Scroll down to see short clips and extracts of writing.
Reading time 15 mins.
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data | gift (1)
Sketchup 3D model, 2021
Animated walk through on VIMEO. Duration 00:32 secs
3D character test, 2020
Animated character walking on VIMEO. Duration 00:08 secs. Made in collaboration with Ashley Hampton.
Short story published online as PDF ebook
DATA | GIFT, 2020
The air has come to greet me. Tiny sentient drones nuzzle to my skin and scan my incoming body. In its embrace, the hive consensus finds me secure. I am comforted by the gentle rush of their recognition – a tell of their presence. It is good to have the weaponised swarm onside. To an enemy it will execute instantaneous death.
I take leave of the curious cloud and cut quietly through the water in the dark. I have rowed for many miles and at many knots, navigating by a constellation of astral objects, proximity sensors and ancient mariners’ lore, careful not to be detected by any sea-based surveillance and the datasets, or optical satellites parked bumper to bumper in the thermosphere above the Earth.
I let my boat drift in to the narrows of a fjord to a mooring. Stepping on to the landing, I lift my makeshift boat out of the water, and return it to my back, and secure the chest strap low, careful to protect my stowaway. A few more steps and I am inside the firewall, hidden from the sky eyes and away from the discombobulating noise of sonic warfare and number stations transmitting to agents in the arena of war.
The raft is a cavernous engineered composite space constructed with metamaterials that minutely control the surrounding optical fields to rebuff light and exclude electromagnetic waves. It is invisible and soundless. The constant stream of searching microwaves, split to pass around the floating refuge and rejoin on the other side, with no detectable distortion, like water round a rock in a riverbed. We will be hidden here in the refraction.
The silence is disorientating but to my advantage. Every sound is heard, any approach detectable. For now, no enemy is at hand. Without the key, the Machine’s operating system and even the all-knowing hive, my Systas, will not be able to hear me think here. No one and no thing must know. Not yet. I need time to make my bequest and to prepare the child. If we cannot incorporate it, I might as well put it outside now, and have done with it.
I claim asylum in the nature and sovereignty of this Seastead. Without territorial borders, it is a place outside of nation state. Its jurisdiction offers an interval of time and data. I savour everything around me.
The smell of processed water and green is strong. The chemical particles float into my code and build a hallucinated neural model of blue skies and sunshine and grass, and childlike freedom of long days playing in open fields. The detailed and intense memories of another lifetime mix with the information from my sensors. My realities clash. […]
speculative fictions (2)
APPLE BLOSSOM SKY, 2021
Apple blossom petals dance and fall on a light breeze that chills my face. An electric sun shines. The images change to a bird’s eye view of green hills, a waterfall, a spinning globe, projected onto walls of continuously flowing water. Between piles laid out in a grid, flowering plants and trees root down into islands of silicon sand set in the floor. All around, differential potential generates the electricity that powers this money-is-no-object façade, behind which the Fab and a hundred-fold data stores and DNA silos roar. The positive aromas of ozone and fragrant happiness mingle in the air. Everything is perfect. Every brilliant, shimmering surface gleams with pride. I eye smile at masked colleagues in the gathering crowd. It’s all I can do to show friendliness to women whose identity I do not know. We are all the same small size, chosen for our fine and dextrous fingers.
The changing room opens and we file in, keeping the required distance apart. Inside, all is smooth and clinical to touch: the self-cleaning and healing nanocellulose materials are microbiotic, doped in patchouli and lemon balm. I undress under an LED poster that insists ‘Fortune favours the bold’ and put my precious wristwatch in my locker. Together in the hammam, we scrub at dead skin cells; even the smallest spec in the air will destroy months of work. Our ritual ablution over, hair scraped back, we each step into the same one-size-fits-all boiler suit that conforms well, though provides little protection, in this, one of the most dangerous places in the world. After DNA swabbing and facial recognition, we enter the air lock, where we don white fire-resistant hoods, boots and vinyl gloves, and walk the last section across sticky under foot matting, buffeted by jets of purified air that removes any last dust and fluff. Within the shell, I have only the soapy smell of chamomile and my thoughts.
