are an around-the-world, oxcart way of doing things, awkward instruments, and they will be laid aside eventually, probably sooner than we think. This is something that will happen in the space age. Most serious writers refuse to make themselves available to the things that technology is doing. I’ve never been able to understand this sort of fear. Many of them are afraid of tape recorders and the idea of using any mechanical means for literary purposes seems to them some sort of a sacrilege. This is one objection to the cut-ups. There’s been a lot of that, a sort of a superstitious reverence for the word. My God, they say, you can’t cut up these words. Why can’t I? I find it much easier to get interest in the cut-ups from people who are not writers—doctors, lawyers, or engineers, any open-minded, fairly intelligent person—than from those who are.

INTERVIEWER

How did you become interested in the cut-up technique?

BURROUGHS

A friend, Brion Gysin, an American poet and painter, who has lived in Europe for thirty years, was, as far as I know, the first to create cut-ups. His cut-up poem, “Minutes to Go,” was broadcast by the BBC and later published in a pamphlet. I was in Paris in the summer of 1960; this was after the publication there of Naked Lunch. I became interested in the possibilities of this technique, and I began experimenting myself. Of course, when you think of it, The Waste Land was the first great cut-up collage, and Tristan Tzara had done a bit along the same lines. Dos Passos used the same idea in “The Camera Eye” sequences in U.S.A. I felt I had been working toward the same goal; thus it was a major revelation to me when I actually saw it being done.

INTERVIEWER

What do cut-ups offer the reader that conventional narrative doesn’t?

BURROUGHS

Any narrative passage or any passage, say, of poetic images is subject to any number of variations, all of which may be interesting and valid in their own right. A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images. Rimbaud images—real Rimbaud images—but new ones.

INTERVIEWER

You deplore the accumulation of images and at the same time you seem to be looking for new ones.

BURROUGHS

Yes, it’s part of the paradox of anyone who is working with word and image, and after all, that is what a writer is still doing. Painter too. Cut-ups establish new connections between images, and one’s range of vision consequently expands.

INTERVIEWER

Instead of going to the trouble of working with scissors and all those pieces of paper, couldn’t you obtain the same effect by simply free-associating at the typewriter?

BURROUGHS

One’s mind can’t cover it that way. Now, for example, if I wanted to make a cut-up of this [picking up a copy of The Nation], there are many ways I could do it. I could read cross-column; I could say, “Today’s men’s nerves surround us. Each technological extension gone outside is electrical involves an act of collective environment. The human nervous environment system itself can be reprogrammed with all its private and social values because it is content. He programs logically as readily as any radio net is swallowed by the new environment. The sensory order.” You find it often makes quite as much sense as the original. You learn to leave out words and to make connections. [Gesturing] Suppose I should cut this down the middle here, and put this up here. Your mind simply could not manage it. It’s like trying to keep so many chess moves in mind, you just couldn’t do it. The mental mechanisms of repression and selection are also operating against you.

INTERVIEWER

You believe that an audience can be eventually trained to respond to cut-ups?

BURROUGHS

Of course, because cut-ups make explicit a psychosensory process that is going on all the time anyway. Somebody is reading a newspaper, and his eye follows the column in the proper Aristotelian manner, one idea and sentence at a time. But subliminally he is reading the columns on either side and is aware of the person sitting next to him. That’s a cut-up. I was sitting in a lunchroom in New York having my doughnuts and coffee. I was thinking that one does feel a little boxed in New York, like living in a series of boxes. I looked out the window and there was a great big Yale truck. That’s cut-up—a juxtaposition of what’s happening outside and what you’re thinking of. I make this a practice when I walk down the street. I’ll say, when I got to here I saw that sign; I was thinking this, and when I return to the house I’ll type these up. Some of this material I use and some I don’t. I have literally thousands of pages of notes here, raw, and I keep a diary as well. In a sense it’s traveling in time.

Most people don’t see what’s going on around them. That’s my principal message to writers: for God’s sake, keep your eyes open. Notice what’s going on around you. I mean, I walk down the street with friends. I ask, “Did you see him, that person who just walked by?” No, they didn’t notice him. I had a very pleasant time on the train coming out here. I haven’t traveled on trains in years. I found there were no drawing rooms. I got a bedroom so I could set up my typewriter and look out the window. I was taking photos, too. I also noticed all the signs and what I was thinking at the time, you see. And I got some extraordinary juxtapositions. For example, a friend of mine has a loft apartment in New York. He said, “Every time we go out of the house and come back, if we leave the bathroom door open, there’s a rat in the house.” I look out the window, there’s Able Pest Control.

