New Zine, Post Normal Fiction, A Brief History of Modernity, and our need to explore what’s beyond or after it.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2022/05/14/301-2219-post-normal/
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo
I haven’t mentioned it on the podcast yet – because I despise feeling like a shill. But I’ve decided to start a newsletter. A physical one. In fact, It’s a zine. Paid supporters to thejaymo.net at £5 a month or above will receive a physical zine made by me, via snail mail 4 times a year.
The first Zine’s went out in the post to existing supporters yesterday. Some winding their way to far away places like Japan, California and Australia. I’d like to thank everyone past and present who’ve chipped in to support this show. I’m very grateful for all your support.
It was super fun making a zine for the first time in about a decade. They were such a big part of my life in my late teens and early 20s. There’s still some left, so if you like this show and fancy a zine, head to thejaymo.net/support – once they’re gone, they’re gone.
This week Andrew Dana Hudson was on the Near Future Laboratory podcast. You may remember Andrew from his guest episode way back on show 19-35. I was also on the NFL podcast N°22, back in December if you want to check it out.
Andrew was in the hot seat talking about his first novel ‘Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures’ which is out now. Kim Stanley Robinson is pull quoted calling Andrew “the face of this new movement in science fiction” and said “we’re lucky to have him”.
I’m lucky to have him as a friend too. Congratulations mate.
Anyways, during the show Andrew described his novel as Post Normal Fiction. By way of ‘post normal science’. Imagine a graph he says “One axis is stakes, the other is uncertainty”. “If you get far enough out on either, or both, you leave pure research, then applied science, pass through the professional consultancy sphere and you end in a post normal space”. Out here are the wicked problems, but there’s no way to experiment your way to a correct answer. Post Normal fiction for Andrew is a kind of narrative strategy for dealing in this space of uncertainty.
It’s a great term.
It’s had me thinking about what we think of as ‘normal’. Post Normal, implies after the typical or expected. Contrast it with the term we heard a lot during the pandemic ‘The New Normal’. An implied shift or change to our everyday expectations.
I first heard the term New Normal in a 2013 talk by Anab Jain from Superflux. Riffing on Venkat Rao’s 2012 essay The Normality Field. “The New Normal” Anab said:
cuts through established narratives by engaging with two broad areas of interest: uncloaking the ‘strange now’, (whether that is the edge cases I showed earlier, or the disruptive forces that are hidden behind comforting metaphors); and extrapolating current trends to present the sheer breadth, of, often unsettling, future possibilities that lie ahead of us.”
In his 2012 essay, Venkat wrote about the “unexplained cognitive dissonance we feel between changing-reality-as-experienced and change as imagined”.
the future always seems like something that is going to happen rather than something that is happening; future perfect rather than present-continuous. Even the nearest of near-term science fiction seems to evolve at some fixed receding-horizon distance from the present.
The idea of ‘Normal’ spins me out when I think about it for more than a second. I think about how terrible western culture’s understanding of time is. About the stories our society tells itself, and which stories it chooses to tell. Above all I end up thinking about modernity.
A Brief History of Modernity as I Understand It
In the west, until the Reformation there was no real concept of ‘The Future’. Yes people planned ahead, but the future wasn’t a place. Time (or Chronos) was simply moving towards the eschaton. Direction yes, but there was nothing in front of now, the present was the leading edge of time.
There was however an understanding of being outside of time. I could also be experienced. See episode 20-06.
After the reformation, the concept of Kairos was thrown out as Catholic mumbo jumbo. The enlightenment then rugs eschatology for the idea of progress.
Modernity proper begins at the French revolution. The future becomes a political idea. An actual place that can be made better by our actions today. And we can get there, or at least work towards it. Politics, defined as left and right also arises from the French revolution. Both wings since then have battled over a terrain that doesn’t yet exist – the future.
Then the industrial revolution comes along and complicates the idea of progress with a brighter future. Made possible by science and technology. Then chartism in the UK fails, and Marx is left asking smaller questions amidst the ruins. Questions like ‘who’ is going to own ‘which’ technology in the future.
Then there’s two world worlds, the atom bomb and the space race. The ‘68 uprising fails and all the post modernists decide in a sulk, that the future isn’t going to be all that great at all. For them it’s a site of anxiety.
Neoliberalism smashes the future for everyone except the elite. And we all end up poisoned decades later, wading through a malaise of capitalist realism and cultural fracking.
Normal to me means ‘the sum total of Modernities thinking about the existence of the future as a site of contestation, and what that means in context for our actions in the present.’
Post Normal for me is about exploring what’s beyond or after the period we know as Modernity.
In order to do that. We first need to rethink our relationships with not only the present and the future, but time itself.
The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.
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