Entering the Clean Room, a vast cacophonous space opens up on row upon row of workbenches. The sound of industrial machinery punctuates and air booms, forced through the exits and perforated tiles in the ceiling and walls. Clouds of poisonous gas from acid baths and wet and dry etchers circulate. Navigating the aisles, I pass hundreds of highly trained technicians, each woman carefully moving between processes with extreme caution and respect to the hazardous conditions. Any sudden movements are frightening. We are making the smallest computer processors on the planet. Though much of the process is done by machines, we still make by hand, carving circuit board patterns on silicon wafers. Artisans of the unseen, working at a scale impossible to imagine, rearranging atoms to make switches 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, on chips that hold billions of transiters, on processors no bigger than my fingernail.
At my workbench, my tools are laid out neatly: vacuum wands, plastic tweezers, prongs and a quartz crucible; alongside containers of polysilicon, arsenic, boron and phosphorous. Settling into my shift, I work with precision and gloved hands in the vacuum chamber, even the tiniest defect will distort the grid and the chips won’t work. I melt silicon rich sand to form an ingot, that I cool and slice into wafers and polish to a flawless surface. Then I make the stencil to create the mask that will print the pattern. I tenderly etch, wash, and dope each brittle surface many times, before back-plating with gold, and layering the transistors and metal connections. As I build, I imagine I am building a house, my house, a home, next to other homes, on a main road, joined to hundreds of interconnecting roads, linking every aspect of our regulated and controlled lives. […]
THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, 2021
I put my finger in the hole; I have no need to ask, our contract allows me. Deep within the folds of loose back skin, I trace a mountain range of keloid scar tissue along a winding path, its passage blocked at irregular intervals by stitches struggling to craft what is missing and mend damaged wiring. As I feel my way, a model of the unseen space builds in my mind. It is clear as noon here in the dark, where knowing is tactile and mystical.
“I never knew.” “I don’t talk about it much. People don’t see it much either,” they say quietly.
“How did it happen? When?”
“Was in the war. Flying metal cut right through me. There’re bits in there still. They play up sometimes; let me know when a storm is coming.” They smile, pulling their weight up; the radiation from the south-facing window, gives shape to their form, a loose structure of skin, bone and shadow.
Naked from the waist up, their breasts hang, nipples grazing the top of their belly roll. On their head, a peaked red cap, faded and worn, a symbol of bloody and failed revolutions.
News crackles from the radio: … CloudCom has made its first successful landing on Jupiter, beating its competitors. Their cargo ships return from Mars this week with new penicillins. Production is up 1,000% against last quarter. Same as yesterday, same as every day.
“It must hurt.”
I ask which war.
“The Hybrid Wars. The world was so unstable and full of conflict, there were so many I don’t remember and I forget the reasons, though many were economic, fought at a distance by children recruited at gaming conventions to kill digitally.” They turn to face me. “We were fighting back. We were changing the world.”
I try to imagine the past from their point of view; to understand their naïve revolutionary optimism.
“But nothing changed! It’s the same, but different. Normal.”
“There is no normal. You’re wrong. It is transformed. I don’t know this world.” I see their bio-hacked body tense. They cry slow tears, and with melancholy say, “Perhaps I was on the wrong side.”
“Maybe you were.”
“What would you have done if you had to fight? My parents had to fight, like their parents, and their parents before them. It is written in our blockchain. Everything was thrown at us. It was political, emotional, cyber and biowarfare. You see the world differently to me. You live in a different world to the one I know.”
I look at the badge I am wearing: the small white flower of a conscientious objector that proclaims that I am a pacifist, opposed to this violent world. I like to think that I would have refused to fight, but the truth is that I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t reply. […]
THE STORYTELLER – CURRENT WIP
“I know, Sweetheart. We have to keep going though. We have to get out of the city.”
“I’m hungry too.”
“I know. We have to keep going.”
“I need the toilet.”
“Ok. It’s not good to stop here though. Let’s keep going and we’ll look for a place to stop.”
The children walk alongside as I push the bicycle. In the seat, the Baby wedged between rolled up blankets, all our possessions and food. Ori is being as brave as can be, chatting with Kai, the boy we found on Tuesday.