INTERVIEWER

The one flaw in the cut-up argument seems to lie in the linguistic base on which we operate, the straight declarative sentence. It’s going to take a great deal to change that.

BURROUGHS

Yes, it is unfortunately one of the great errors of Western thought, the whole either/or proposition. You remember Korzybski and his idea of non-Aristotelian logic. Either/or thinking just is not accurate thinking. That’s not the way things occur, and I feel the Aristotelian construct is one of the great shackles of Western civilization. Cut-ups are a movement toward breaking this down. I should imagine it would be much easier to find acceptance of the cut-ups from, possibly, the Chinese, because you see already there are many ways that they can read any given ideograph. It’s already cut up.

INTERVIEWER

What will happen to the straight plot in fiction?

BURROUGHS

Plot has always had the definite function of stage direction, of getting the characters from here to there, and that will continue, but the new techniques such as cut-up will involve much more of the total capacity of the observer. It enriches the whole aesthetic experience, extends it.

INTERVIEWER

Nova Express is a cut-up of many writers?

BURROUGHS

Joyce is in there. Shakespeare, Rimbaud, some writers that people haven’t heard about, someone named Jack Stern. There’s Kerouac. I don’t know, when you start making these fold-ins (instead of cutting, you fold) and cut-ups you lose track. Genet, of course, is someone I admire very much. But what he’s doing is classical French prose. He’s not a verbal innovator. Also Kafka, Eliot, and one of my favorites is Joseph Conrad. My story, “They Just Fade Away,” is a fold-in from Lord Jim. In fact, it’s almost a retelling of the Lord Jim story. My Stein is the same Stein as in Lord Jim. Richard Hughes is another favorite of mine. And Graham Greene. For exercise, when I make a trip, such as from Tangier to Gibraltar, I will record this in three columns in a notebook I always take with me. One column will contain simply an account of the trip, what happened. I arrived at the air terminal, what was said by the clerks, what I overheard on the plane, what hotel I checked into. The next column presents my memories; that is, what I was thinking of at the time, the memories that were activated by my encounters; and the third column, which I call my reading column, gives quotations from any book that I take with me. I have practically a whole novel alone on my trips to Gibraltar. Besides Graham Greene, I’ve used other books. I used The Wonderful Country by Tom Lea on one trip. Let’s see, and Eliot’s The Cocktail Party; In Hazard by Richard Hughes. For example, I’m reading The Wonderful Country and the hero is just crossing the frontier into Mexico. Well, just at this point I come to the Spanish frontier, so I note that down in the margin. Or I’m on a boat or a train, and I’m reading The Quiet American. I look around and see if there’s a quiet American aboard. Sure enough, there’s a quiet sort of young American with a crew cut drinking a bottle of beer. It’s extraordinary, if you really keep your eyes open. I was reading Raymond Chandler, and one of his characters was an albino gunman. My God, if there wasn’t an albino in the room. He wasn’t a gunman.

Who else? Wait a minute, I’ll just check my coordinate books to see if there’s anyone I’ve forgotten—Conrad, Richard Hughes, science fiction, quite a bit of science fiction. Eric Frank Russell has written some very, very interesting books. Here’s one, The Star Virus; I doubt if you’ve heard of it. He develops a concept here of what he calls “Deadliners,” who have this strange sort of seedy look. I read this when I was in Gibraltar, and I began to find Deadliners all over the place. The story has a fishpond in it, and quite a flower garden. My father was always very interested in gardening.

INTERVIEWER

 In view of all this, what will happen to fiction in the next twenty-five years?

BURROUGHS

In the first place, I think there’s going to be more and more merging of art and science. Scientists are already studying the creative process, and I think the whole line between art and science will break down and that scientists, I hope, will become more creative and writers more scientific. And I see no reason why the artistic world can’t absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. Pop art is a move in that direction. Why can’t we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images? Already some of the very beautiful color photography appears in whiskey ads, I notice. Science will also discover for us how association blocks actually form.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think this will destroy the magic?

BURROUGHS

Not at all. I would say it would enhance it.

INTERVIEWER

Have you done anything with computers?

BURROUGHS

I’ve not done anything, but I’ve seen some of the computer poetry. I can take one of those computer poems and then try to find correlatives of it, that is, pictures to go with it. It’s quite possible.

INTERVIEWER

Does the fact that it comes from a machine diminish its value to you?

BURROUGHS

I think that any artistic product must stand or fall on what’s there.

INTERVIEWER

Therefore, you’re not upset by the fact that a chimpanzee can do an abstract painting?

