[Plura-list] Cyclopedia Exotica; Let's eat all the cicadas!

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue May 11 11:54:03 EDT 2021


I'm doing two live events tomorrow, May 12:

* Interoperability and Alternative Social Media, a panel for the Knight
Center's Reimagine the Internet event

* Book launch for Aminder Dhaliwal's Cyclopedia Exotica


Today's links

* Cyclopedia Exotica: Aminder Dhaliwal's cryptid history of our one-eyed

* Let's eat all the cicadas: Harnessing the paperclip machine for good?

* This day in history: 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


🩳 Cyclopedia Exotica

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Aminder Dhaliwal's debut
graphic novel WOMAN WORLD; an hour later, I was a fan for life.


Dhaliwal, an animator by day, started Woman World as an webcomic with a
straightforward premise: men are extinct...now what?

A large proportion of the strips are episodic, with no overarching
through-line - like Peanuts, or more to the point, Sylvia:


As the series progressed, these one-off gags slowly built into a
complex, multi-POV tale, one with real tension and payoff, sensitivity
and pathos. Taken as a whole, Woman World is a like a Magic Eye painting
made up of isolated gags, out of which emerges a fantastic story.

Today, Drawn and Quarterly published Dhaliwal's second book, CYCLOPEDIA
EXOTICA, a volume that manages that same mysterious Magic Eye trick of
making a deep and moving story emerge from comic-strip-length gags about
a large cast of characters.


The premise of CYCLOPEDIA is a little more complicated than WOMAN WORLD,
though; it's an alternate world in which another race of hominids -
cylcopes with one eye and one breast - have existed alongside us "two-eyes."

The two species haven't always gotten along, but now, in the early 21st
century, we've found an uneasy peace, with the minority cyclopes living
within two-eye society, facing all the issue of a visible minority:
fetishization, discrimination, division and internalized racism.

CYCLOPEDIA's characters are in interracial marriages and uneasy
avant-garde art partnerships; they've mutilated themselves with kook
"eye separation" surgery and have encouraged others to mutilation by
modeling monoboob-separating binders that simulate cleavage.

They're climbing the corporate ladder and giving birth to multiple
babies - cyclops women have three vaginas and two uterii and they
gestate multiple foetuses simultaneously, birthing twins separated by a
monthslong gap.

And all of this is presented as a series of lighthearted gags, many of
which made my literally cry with laughter. It's an incredibly, admirably
sneaky way to tell a profound story about race and gender and class.

If all of that is hard to imagine you should try it for yourself. Drawn
and Quarterly have posted an excerpt from the book:


Meanwhile, I will be helping Dhaliwal launch CYCLOPEDIA EXOTICA
Wednesday night at an event hosted by Indigo. I hope you can join us!



🩳 Let's eat all the cicadas

Brood 17 - the unbelievable large swarm of 17-year cicadas - is already
emerging in parts of America. This summer, Americans in the brood's path
will experience a plague(ish) of locusts(ish), as the skies darken and
the roads run slick with bug-guts.

Writing for Wired, Kate Knibbs brings us the cuisine of Bun Lai1, a
renowned chef who has pioneered "sustainable sushi" and is now foraging
in DC for early B-17 bugs to turn into chow: pizza, paella, and sushi.


In much of the world, eating bugs is no big deal, and not just novelties
like chocolate ants: think of chapulin tacos, the Oaxacan grasshopper
delicacies. These are a serious seasonal delight in LA, and I can
personally attest to their deliciousness.


The most exciting thing about eating bugs is not in the fact that
they're bugs, but rather in that they are considered a pest and a
problem, which we can turn into a delicacy. Bugs (including "pests") are
high protein, low-carbon, and abundant.

If you pay attention to the climate emergency, it's hard to avoid the
nagging sense that every time you eat, you're contributing to the
planet's destruction. Food's got a heck of a carbon footprint,
especially farmed food, *especially* farmed *meat*.


Which is why the idea of eating pests and invasive species is so
exciting. It's not just the idea that you're eating "guiltless" food,
it's the weird sense that maybe we can turn the destructive power of the
capitalism machine on things we want to get rid of.

Capitalism, after all, is true star of Nick Bostrom's thought-experiment
of a paperclip-manufacturing AI that optimizes and optimizes itself.


