Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Kisangani 2150, or Reconstructing Civilization on a New Model

You see what I’m doing, don’t you? Kisangani 2150 is obviously a play on New York 2140; it’s a science fiction novel set ten years after New York 2140. Why ten years? That’s obvious, isn’t it? To give the developments at the end of New York 2140 time to settle down, unfold. As I recall things were a bit up in the air.

But why New York 2140 at all?

Because I’m interested in the future, I want to see how things might work out. Kim Stanley Robinson did such a nice job with New York 2140 that I figured, why not take advantage of his work, why not build on it? He figured that worldwide climate disruption is inevitable. Alas, I’m inclined to agree with him on that. At this point I simply don’t see how we can avoid it. Oh, I supposed I could imagine that we come up with some miracle technological fix, maybe even some form of climate engineering. But I don’t really believe that. Nor do I believe that we’re going to get carbon dioxide under control in time. And even if we did that’s hardly all that needs to be done, is it? No I fear that disaster is inevitable and Robinson has done such a nice job of imagining a post disaster world.

Still, I’d like to imagine a somewhat different world, one not dominated by the Western institutions that still rule the roost in the future KSR’s has so richly imagined. Yet he has laid the grounds for that in his book. Here we are at the very end of the novel, in a nightclub deep underground called Mezzrow’s, pp. 611-612:

Everyone in the room is now grooving to the tightest West African pop any of them have ever heard. The guitar players’ licks are like metal shavings coming off a lathe. The vocalists are wailing, the horns are a freight train. [...] The other horn players instantly get better, the guitar players even more precise and intricate. The vocalists are grinning and shouting duets in harmony. It’s like they’ve all just plugged into an electrical jack through their shoes...Crowd goes crazy, dancing swells the room.

That’s the stuff. But it's only one scene, and at the end. Surely that must have been doing on all over the place. The world KSR was imagining couldn't have happened without that kind of party action under-girding everything. Because that's how WE are. So let's bring it to the foreground. Kisangani 2150 is going to concentrate on that, on music, Jes Grew, on the Mystic Jewels for the Propagation of Grace, Right Living, and Saturday Night through Historic Intervention by Any Means Necessary. A counter narrative.

And that’s why I want to center this narrative on Kisangani. I figure that the West is pretty much played out. It’s not going to reconsider, regroup, and renew. It’s just going to pile it higher and deeper, more of the same, hence the world Kim Stanley Robinson imagined, one still ruled by high finance, but with a subversive digital underground to get the dirty done, to flip the switch, open up the can of worms that’ll eat the remains and dissolve into fertilizer for the new.

And just where’s this NEW going to come from? Why not Africa? That’s where we came from the first time out. Why not give it another spin. Hence Kisangani.

Kisangani? It’s deep inland, in the central Congo. Joseph Conrad used it as the Inner Station for Heart of Darkness, so it’s got THAT particular brand of mythic resonance. New York brings the world order down in 2140 and Kisangani initiates a new one in 2150.

What’s this new world about? Good question. I don’t know. All’s I know that’s coming from a deep groove. Maybe it’ll cross the world of Jivometrics with that of Luxury Communism. Who knows?

What about Wakanda? Right continent. The movie was cool. But its wealth, after all, is based on mineral wealth, a rare and powerful mineral that just happens to concentrated in one place. That’s the wrong vibe. I want the wealth concentrated in the people. Besides, as far as I can tell, the government is very traditional and fundamentally authoritarian. Perhaps throw in a bit of gross national happiness from Bhutan.

Think of Nollywood too. Oh yeah, think of Nollywood. As of 2013 it is the third largest movie industry in the world (after Hollywood and Bollywood). [Now second?] It’s African, centered in Nigeria. And it’s pretty much native video and digital. The old celluloid-based film industry never really got established. But when cheap electronic technology became available in the 1990s a new home-oriented business took off. A new start.

That’s why Africa. And while Lagos, Nigeria, is on the Atlantic shore, where it’s vulnerable to the ocean rise, Kisangani is inland.

Will I actually write it? Probably not. Will I think about it? Maybe cough up some fragments or three?

Stay tuned.

I'm collecting posts relevant to this theme under the Kisangani2150 link.

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