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Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma

EMERGING AUTHOR: Fiction by Reza Negarestani

Author(s): China Miéville
Source: World Literature Today, Vol. 84, No. 3 (MAY/JUNE 2010), pp. 12-13
Published by: Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma
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Fiction by Reza Negarestani


Produced and consumed by ideologized Outlines fora Science Fiction of the

human brains?than which there are no Earth as Narrated from a Nethermost
more ruthless taxonomizing machines?all Point of View
literature is genre (including that "litfic," themar Reza Negarestani
keting campaign ofwhich has convinced a section
of the commentariat that it is, rather, the a-generic 11March 2004. Somewhere amidst the fog of the

asymptote of literature). And genres have pro Net, behind a seemingly forgottenwebsite, in
tocols, which can be honored or breached, but Hyperstition's password-protected laboratory?a
not (at least very rarely successfully) ignored. location for exploring hyperstitions or fictions
That need not hamstring: as the Oulipians long capable of turning themselves into reality?there
ago clarified, constraints can be self-administered is a tumultuous discussion. The commotion has

cattle prods to creativity.That said, of course, (1) begun over thenewly discovered notes of the for
is less often than mer of Tehran the archeolo
protocol-observance surprising professor University,

flatlypredictable; in part forwhich reason (2)we gist of middle-eastern cultures Dr. Hamid Parsani.

are tremendously excited (oftenperhaps exagger A page fromParsani's turgidnotes reads:

atedly so) by works that chafe self-consciously at
categorical edges. Some might gnaw fromwithin In 647 bce, the Assyrians decimated the Elamite

at the of their civilization on the pretext that an unnameable

(not-really-)"rules" genre-cauls;
others,more confident, use their fidelity to such abomination was
surfacing in the lands of Elam,
norms as fulcrums for sublation, to become some and that everything that came into contact with

thing ineluctable from but irreducible to genre. that benighted entity had to be eradicated.

This, to steal an invaluable term fromKim New Ashurbanipal, the king of Assyria, triumphantly
man, is horror?and and claimed that in order to purge the land and
"post-genre" fantasy,
science fiction. cleanse the kingdom of creatures, he carried

So Reza astound away the bones of the Elamite people toward

Negarestani. Negarestani's

ing work is at once indeliblygeneric?obsessed, the land of Ashur, disinterred their tombs and

as here, by the problematics, furnitureand wow exposed them to the bleaching rays of the Sui

porn of SF/F/H?and unremittingly strange and and even sowed the land with salt and quicklime

evasive. It even as fiction so that for centuries both the animate and the
abjures categorization
or nonfiction: is science-fictional a inanimate would be left unharmed and untaint

philosophical handbook that reads like a thriller; ed. Reportedly, the Assyrian king
came upon .1

the world's most arcane and erudite monster hunt. desert in Elam where thousands of vultures were

Cyclonopedia, his "novel" fromwhich this extract soaring in swirling formations above a distant

is culled and, Moreau-like, doctored, is both old location. Assuming an inhabited oasis plundered

school SF/horror pulp and, ifwe are lucky, a and its denizens slain, he marshaled his army in

founding textof some new mo(ve)ment. that direction. Yet upon arriving at the site, he
- China Mi?ville saw a vast crater of blackness that
only rippling
the agitated mercenaries described as the black

corpse of the sun and called by a foreign appella

tion, naphta. Once the king stared into the starless

pit,he beheld in thefrothing


121World Literature Today

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of the earth and the sun from which a child was verve for reanimating the dead and puppetizing
born who schemed for parricide so as to rejoin the living on a planetary scale. A precursor to
the abyssal depths to which it illegitimately blobjective narratives, Koontz's imagery grasps
belonged and to reenact once again the absolute the "Thingness" of oil as a singular inorganic
freedom of alien depths.
body fueling the Conradian journey "up-river,"
from the gas station to the chthonic oil reservoir
The discovery of these notes coincided with via the tentacled edifice of oil pipelines. From a
one of Hyperstition's projects concerning formu nethermost point of view, Bush and Bin Laden are
lating a unified narrative viewpoint for grasp merely petropolitical puppets convulsing along
ing sociopolitical undercurrents, petropolitical the chthonic strings of the blob just in the same
antagonisms and science-fictive futurities of the way a Chinese plastic toy and equally an Ameri
Middle East. Parsani had stated that in order to can predator drone are brought to life by the
see the human psyche from the standpoint of stringswoven from thehydrocarbon corpse juice.
middle-eastern civilizations and to understand Since technological scenarios of science fiction Reza Negarestani is an

