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Postby 106-2 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:55 am

you're definitely not alone in not getting it, just found this as top review on its goodreads page:

Maeby: No, deep is good. People are going to say, “What the hell just happened? I better say I like it.” ’Cause nobody wants to seem stupid.
Rita: I like it!

Somewhere, in some beautiful alternate universe, some years ago the young Iranian student Reza Negarestani was denied entry to the graduate school of the University of Warwick and, crushed, never received any academic training in the field of philosophy. After wallowing in disappointment for a few years, he channeled his despondency into Cyclonopedia, a beautiful and despairing horror novel that densely wove together critical theory and the story of an American artist stranded in Istanbul to re-imagine the geopolitics of oil in the Middle East as an occult attack by ancient Lovecraftian horrors out to turn the entire Earth into a desert.

In our humdrum reality, though, Negarestani did go to grad school and did become impressed with how many ridiculous theoretical neologisms he could create and so just tricked someone into publishing his notes for said novel. That or he wrote an essay/article that was not accepted anywhere so he plopped it into a "frame story" (ie 5 pages and a few footnotes) and published it as a novel. I don't know. This would be a good joke if Negarestani (and apparently everyone else on goodreads?) didn't take it so seriously.

I mean, here are his philosophical interests:

"Subsurface Political Geography; Surface Globalization; Underground Facilities and Chthonic Militarization; Archeology as the Science of Military Education in 21st Century; Tora Bora and the Cappadocian Complex; Worm Factor; Middle Eastern Necropolises and Underground Nuclear Facilities; Petropolitics, Guerilla-states and Architecture of Holes; Videogame Rhetoric and Memory as the Models of Alien Incursion; Poromechanics of War."

This is what informs his fiction, which would be fine, except that I lied and there's no fiction being informed by anything here - that list, with some conjunctions and prepositions tossed in, is pretty much what this book is. Seriously, this is the most unreadably pretentious nonsense I have ever encountered and man, I can usually get into some embarrassingly pretentious nonsense. Not to mention the fact that it's also flatly and awkwardly written. There is no art to any of it.


In both Drujite and Lovecraftian polytics of radical exteriority, omega-survival or strategic endurance is maintained by an excessive paranoia that cannot be distinguished from a schizophrenic delirium. For such a paranoia - saturated by parasitic survivalism and persistence in its own integrity - the course of activity coincides with that of schizo-singularities. Paranoia, in the Cthulhu Mythos and in Drujite-infested Zoroastriansim, manifests itself as a sophisticated hygiene-Complex associated with the demented Aryanistic obsession with purity and the structure of monotheism. This arch-sabotaged paranoia, in which the destination of purity overlaps with the emerging zone of the outside, is called schizotrategy. If, both for Lovecraft and the Aryans, purity must be safeguarded by an excessive paranoia, it is because only such paranoia and rigorous closure can attract the forces of the Outside and effectuate cosmic akienage in the form of radical openness - that is, being butchered and cracked open. Drujite cults fully developed this schizotrategic line through the fusion of Aryanistic purity with Zoroastrian monotheism. The Zoroastrian heresiarchs such as Akht soon discovered the immense potential of schyzotrategy for xeno-calls, subversion and sabotage. As a sorcerous line, schizotrategy opens the entire monotheistic culture to cosmodromic openness and its epidemic meshworks. As the nervous system of Lovecraftian strategic paranoia, openness is identified as 'being laid, cracked, butchered open' through a schizotrategic participation with the Outside. In terms of the xeno-call and schizitrategy, the non-localizable outside emerges as the xeno-chemical inside or the Insider.
... 'If openness, as the scimitar blade of the outside, seeks out manifestations of closure, then in the middle-eastern ethic it is imperative to assuage the external desire of the Outside by becoming what it hungers for the most' (H. Parsani)."

Schizotrategy. This is a book that uses the word "schizotrategy" seriously. This would work as a brief essay satirizing the absurdity of the field, but as a serious book-length meditation...

This is meta-fiction with the fiction removed, an exegesis without an actual foundational work... it's like if, instead of publishing stories, Lovecraft just threw caution to the wind and wrote "I was walking in the forest one day. I found a book. It was the Necronomicon." and then proceeded to give the reader 200 pages of intentionally opaque character-less occultist nonsense cribbed from Hermes Trismegistus (that actually sounds more enjoyable to read than this was).