BURROUGHS

If he does a good one, no. People say to me, “Oh, this is all very good, but you got it by cutting up.” I say that has nothing to do with it, how I got it. What is any writing but a cut-up? Somebody has to program the machine; somebody has to do the cutting up. Remember that I first made selections. Out of hundreds of possible sentences that I might have used, I chose one.

INTERVIEWER

Incidentally, one image in Nova Express keeps coming back to me and I don’t quite understand it: the gray room, “breaking through to the gray room.”

BURROUGHS

I see that as very much like the photographic darkroom where the reality photographs are actually produced. Implicit in Nova Express is a theory that what we call reality is actually a movie. It’s a film, what I call a biologic film. What has happened is that the underground and also the nova police have made a breakthrough past the guards and gotten into the darkroom where the films are processed, where they’re in a position to expose negatives and prevent events from occurring. They’re like police anywhere. All right, you’ve got a bad situation here in which the nova mob is about to blow up the planet. So The Heavy Metal Kid calls in the nova police. Once you get them in there, by God, they begin acting like any police. They’re always an ambivalent agency. I recall once in South America that I complained to the police that a camera had been stolen and they ended up arresting me. I hadn’t registered or something. In other words, once you get them on the scene they really start nosing around. Once the law starts asking questions, there’s no end to it. For nova police, read technology, if you wish.

INTERVIEWER

Mary McCarthy has commented on the carnival origins of your characters in Naked Lunch. What are their other derivations?

BURROUGHS

The carny world was the one I exactly intended to create—a kind of midwestern, small-town, cracker-barrel, pratfall type of folklore, very much my own background. That world was an integral part of America and existed nowhere else, at least not in the same form. My family was southern on my mother’s side. My grandfather was a circuit-riding Methodist minister with thirteen children. Most of them went up to New York and became quite successful in advertising and public relations. One of them, an uncle, was a master image maker, Ivy Lee, Rockefeller’s publicity manager.

INTERVIEWER

Is it true that you did a great deal of acting out to create your characters when you were finishing Naked Lunch?

BURROUGHS

Excuse me, there is no accurate description of the creation of a book, or an event. Read Durrell’s Alexandria novels for four different ways of looking at the same thing. Gysin saw me pasting pictures on the wall of a Paris hotel room and using a tape recorder to act out several voices. Actually, it was written mainly in Tangier, after I had taken the cure with Dr. Dent in London in 1957. I came back to Tangier and I started working on a lot of notes that I had made over a period of years. Most of the book was written at that time. I went to Paris about 1959, and I had a great pile of manuscripts. Girodias was interested and he asked if I could get the book ready in two weeks. This is the period that Brion is referring to when, from manuscripts collected over a period of years, I assembled what became the book from some thousand pages, something like that.

INTERVIEWER

But did you actually leap up and act out, say, Dr. Benway?

BURROUGHS

Yes, I have. Dr. Benway dates back to a story I wrote in 1938 with a friend of mine, Kells Elvins, who is now dead. That’s about the only piece of writing I did prior to Junky. And we did definitely act the thing out. We decided that was the way to write. Now here’s this guy, what does he say, what does he do? Dr. Benway sort of emerged quite spontaneously while we were composing this piece. Something I’ve been meaning to do with my scrapbooks is to have files on every character, almost like police files: habits, idiosyncrasies, where born, pictures. That is, if I ever see anyone in a magazine or newspaper who looks like Dr. Benway (and several people have played Dr. Benway, sort of amateur actors), I take their photographs. Many of my characters first come through strongly to me as voices. That’s why I use a tape recorder. They also carry over from one book to another.

INTERVIEWER

Do any have their origins in actual persons?

BURROUGHS

Hamburger Mary is one. There was a place in New York called Hamburger Mary’s. I was in Hamburger Mary’s when a friend gave me a batch of morphine syrettes. That was my first experience with morphine and then I built up a whole picture of Hamburger Mary. She is also an actual person. I don’t like to give her name for fear of being sued for libel, but she was a Scientologist who started out in a hamburger joint in Portland, Oregon, and now has eleven million dollars.

INTERVIEWER

What about The Heavy Metal Kid?

BURROUGHS

There again, quite complicated origins, partly based on my own experience. I felt that heavy metal was sort of the ultimate expression of addiction, that there’s something actually metallic in addiction, that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as mineral. It’s increasingly inanimate, in any case. You see, as Dr. Benway said, I’ve now decided that junk is not green, but blue. Some of my characters come to me in dreams, Daddy Long Legs, for instance. Once, in a clinic, I had a dream in which I saw a man in this rundown clinic and his name in the dream was Daddy Long Legs. Many characters have come to me like that in a dream, and then I’ll elaborate from there. I always write down all my dreams. That’s why I’ve got that notebook beside the bed there.