these civilizations from the perspective of the tel are themselves fictions turned into reality by the Iranian philosopher and

lurian dynamics that form them and, finally, in cavernous

stirrings of petroleum, a middle-eastern writer born in Shiraz, Iran.He

order to study the dynamics of the earth in terms science fiction abandons technophilic plots in is the author of Cydonopedia:

of themost abyssal cosmological processes, one favor of plot-holes dug in terrestrialnarratives by Complicity with Anonymous
must embrace thenethermost viewpoint of petro the greasy appendages of petroleum. ("When it Materials (repress, 2008), a
leum. It is not really a matter of thinking from the comes to seeing through the pipeline, the techno work of theory and fiction

deep perspective of oil but rather to unreservedly logicalmachines of enlightenment are particularly on the Middle East and

admit that it is oil that thinks through us. Taking petromongoloid."?Parsani) petroleum as sentient

its cue from Parsani, who had referred to petrol Although the theory of fossil fuels under entities. He has also written

as the lubricant of terrestrialnarrations, Hypersti writes the narrative coherency of oil as a psycho extensively for such journals

tion decidedto develop a narrative viewpoint by path that runs on blackened blood, its depth and and anthologies as Collapse,

which the fictive scenarios of the earth's futurity, longevity are constrained by the life of organ Angelakir and CTheory. He
their clashes, and complicities could be grasped isms. In order to deepen the nether narrative ison the editorial boards

by the cohesive ubiquity of oil as both a sentient of oil as a "pest thatwalketh in the outer dark" of the academic journals

entity and a narrative lube. The narrative of living and broaden science-fictional potencies of Earth's Glossator and Post-medieval.

petroleum whose wetness couples perfectlywith futurities, the avatar of petroleum as the Blob or He is currently working on

dust and deserts could also engender a peculiarly the Thing must also be extended outside ofwhat a new book entitled The

middle-eastern science fiction. the astrophysicist Thomas Gold calls themyth of Mortiloquist, a play staging

The nethermost or what Hyperstition had fossil fuels. For Gold, petroleum has its origin in an interpretation of the

dubbed as a blobjectivenarrative viewpoint was alien hydrocarbons of deep space, which have history ofWestern philosophy
furtherdeveloped through a chthonic recontextu been trapped in the bowels of the earth. Since with elements borrowed

alization ofDean Koontz's pulp-sci-fi novel Phan these alien relics are in fluxwithin the planet, from Greek tragedies and

toms. Koontz's novel centers on a sentient civiliza the patterns of oil distribution are susceptible to Jacobean revenge dramas to

tion-eating plague called theAncient Enemy. The change. In this sense the science-fictional vision fantastic literature and weird

Ancient Enemy shares xenomorphic traitswith inherent to the terrestrial architecture of indus fiction.

both the Antichrist and the Thing; it is a preda trial civilizations becomes contingent upon Plu
tor unapproachably slithering between organic tonicmigrations of these alien inorganic demons. China Mieville isan award

and inorganic domains. Traces of porphyrin, a Eluding biological origins, oil is not of this place winning and New York

chemical compound common to blood, plants, but of estranging depths; it has already infested Times best-selling author.

and petroleum, are found in corpses of itsvictims. the earth as an Insider forwhich scenarios of He lives and works in

The Ancient Enemy or the tellurianAntichrist that alien invasion are but melodramatic redundan London. An excerpt from his

haunts dead seas ispetroleum or napht (theArabic cies. If petropestilence has already invaded and "rejectamentalist manifesto"

word foroil). colonized the earth, the entire history of terrestrial appears on page 41.

According to the biogenic theory of fossil life is an era of postoccupation, and our postin
fuels, petroleum was formed under pressure and dustrial, oil-driven achievements that ground the
heat in the absence of oxygen while sadistically foundations of our science-fictional imagination
counting organic death tolls formillennia. Under are simply exploits of a radical outsider in build
such extreme conditions, petroleum grew a satanic ing itsown porous earth.

May-June 2010113

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