Tag Archives: Virtual Futures


New Virtual Futures Book

I have a new book out (or nearly out – it’ll be published on the 15th February 2022).

VITAL SIGNALS is a second collection of cutting-edge sci-fi from Virtual Futures. Co-edited with Tom Ward and Stephen Oram, it features established authors such as Tim Maughan, Simon Ings, Geoff Ryman and Ken MacLeod alongside a host of newer voices.

I’m really pleased with this one. It’s been an honour to work with these authors, every single one of whom seems to have tunneled through time into the very near future and come back to tell the tale.

You can order the book here: http://www.newconpress.co.uk/info/book.asp?id=195&referer=Catalogue


New publications

None of us is getting out and about much during a pandemic. And that means public events and conferences just aren’t happening. But publications still are. Here are two recent ones.

The American Weird, edited impeccably by Julius Greve and Florian Zappe, has just come out from Bloomsbury and is now on sale. The opening chapter is ‘A Doxa of the American Weird’, laying out the prehistory of the weird, from Anglo-Saxon usage via Holinshed and Shakespeare to American colonization, and showing how the concept in American literature and culture follows this earlier definition rather than our modern English one, from 17th-century American poetry to current film and fiction.

Virtual Futures: Near-Future Fictions is an anthology of some of the best stories that think about what’s going to happen not in a hundred years, or ten, but tomorrow. It’s also on sale now. A second volume is coming soon.

And earlier this year there was yet another flurry of interest in skeuomorphism, with Quartz magazine producing an excellent illustrated explainer, which you can read here.


Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, Birmingham

October 24th saw the first of a series of Virtual Futures salon events.

Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012
Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012

This was a very sexy event: held in the TROVE gallery, a very Berlin-style disused warehouse right in the centre of the city, and showcasing some of the strangest and most avant-garde art and thought happening right now.  Prof. Johnny Golding from the Centre for Fine Art Research at BIAD, Birmingham City University, introduced the evening, which was organized by the director of Virtual Futures, Luke Robert Mason.

I spoke about maps and wiring diagrams, ‘photogenic drawing’, glitch, and (implicitly and probably entirely predictably) the dangers of animism, anthropomorphism, and the god in the machine. Dr. John Pickering from the Psychology department at Warwick University told us about the limitations of AI in military (and other) robots, digging a little deeper into the ways in which our mental constructs conspire to produce sympathy for machines, and bringing some much-needed historical rigour to the current drone-delirium. Sascha Pohflepp gave us selected glimpses of his artworks from the past five years, ranging from his genetically-modified plant visions (created with Daisy Ginsberg) to his simulations of spaceflight weightlessness, which touched a Stelarc-like VF nerve in their evocations of the human body reaching escape velocity.

The event then marked the return of Orphan drift, after fifteen years, to Virtual Futures and to the UK, when Mer Roberts introduced a screening of the Orphan drift film ‘A Wilderness of Nowheres’: timely, as the Orphan drift book Cyberpositive has just been published in a new edition. Franken Beaumont‘s eerie installation artwork sat behind the audience, its mouth moving as if echoing the speakers; Liam Worth‘s dynamic ferrofluid sculpture was also on display, as were J.R. Dooley‘s dancing, dynamic sonic/visual cellular forms. Pat Cadigan capped the evening with a masterclass in story-telling, her apparently effortless facility with verbal imagery giving us all a metaphorical lesson in the proper use of tools.

But the most momentous statement of the evening was left to Luke Robert Mason, who announced that the Virtual Futures conference will return next year, taking place as a city-wide festival in Birmingham, running from the 25 – 27 October 2013…


Interviews & talks: video and audio

This year’s Virtual Futures 2.0’11 conference was astonishingly productive, and the results of the new ideas discussed and new collaborations formed are still reverberating around the net, the media and the conference circuit. Hopefully I’ll be able to speak about some of those results in the near future; in the meantime, much of the conference is now available on video.

My opening lecture at VF is below:

Shortly before the conference, Amy McLeod from the Warwick Knowledge Centre interviewed me, mainly about skeuomorphs (the topic of the book I’m writing at present): the podcast of that interview is available here.

There was a lot more talk of skeuomorphs in my live chat, ‘Understanding the Virtual’, following the conference; you can read a somewhat truncated and edited-down transcript here. The actual event was invaded and eventually DoSed by 4chan, the guys who hacked Sarah Palin’s emails… it was quite an honour to get 4channed, but the real transcript is unprintable.

Rhizome.org picked up on the skeuomorph meme and published another version: Dan O’Hara on Skeuomorphs, JG Ballard, Transhumanism, and the “eradication of individual identity.

And archive video from the 1995 Virtual Futures conference is steadily being digitized and placed on the VF Vimeo channel: below is an interview conducted with me recently, which includes a large chunk of the archive footage of Stelarc’s legendary 1995 performance, in which I’m bobbing around in the background with an orange mohican, trying to fix the sound levels, whilst Stelarc waves his third arm about menacingly…


Virtual Futures 2.0’11 programme

Virtual Futures 2.0’11

The speakers list and programme for Virtual Futures 2.0’11, to be held at Warwick University on the 18th and 19th of June, have been released. I’ll be there giving the opening plenary, talking about “Non-Human Agencies: A Skeuomorphological Account”.

It’s a great line-up: Stelarc returns, as do Rachel Armstrong, Ian Stewart, Jim Flint, Mark Fisher, Diane Gromala, Sue Thomas, Pat Cadigan, Richard Barbrook, Nick Fox, Martyn Amos, and o(rphan)d(rift>); plus Kevin Warwick, Sue Golding, Andy Miah, Alan Chalmers, Steve Fuller, Jeremy Wyatt… No Hakim Bey this time, though. Registration is now live.


Virtual Futures returns

Fifteen years ago, I wrote in the TLS that the rate of social change was itself accelerating. This year, I find myself the victim of my own prophecy.

At Warwick University on the 18-19 June, an event resurrecting Virtual Futures, Virtual Futures 2.0’11, takes place, organized by Luke Robert Mason, who’s doing his research thesis on the influence the conference had upon philosophy, technology, and culture, and investigating the ways in which VF led to modern synthetic biology, living architecture, and transhumanism.

It’s both extremely flattering and mindsplittingly frightening for a jobbing academic to find his activities of a mere fifteen years ago the subject of new research and conferences. I seem to be becoming-historical, as Deleuze might have said.

Anyone who was at the original conferences is especially asked to get in touch with the organizer, Luke; the line-up of speakers already looks like TED to the power of n