INTERVIEWER

Earlier you mentioned that if junk had done nothing else, it at least put you in contact with the carny world.

BURROUGHS

Yes, the underworld, the old-time thieves, pickpockets, and people like that. They’re a dying race; very few of those old-timers left. Yeah, well, they were show business.

INTERVIEWER

What’s the difference between the modern junkie versus the 1944 junkie?

BURROUGHS

For one thing, all these young addicts; that was quite unknown in 1944. Most of the ones I knew were middle-aged men or old. I knew some of the old-time pickpockets and sneak thieves and shortchange artists. They had something called The Bill, a shortchange deal. I’ve never been able to figure out how it works. One man I knew beat all the cashiers in Grand Central with this thing. It starts with a twenty-dollar bill. You give them a twenty-dollar bill and then when you get the change you say, “Well, wait a minute, I must have been dreaming, I’ve got the change after all.” First thing you know, the cashier’s short ten dollars. One day this shortchange artist went to Grand Central, even though he knew it was burned down, but he wanted to change twenty dollars. Well, a guy got on the buzzer and they arrested him. When they got up in court and tried to explain what had happened, none of them could do it. I keep stories like this in my files.

INTERVIEWER

In your apartment in Tangier?

BURROUGHS

No, all of it is right here in this room.

INTERVIEWER

In case Tangier is blown up, it’s all safe?

BURROUGHS

Well, more than that. I need it all. I brought everything. That’s why I have to travel by boat and by train, because, well, just to give you an idea, that’s a photographic file [thud]. Those are all photographs and photographs. When I sit down to write, I may suddenly think of something I wrote three years ago which should be in this file over here. It may not be. I’m always looking through these files. That’s why I need a place where I can really spread them out, to see what’s what. I’m looking for one particular paper, it often takes me a long time and sometimes I don’t find it. Those dresser drawers are full of files. All those drawers in the closets are full of files. It’s pretty well organized. Here’s a file, “The 1920 Movie,” which partly contains some motion picture ideas. Here’s “All the Sad Old Showmen”; has some business about bank robbers in it. Here’s “The Nova Police Gazette.” This is “Analog,” which contains science fiction material. This is “The Captain’s Logbook.” I’ve been interested in sea stories, but I know so little about the sea, I hesitate to do much. I collect sea disasters such as the Mary Celeste. Here’s a file on Mr. Luce.

INTERVIEWER

Do you admire Mr. Luce?

BURROUGHS

I don’t admire him at all. He has set up one of the greatest word and image banks in the world. I mean, there are thousands of photos, thousands of words about anything and everything, all in his files. All the best pictures go into the files. Of course, they’re reduced to microphotos now. I’ve been interested in the Mayan system, which was a control calendar. You see, their calendar postulated really how everyone should feel at a given time, with lucky days, unlucky days, et cetera. And I feel that Luce’s system is comparable to that. It is a control system. It has nothing to do with reporting. Time, Life, Fortune is some sort of a police organization.

INTERVIEWER

You’ve said your next book will be about the American West and a gunfighter.

BURROUGHS

 Yes, I’ve thought about this for years and I have hundreds of pages of notes on the whole concept of the gunfighter. The gun duel was a sort of Zen contest, a real spiritual contest like Zen swordsmanship.

INTERVIEWER

Would this be cut-up, or more a conventional narrative?

BURROUGHS

I’d use cut-ups extensively in the preparation, because they would give me all sorts of facets of character and place, but the final version would be straight narrative. I wouldn’t want to get bogged down in too much factual detail, but I’d like to do research in New Mexico or Arizona, even though the actual towns out there have become synthetic tourist attractions. Occasionally I have the sensation that I’m repeating myself in my work, and I would like to do something different—almost a deliberate change of style. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I want to try. I’ve been thinking about the Western for years. As a boy I was sent to school in New Mexico, and during the war I was stationed in Coldspring, Texas, near Conroe. That’s genuine backwoods country, and I picked up some real characters there. For instance, a fellow who actually lived in East Texas. He was always having trouble with his neighbors, who suspected him of rustling their cattle, I think with good reason. But he was competent with a gun and there wasn’t anyone who would go up against him. He finally was killed. He got drunk and went to sleep under a tree by a campfire. The fire set fire to the tree, and it fell on him. I’m interested in extending newspaper and magazine formats to so-called literary materials. Here, this is one of my attempts. This is going to be published in a little magazine, The Sparrow.