It's like if Dictionary of the Khazars was just an actual dictionary.

It's like if House of Leaves was an actual architectural treatise (or, even better, just a blueprint rolled up inside a book cover).

It's like if... well it is ACTUALLY like White Noise because there is no subtlety or symbolism or allegory or (again) art to its reflection on theory - we're just supposed to be impressed that the subjects in question were brought up in the first place. The difference is that White Noise is a better read because there's an actual novel in there, and that's saying something because I hated White Noise and thought that the novel in there was crap.

I'm still grasping at straws about how to categorize this, which I suppose is the point, but if so then it was a point that no one needed to tackle. Theory fiction? Fictional theory? I am leaning now towards "fiction in theory" because

1) this book's whole M.O. is embedding fiction in a dense web of critical theory (or vice versa? fuck it, man, I don't know)
2) in theory this is a book-length work of fiction, a "novel" if you will, but in practice it's just... philosophy that no actual philosophers would take seriously so it was repackaged as a work of fiction.

I almost respect the fact that this book does kind of reflect Negarestani's approach to philosophy. I think it's trivial nonsense, but the man has clearly devoted himself to it and most people are buying it hook, line, and sinker. It's kind of impossible to know where the fiction ends and reality begins with this work: Kristen, the American artist of the introduction whose discovery of the metafictive Cyclonopedia sets the "plot" in motion, is a real person who actually wrote the introduction for Negarestani. Hamid Parsani, the Iranian academic author of the metafiction within the novel, is fictional, but there really is a "Hyperstition Laboratory" at the University of Warwick that Negarestani was a part of. Did the online discussions about the false author attributed to academics "X" and "Z" of said laboratory actually take place? Who knows.

I get that this is supposed to a "fun" introduction to "speculative realism" or whatever dumb philosophical school he is trying to reclaim Deleuze and Guattari for or an exploration of the usefulness of his mode of critical theory even when further divorced from reality but I don't have the patience for this kind of philosophy (especially anything that isn't strictly materialistic and ESPECIALLY this kind of ultra-insular neologism-mad self-satisfied baloney) and as a novel (or any kind of fiction) this fails spectacularly.

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Postby eli7 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:21 am

This isn't a very thought out post but there's a special place in my heart for Reza Negarestani. He's a total kook and I don't think I learn much from reading his work, other than some very dry humor at times. I was into speculative realism a couple of years ago after reading some pataphysics (the science/philosophy of imaginary solutions), and I think there's a nice parallel there between the two groups. There's never an ah-ha moment reading this stuff for me, I just kind of enjoy how he manipulates language. It certainly doesn't clarify or enhance D and G for me.

I've seen Reza talk a couple of times with Robin Mackay, most recently at some gallery in Soho. The room was almost entirely young white fashion boys, which was new to me because in the past, his talks most drew old and nerdy speculative realists. But yea, it was like a fashion party which made a lot of sense to me because it's more aesthetic than intellectual or interesting.

I also sometimes get spooked by SR cross-over with dark enlightenment and Nick Land crew but that's old news and maybe not worth getting into.
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Postby WussWayne » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:16 pm

speculative realism is me realizing I may have fooled someone in my social circle into majorly dating me in 2019 :sweg:
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Nightclub on a Friday
Get my Gucci on
Yes, I'm in the zone
You coming on me like a player (WOOF!)
But your game's all wrong
You get your words all twisted
It's the same old song
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Postby kickingthefly » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:12 am

never heard of this book and i can see why you'd dislike it so much having seemingly plowed through it (like me throwing richard powers across the room)- the passage you quote is particularly godawful. but tbf a quick google throws up some quite interesting passages, like little generative aesthetic machines- so i broadly agree with eli, perhaps one can just accept, even admire them on those terms
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Postby INNIT » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:50 am

actually has me thinking about "theory-fiction" as a genre

couldn't you pretty easily argue that much of "a thousand plateaus" reads more like fiction than theory, with its heavy use of metaphor/allegory? half of d+gs neologisms work better as creative metaphors than stable "concepts" anyways (rhizome, nomadism, contagion, pack, etc.). except 1k plateaus doesn't seem to care about being "theory-fiction" and seems to just not care about the genres of theory and fiction at all and just does whatever. maybe thats why it's a better work of both theory and fiction and doesnt come across so cringe/heavy-handed (like cyclonopedia does in the passage quoted above)
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