Barreling on and on until it turns the entire universe into paperclips.
The "slow AIs" of shareholder capitalist enterprises pursue profit to
the destruction of their environments, workforces, customers and societies:


It's a cruel irony that our asset bubbles are always fueled by
destruction of something we need (like a breathable atmosphere and a
planet that isn't on fire), rather than, say, the destruction of
invasive species or pandemic viruses or similar.


Wouldn't it be great if, instead of a foie gras-eating fad, we had a
*kudzu*-eating fad, one that saw all the kudzu in the American south
harvested to feed the rapacious kudzu-barons' vast kudzu empires? (Kudzu
cookery exists, but has not caught fire).


The closest thing to this that I've encountered in the wild are the
delicious lionfish tacos in the scuba towns in Roatan, Honduras, where
invasive lionfish (possibly descended from aquarium escapees) are
destroying the reef ecosystem.


To be clear, lionfish taste good! But also, the experience of lionfish
is doubly delicious because you know you're creating a market for scuba
guides and fishermen to hunt lionfish, and if this drives them to
extinction, that'd be a *good* thing for the planet!

This idea - driving a social phenomenon with markets - surfaces from
time to time in science fiction. In Damon Knight's 1992 comic
masterpiece WHY DO BIRDS?, an ad-agency is recruited to convince the
entire human race to climb into a box (!).


The agency hits on a winning strategy: they announce that only rich
people are *allowed* in the box and that box-berth prices are sky-high.

Soon, plutes are clamoring for spots, while the rest of the world
demands climb-into-the-box equity to end being-in-a-box inequality.

Eight years later, Bruce Sterling proposed something similar to deal
with climate change, in his brilliant 2000 Viridian Design Manifesto,
which called on ecologists to rethink ecological measures as exclusive


The idea wasn't to actually make ecologically sound living into the
exclusive purview of the wealthy, but rather to make ecological living
into something both status-defining *and* aspirational, creating demand
across the board for sustainable technology.

But markets have a failure mode, that paperclip tragedy mode, which is
that they are purely instrumental, driven to maximize their victory
conditions irrespective of whether these become detached from their
underlying goals.

Universal Paperclips are a subspecies of Monkey's Paws, in other words,
a "be careful what you wish for" parable.

SF's got you covered here, too, as in Harry Harrison's "Make Room! Make
Room!" (turned into the movie Soylent Green), where the invasive species
we devour to save the planet is…us. (BTW, the Tor edition of the novel
has a stupendous cover).


Alas, the actual situation is more Make Room! Make Room! than Viridian.
Our carbon offsets are a market for lemons, useless performances of
conservation what will always be cheaper - and thus more successful in
the market - than the real deal.


And nothing epitomizes the hollowness of the eco-luxury market like
Tesla, a company that is only profitable because it sells carbon offsets
that keep the SUV market alive - a company whose longterm stability
involves bitcoin holdings with the carbon footprint of 1.8m cars.


Still, I would happily eat some Brood 17 I-can't-believe-its-not-foie-gras.


🩳 This day in history

#20yrsago Massively parallel Furby clustering

#15yrsago Diebold voting machines can be 0wned in minutes

#15yrsago Ask a Ninja tackles Net Neutrality

#10yrsago Vernor Vinge on the promise, progress and threats of Augmented

#10yrsago American oligarch buys the right to hire professors at Florida
State U

#5yrsago Germany will end copyright liability for open wifi operators

#5yrsago Save Firefox: The W3C’s plan for worldwide DRM would have
killed Mozilla before it could start

#5yrsago NZ Prime Minister John Key ejected from Parliament over Panama
Papers rant

#1yrago Shanghai Disneyland re-opens


🩳 Colophon

Currently writing:

* A Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.  RESEARCH PHASE

* A short story about consumer data co-ops.  PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)

Upcoming appearances:

* Interoperability and Alternative Social Media, Reimagine the Internet,
May 12, https://knightcolumbia.org/events/reimagine-the-internet

* Book launch for Aminder Dhaliwal's Cyclopedia Exotica (Indigo), May
12, https://www.crowdcast.io/e/udbva8py/register

* Seize the Means of Computation, Ryerson Centre for Free Expression,
May 19,

* Privacy Without Monopoly, Northsec, May 20,

* In conversation with David Dayen (Second Life Book Club), Jun 4,

Recent appearances:

* Can Antitrust Laws Destroy Surveillance Capitalism? (Majority Report)

* In conversation with John Scalzi at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

* Hexapodia XIII with J Bradford De Long and Noah Smith

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
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provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
Guy" DeVilla

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