INTERVIEWER

[Reading] “The Coldspring News, All the News That Fits We Print, Sunday, September 17, 1899, William Burroughs, Editor.” Here’s Bradly Martin again.

BURROUGHS

Yes, he’s the gunfighter. I’m not sure yet what’s going to happen after Clem accuses him of rustling cattle. I guess Clem goes into Coldspring and there’s gunplay between him and the gunfighter. He’s going to kill Clem, obviously. Clem is practically a dead man. Clem is going to get likkered up and think he can tangle with Bradly Martin, and Bradly Martin is going to kill him, that’s for sure.

INTERVIEWER

Will your other characters reappear? Dr. Benway?

BURROUGHS

He’d be the local doctor. That’s what I’d like to do, you see, use all these characters in a straight Western story. There would be Mr. Bradly, Mr. Martin, whose name is Bradly Martin; there would be Dr. Benway; and we’d have the various traveling carny and medicine shows that come through with the Subliminal Kid and all of the con men. That was the heyday for those old joes.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think of the artist at all as being a con man?

BURROUGHS

In a sense. You see, a real con man is a creator. He creates a set. No, a con man is more a movie director than a writer. The Yellow Kid created a whole set, a whole cast of characters, a whole brokerage house, a whole bank. It was just like a movie studio.

INTERVIEWER

What about addicts?

BURROUGHS

Well, there will be a lot of morphine addiction. Remember that there were a great many addicts at that time. Jesse James was an addict. He started using morphine for a wound in his lung, and I don’t know whether he was permanently addicted, but he tried to kill himself. He took sixteen grains of morphine and it didn’t kill him, which indicates a terrific tolerance. So he must have been fairly heavily addicted. A dumb, brutal hick; that’s what he was, like Dillinger. And there were so many genteel old ladies who didn’t feel right unless they had their Dr. Jones mixture every day.

INTERVIEWER

What about the Green Boy, Izzy the Push, Green Tony, Sammy the Butcher, and Willy the Fink?

BURROUGHS

See, all of them could be Western characters except lzzy the Push. The buildings weren’t high enough in those days. Defenestration, incidentally, is a very interesting phenomenon. Some people who are prone to it will not live in high buildings. They get near a window, someone in the next room hears a cry, and they’re gone. “Fell or jumped” is the phrase. I would add, “or was pushed.”

INTERVIEWER

What other character types interest you?

BURROUGHS

Not the people in advertising and television, nor the American postman or middle-class housewife; not the young man setting forth. The whole world of high finance interests me, the men such as Rockefeller who were specialized types of organisms that could exist in a certain environment. He was really a moneymaking machine, but I doubt that he could have made a dime today because he required the old laissez-faire capitalism. He was a specialized monopolistic organism. My uncle Ivy created images for him. I fail to understand why people like J. Paul Getty have to come on with such a stuffy, uninteresting image. He decides to write his life history. I’ve never read anything so dull, so absolutely devoid of any spark. Well, after all, he was quite a playboy in his youth. There must have been something going on. None of it’s in the book. Here he is, the only man of enormous wealth who operates alone, but there’s nobody to present the image. Well, yes, I wouldn’t mind doing that sort of job myself. I’d like to take somebody like Getty and try to find an image for him that would be of some interest. If Getty wants to build an image, why doesn’t he hire a first-class writer to write his story? For that matter, advertising has a long way to go. I’d like to see a story by Norman Mailer or John O’Hara which just makes some mention of a product, say, Southern Comfort. I can see the O’Hara story. It would be about someone who went into a bar and asked for Southern Comfort; they didn’t have it, and he gets into a long, stupid argument with the bartender. It shouldn’t be obtrusive; the story must be interesting in itself so that people read this just as they read any story in Playboy, and Southern Comfort would be guaranteed that people will look at that advertisement for a certain number of minutes. You see what I mean? They’ll read the story. Now, there are many other ideas; you could have serialized comic strips, serial stories. Well, all we have to do is have James Bond smoking a certain brand of cigarettes.

INTERVIEWER

Didn’t you once work for an advertising agency?