Thick, grey smoke shrouds the early autumn air, mixing with the car fumes from the standing traffic. The breeze whips tiny particles of soot, microplastic and tyre dust, to swirl in the air. Wastewater streaming from leaks in cracked tarmac, inadvertently cools the road and washes the toxins into the drains.
We trudge along a dull never-ending suburban road of blackened shutters. Passed vulnerable timber frame constructions and high-rise estates. Passed retail parks and shopping centres and out-of-town furniture stores, aggregate suppliers and light industrial warehouses, where we wee in the bushes. The city sprawls to where the houses are cheaper and time passes slower. The chain of people shows the way; we follow, at a distance. Drone advertising formations fill the sky.
Nearing the orbital motorway, the road widens. I think we should take the quieter roads. Hopefully there will be fewer horns beeping, less people shouting; something to eat. In the underpass, badly drawn graffiti on shabby civic tiled walls, shouts “Fuck You” and people sat on carefully made beds, watching silently, as we wheel past.
Clearing the ring road, there are less people walking and fewer houses but no less danger. The county road quickly becomes a leafy avenue of overhanging trees, parting either side of the way, banks of twisted and intertwining roots, high hedgerow and high walls. Only in places can you catch a glimpse of large, isolated mansions and gated communities in large grounds and armed guards. I imagine the posh people who live here, where there are trees and shade. It’s a different world; far from the hot concrete and pavement of our uncomfortable neighbourhood and the heat.
The slow-moving line of metal boxes winds its way. Each vehicle overflowing with people and pets, and things. At a village green, we laugh at a crudely defaced statue of a large reclining man smoking a cigar, before climbing up a long slow incline to the heath. Even here, tendrils of smoke hang heavy in the air. […]
BOOK DIVER – CURRENT WIP
After weeks surveying the Navy destroyer, we are ready to float her up. Intact torpedoes are still in the racks; the salvage and reuse value is high. The hull and forepart struck bottom at right angles to each other, the gun turrets on the bow still point outwards, a petrified image of their final, futile act in the battle with a large fleet of warships that consigned the ship to the seabed. As the Marine Forensics report states there is significant fire damage to the port engine room, one of the two engines and the two inflatable rubber boats on the deck. Fire swept through the vessel when the boilers exploded and the water-mist fire suppression system failed; an unimaginable death of fire and broiling water. Insurance logs declare no survivors, yet there are no human remains or clothing, and there’s little marine life contamination, despite being down here for 110 years.
In the Ocean Suit, I can dive for hours. The only sounds are my heartbeat and raspy breathing, and the rhythmic whir of the hydraulic lung. I swim back to my ship through the meadows and crowds of glittering fish, enjoying the refuge created by the long ribbons of Neptune’s grass, growing from rhizomes anchored on the seabed. Their shredded and torn leaves sway in the current, intertwining and bundling sea plastic into tight knots, doing the ocean’s dirty work: absorbing C02 and releasing oxygen. I bag starfish as I go, to stop them from degrading the site and eating the coral. I’ll give them to Cook. They are a delicacy we will savour later.
I follow the safety rope up in a column of my own waste air. Breaking the surface, I touch my thumb and index finger, signalling all is well. The deck hands, on standby all morning, spring into action to bring their captain onboard. At the stern, the powered exosuit effortlessly climbs the steps onto the deck, where I step out of its frame, my diligent First Officer coming forward to wheel it away and stow it in the locker, alongside the drysuits, oxygen cylinders, aqua scooters and jet skis. The 100 strong crew await my instruction.
Having emerged from the deep, I feel the exhilarating frisson of warm air on cool skin. The late morning light is brilliantly bright. Squinting, in the middle distance, I observe a group of cloud-brightening drones spraying sea water to cool the nearby reefs, and a white lady dancing across and over the water, zig zagging this way and that. It won’t cause us harm, but the little freak cyclone carries the warning that air pressure is low, and storms lie ahead. […]
the adventures of gas hood (3)
Green screen prototype
Animated sequence on VIMEO. Duration 02:oo mins