Age of Immersion with Lidia Yuknavitch

Learn to tell human stories fit for an age of full-immersion technologies.

Your Instructor: Lidia Yuknavitch (author of The Chronology of Water)

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16 Students Maximum

Price: $497

Class Description

In his essay “Utopia Achieved,” Jean Baudrillard said American culture is “space, speed, cinema, technology.”  Now more than ever we play out the pageantry of his “desert of the real,” with our technologies overtaking realities with ever-snazzy simulations.  Think of evolutions in environment, medicine, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, space travel, computers, nanotechnology.  Our technologies are not only urgently pressing in on us, they have become immersion technologies. They are every part of our being. What does that mean in terms of fiction writing, storytelling? What are the human stories we long to tell from these new horizons? What is the futurology of narrative when the future is now?  How do we capture the current urgencies of our time? How do we cast the shortening space between present and future?  The stories of our selves are encased inside our immersive technologies.

In this workshop we will write six short fictions that reflect the spirit of our existence inside immersion technologies – the cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, environmental or political climate within our lives, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with our era of immersion technologies. The human stories and spiritual evolutions at the heart of our creations.

What This Class Covers

Week One:  Your Setting Will Consume You
We start off with both the tradition of creating setting AND the breaking down and breaking through of that tradition to create settings that emerge from contemporary life.  We’ll be building settings based on evolutions in environment, medicine, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, space travel, computers, nanotechnology, you name it. In this way we will participate and perform what William Gibson called “the landscapes of cultural being.”

For example, Consider the “setting” or space of a city.  One of my favorite philosophers, Paul Virilio, has this to say:

"The virtual city is the city of all cities. It is each important city (Singapore. Rotterdam, Paris, Milan, etc.) becoming the borough of a hypercity, while ordinary cities become in some sense suburbs. This metropolization of cities leads us to conceive of a hypercenter, a real-time city, and thousands of cities left to their own devices. If I am correct, this would lead to a pauperization, not of continents but of cities, in all regions of the world.”

We will explore how to write THAT.

Week Two:  Reimagining the Antagonist
We all know by now what traditional protagonists and antagonist are.  We are also pretty familiar with sci fi and cyberpunk distortions of that idea – Roy Batty is the antagonist turned protagonist extraordinaire – but what narrative options open up for us when we consider the idea that our technologies create our realities?  How does that redefine the antagonist?  Working with either creating a new antagonist for future stories or work, or one you are already working on, we will take apart the idea of antagonist as a character, group of characters, or institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend, and rework the idea of antagonist based on the possibility that protagonist and antagonist are not stable categories any longer.

Week Three:  Beyond Cyborgs
Philip K. Dick once said that “we will not only live to see cyborgs as reality, in fact in medical technology we are already there; we will also live to see the beyond of cyborgian reality.”  I’ve always been mega intrigued by that sentence.  For one thing, what the hell did he mean? Ha! But more specifically, what does it mean to create characters who are so immersed within their technologies (as I would argue we already are right. This. Second.), that their “existence” is both beyond human and beyond not human?  This week we will seriously interrogate the human / data / machine / speed interface to see what new strategies we can bring to characterization.

Week Four:  The Politics of Speed
The speed of light does not merely transform the world. It has become the world. Globalization is the speed of light. Relationships between people via the internet and social media are the speed of light. Your daily existence as tied to technology is the speed of light.

Each time a wall in our experience is reached, there is a retreat. And history has just struck the wall of worldwide time. With live transmission, local time no longer creates history. Worldwide time does. In other words, real time conquers real space, space-time. We must reflect on this paradoxical situation which places us in a kind of outside-time. Faced as we are with this time accident, an accident with no equal.

So why are we bothering with linear narrative, is my question.  This week we warp time to see what the narrative possibilities are beyond linearity.  Way beyond.

Week Five:  Technotopia
This week we will challenge the idea that immersion technologies are “spooky” or overcoming us and explore the idea that there is no other world, no other time, and it is glorious. To live in one reality and then, from time to time, enter another, through a night of drinking or hallucinogens, is one thing. But to live all the time through telecommunication and the electronic highway is another. It’s what Debra Diblasi calls "stereo-reality.” It is absolutely without precedent.

Week Six:  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (with very cool vestiges)
Of her short story “Bloodchild,” Octavia Butler said “there is no ‘alien’ that is not within us already.”  What if everything we ever considered “other” or alien is already in us?  You know, the way we now know we are literally made from stardust and space junk – the material of matter and the cosmos – what if we are also made of everything we think is outside of us?  What if even our technologies are merely “versions” of what’s biologically in us now – for instance, the way computers mimic but still haven’t caught up with the human brain?  Or the way stem cell research may show us how we already contain within our bodies the ability to grow new body parts like starfish and other living things do in embryonic stages?  And what if that fundamentally changes human relationships?  This week we’ll explore the idea that human relationships may radically change, or, are already changing, and write our way to performing that.

I’ll leave you with another enticing, or terrifying, or simply weird quote from Paul Virilio:

“What's on its way is the planet manwoman, the self-sufficient manwoman who, with the help of technology, no longer needs to reach out to others because others come to himher. With cybersexuality, heshe doesn't need to make at love at hisher partner's house, love comes to himher instantly, like a fax or a message on the electronic highway. The future lies in cosmic solitude. I picture a weightless individual in a little ergonomic armchair, suspended outside a space capsule, with the earth below and the interstellar void above. A manwoman with hisher own gravity, who no longer needs a relationship to society, to those around him, and least of all to a family.”

Goals Of This Class

  • invent new narrative strategies based on current states of techno being/knowing
  • create characters connected to immersion media identities
  • create story themes, plots & characters that lead with cultural phenomena
  • open up character, plot, conflict, protagonist and antagonist to experiment
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