BURROUGHS

Yes, after I got out of Harvard in 1936. I had done some graduate work in anthropology. I got a glimpse of academic life and I didn’t like it at all. It looked like there was too much faculty intrigue, faculty teas, cultivating the head of the department, so on and so forth. Then I spent a year as a copywriter in this small advertising agency, since defunct, in New York. We had a lot of rather weird accounts. There was some device called the Cascade for giving high colonics, and something called Endocreme. It was supposed to make women look younger, because it contained some female sex hormones. The Interstate Commerce Commission was never far behind. As you can see, I’ve recently thought a great deal about advertising. After all, they’re doing the same sort of thing. They are concerned with the precise manipulation of word and image. Anyway, after the ad game I was in the army for a bit. Honorably discharged and then the usual strange wartime jobs—bartender, exterminator, reporter, and factory and office jobs. Then Mexico, a sinister place.

INTERVIEWER

Why sinister?

BURROUGHS

I was there during the Alemán regime. If you walked into a bar, there would be at least fifteen people in there who were carrying guns. Everybody was carrying guns. They got drunk and they were a menace to any living creature. I mean, sitting in a cocktail lounge, you always had to be ready to hit the deck. I had a friend who was shot, killed. But he asked for it. He was waving his little .25 automatic around in a bar and some Mexican blasted him with a .45. They listed the death as natural causes, because the killer was a political big shot. There was no scandal, but it was really as much as your life was worth to go into a cocktail lounge. And I had that terrible accident with Joan Vollmer, my wife. I had a revolver that I was planning to sell to a friend. I was checking it over and it went off—killed her. A rumor started that I was trying to shoot a glass of champagne from her head William Tell-style. Absurd and false. Then they had a big depistolization. Mexico City had one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world. Another thing, every time you turned around there was some Mexican cop with his hand out, finding some fault with your papers or something, just anything he could latch on to. “Papers very bad, señor.” It really was a bit much, the Alemán regime.

INTERVIEWER

From Mexico?

BURROUGHS

I went to Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador, just looking around. I was particularly interested in the Amazon region of Peru, where I took a drug called yage, Bannisteria caapi, a hallucinogen as powerful as mescaline, I believe. The whole trip gave me an awful lot of copy. A lot of these experiences went into The Ticket That Exploded, which is sort of midway between Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine. It’s not a book I’m satisfied with in its present form. If it’s published in the United States, I would have to rewrite it. The Soft Machine, which will come out here in due time, is an expansion of my South American experiences, with surreal extensions. When I rewrote it recently, I included about sixty-five pages of straight narrative concerning Dr. Benway, and the Sailor, and various characters from Naked Lunch. These people pop up everywhere.

INTERVIEWER

Then from South America you went to Europe. Is the geographic switch as important as it once was to American writing?

BURROUGHS

Well, if I hadn’t covered a lot of ground, I wouldn’t have encountered the extra dimensions of character and extremity that make the difference. But I think the day of the expatriate is definitely over. It’s becoming more and more uncomfortable, more and more expensive, and less and less rewarding to live abroad, as far as I’m concerned. Now I’m particularly concerned with quiet writing conditions—being able to concentrate—and not so much interested in the place where I am. To me, Paris is now one of the most disagreeable cities in the world. I just hate it. The food is uneatable. It’s either very expensive, or you just can’t eat it. In order to get a good sandwich at three o’clock in the afternoon, I have to get into a taxi and go all the way over to the Right Bank. Here all I have to do is pick up the phone. They send me up a club sandwich and a glass of buttermilk, which is all I want for lunch anyway. The French have gotten so nasty and they’re getting nastier and nastier. The Algerian war and then all those millions of people dumped back into France and all of them thoroughly dissatisfied. I don’t know, I think the atmosphere there is unpleasant and not conducive to anything. You can’t get an apartment. You can’t get a quiet place to work. Best you can do is a dinky hotel room somewhere. If I want to get something like this, it costs me thirty dollars a day. The main thing I’ve found after twenty years away from St. Louis is that the standard of service is much better than New York. These are Claridge’s or Ritz accommodations. If I could afford it, keep it, this would be an ideal place for me. There’s not a sound in here. It’s been very conducive to work. I’ve got a lot of room here to spread out all my papers in all these drawers and shelves. It’s quiet. When I want something to eat, I pick up the phone. I can work right straight through. Get up in the morning, pick up the phone about two o’clock and have a sandwich, and work through till dinnertime. Also, it’s interesting to turn on the TV set every now and then.

INTERVIEWER

What do you find on it?

BURROUGHS

That’s a real cut-up. It flickers, just like the old movies used to. When talkies came in and they perfected the image, the movies became as dull as looking out the window. A bunch of Italians in Rabat have a television station and we could get the signal in Tangier. I just sat there open mouthed looking at it. What with blurring and contractions and visual static, some of their Westerns became very, very odd. Gysin has been experimenting with the flicker principle in a gadget he calls a “Dream Machine.” There used to be one in the window of The English Bookshop on the rue de Seine. Helena Rubenstein was so fascinated she bought a couple, and Harold Matson, the agent, thinks it’s a million-dollar idea.

INTERVIEWER

Describe a typical day’s work.

BURROUGHS

I get up about nine o’clock and order breakfast; I hate to go out for breakfast. I work usually until about two o’clock or two-thirty, when I like to have a sandwich and a glass of milk, which takes about ten minutes. I’ll work through until six or seven o’clock. Then if I’m seeing people or going out, I’ll go out, have a few drinks, come back, and maybe do a little reading and go to bed. I go to bed pretty early. I don’t make myself work. It’s just the thing I want to do. To be completely alone in a room, to know that there’ll be no interruptions and I’ve got eight hours is just exactly what I want—yeah, just paradise.

INTERVIEWER

Do you compose on the typewriter?

BURROUGHS

I use the typewriter and I use scissors. I can sit down with scissors and old manuscripts and paste in photographs for hours; I have hundreds of photographs. I usually take a walk every day. Here in St. Louis I’ve been trying to take 1920s photographs, alleys and whatnot. This [pointing] is a ghostly photograph of the house in which I grew up, seen back through forty-five years. Here’s a photo of an old ash pit. It was great fun for children to get out there in the alley after Christmas and build a fire in the ash pit with all the excelsior and wrappings. Here, these are stories and pictures from the society columns. I’ve been doing a cut-up of society coverage. I had a lot of fun piling up these names; you get some improbable names in the society columns.

INTERVIEWER

You recently said you would like to settle in the Ozarks. Were you serious?

BURROUGHS

I would like to have a place there. It’s a very beautiful area in the fall, and I’d like to spend periods of time, say every month or every two months, in complete solitude, just working, which requires an isolated situation. Of course, I’d have to buy a car, for one thing, and you run into considerable expense. I just have to think in terms of an apartment. I thought possibly an apartment here, but most likely I’ll get one in New York. I’m not returning to Tangier. I just don’t like it anymore. It’s become just a small town. There’s no life there, and the place has no novelty for me at all. I was sitting there, and I thought, my God, I might as well be in Columbus, Ohio, as here, for all the interest that the town has for me. I was just sitting in my apartment working. I could have a better apartment and better working conditions somewhere else. After ten o’clock at night, there’s no one on the streets. The old settlers like Paul Bowles and those people who have been there for years and years are sort of hanging on desperately, asking, “Where could we go if we left Tangier?” I don’t know, it just depresses me now. It’s not even cheap there. If I travel anywhere, it will be to the Far East, but only for a visit. I’ve never been east of Athens.

INTERVIEWER

That reminds me, I meant to ask you what’s behind your interest in the more exotic systems such as Zen, or Dr. Reich’s orgone theories?

BURROUGHS

Well, these nonconventional theories frequently touch on something going on that Harvard and MIT can’t explain. I don’t mean that I endorse them wholeheartedly, but I am interested in any attempt along those lines. I’ve used these orgone accumulators and I’m convinced that something occurs there, I don’t know quite what. Of course, Reich himself went around the bend, no question of that.

INTERVIEWER

You mentioned Scientology earlier. Do you have a system for getting on, or are you looking for one?

BURROUGHS

I’m not very interested in such a crudely three-dimensional manipulative schema as L. Ron Hubbard’s, although it’s got its points. I’ve studied it and I’ve seen how it works. It’s a series of manipulative gimmicks. They tell you to look around and see what you would have. The results are much more subtle and more successful than Dale Carnegie’s. But as far as my living by a system, no. At the same time, I don’t think anything happens in this universe except by some power—or individual—making it happen. Nothing happens of itself. I believe all events are produced by will.

INTERVIEWER

Then do you believe in the existence of God?

BURROUGHS

God? I wouldn’t say. I think there are innumerable gods. What we on Earth call God is a little tribal god who has made an awful mess. Certainly forces operating through human consciousness control events. A Luce writer may be an agent of God-knows-what power, a force with an insatiable appetite for word and image. What does this force propose to do with such a tremendous mound of image garbage? They’ve got a regular casting office. To interview Mary McCarthy, they’ll send a shy Vassar girl who’s just trying to get along. They had several carny people for me. “Shucks, Bill, you got a reefer?” Reefer? My God! “Certainly not,” I told them. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then they go back and write a nasty article for the files.

INTERVIEWER

In some respects, Nova Express seems to be a prescription for social ailments. Do you see the need, for instance, of biologic courts in the future?

BURROUGHS

Certainly. Science eventually will be forced to establish courts of biologic mediation, because life-forms are going to become more incompatible with the conditions of existence as man penetrates further into space. Mankind will have to undergo biologic alterations ultimately, if we are to survive at all. This will require biologic law to decide what changes to make. We will simply have to use our intelligence to plan mutations, rather than letting them occur at random. Because many such mutations—look at the saber-toothed tiger—are bound to be very poor engineering designs. The future, decidedly, yes. I think there are innumerable possibilities, literally innumerable. The hope lies in the development of nonbody experience and eventually getting away from the body itself, away from three-dimensional coordinates and concomitant animal reactions of fear and flight, which lead inevitably to tribal feuds and dissension.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you choose an interplanetary war as the conflict in Nova Express, rather than discord between nations? You seem fascinated with the idea that a superterrestrial power is exercising an apparatus of control, such as the death dwarfs—

BURROUGHS

They’re parasitic organisms occupying a human host, rather like a radio transmitter, which direct and control it. The people who work with encephalograms and brain waves point out that technically it will someday be possible to install at birth a radio antenna in the brain which will control thought, feeling, and sensory perceptions, actually not only control thought, but make certain thoughts impossible. The death dwarfs are weapons of the nova mob, which in turn is calling the shots in the cold war. The nova mob is using that conflict in an attempt to blow up the planet, because when you get right down to it, what are America and Russia really arguing about? The Soviet Union and the United States will eventually consist of interchangeable social parts and neither nation is morally “right.” The idea that anyone can run his own factory in America is ridiculous. The government and the unions—which both amount to the same thing: control systems—tell him who he can hire, how much he can pay them, and how he can sell his goods. What difference does it make if the state owns the plant and retains him as manager? Regardless of how it’s done, the same kind of people will be in charge. One’s ally today is an enemy tomorrow. I have postulated this power—the nova mob—which forces us to play musical chairs.

INTERVIEWER

You see hope for the human race, but at the same time you are alarmed as the instruments of control become more sophisticated.

BURROUGHS

Well, whereas they become more sophisticated they also become more vulnerable. Time, Life, Fortune applies a more complex, effective control system than the Mayan calendar, but it also is much more vulnerable because it is so vast and mechanized. Not even Henry Luce understands what’s going on in the system now. Well, a machine can be redirected. One technical sergeant can fuck up the whole works. Nobody can control the whole operation. It’s too complex. The captain comes in and says, “All right, boys, we’re moving up.” Now, who knows what buttons to push? Who knows how to get the cases of Spam up to where they’re going, and how to fill out the forms? The sergeant does. The captain doesn’t know. As long as there’re sergeants around, the machine can be dismantled, and we may get out of all this alive yet.

INTERVIEWER

Sex seems equated with death frequently in your work.

BURROUGHS

That is an extension of the idea of sex as a biologic weapon. I feel that sex, like practically every other human manifestation, has been degraded for control purposes, or really for antihuman purposes. This whole Puritanism. How are we ever going to find out anything about sex scientifically, when a priori the subject cannot even be investigated? It can’t even be thought about or written about. That was one of the interesting things about Reich. He was one of the few people who ever tried to investigate sex—sexual phenomena, from a scientific point of view. There’s this prurience and this fear of sex. We know nothing about sex. What is it? Why is it pleasurable? What is pleasure? Relief from tension? Well, possibly.

INTERVIEWER

Are you irreconcilably hostile to the twentieth century?

BURROUGHS

Not at all, although I can imagine myself as having been born under many different circumstances. For example, I had a dream recently in which I returned to the family home and I found a different father and a different house from any I’d ever seen before. Yet in a dream sense, the father and the house were quite familiar.

INTERVIEWER

Mary McCarthy has characterized you as a soured utopian. Is that accurate?

BURROUGHS

I do definitely mean what I say to be taken literally, yes, to make people aware of the true criminality of our times, to wise up the marks. All of my work is directed against those who are bent, through stupidity or design, on blowing up the planet or rendering it uninhabitable. Like the advertising people we talked about, I’m concerned with the precise manipulation of word and image to create an action, not to go out and buy a Coca-Cola, but to create an alteration in the reader’s consciousness. You know, they ask me if I were on a desert island and knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing. My answer is most emphatically yes. I would go on writing for company. Because I’m creating an imaginary—it’s always imaginary—world in which I would like to live.
Author photograph by Gerard Malanga.