Thrilling Wonder Stories symposium at the AA

thrilling-wonder-stories

Two weeks ago i attended a one day symposium entitled ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative futures for an alternate present’
This was an event hosted at the Architectural Association and co-ordinated by Liam Young, architect practitioner and tutor at the AA amd Geoff Manaugh who writes the well written blog, BLDGBLOG about architecture, fiction and speculative storytelling. Geoff introduced the event by discussing his interests in how buildings can become part of a narrative for future plots or events or settings just by going that extra couple of steps into speculative storytelling and how framin wht a building might this could be demonstrated through writing ficition, sci fi, literature, poetry what a building might do or the event the building might frame.

The symposium was a 6-hour event with a line-up of practitioners from various genres including gaming, film, comics, animation, literature and art each discussing the thematic, imaginative, technical, and even structural connections between speculative storytelling, futures and architectural design.They each discussed storytelling and the use of their medium to imagine and describe their own alternative ways of telling stories about possible futures of wondrous possibilities or dark cautionary tales.

Speakers included:

—Sir Peter Cook, cofounder of Archigram and CRABstudio, and designer (with HOK) of the 2012 London Olympic Stadium

Warren Ellis, comic book author and graphic novelist who uses the creation of stories in his comics for sociocultural commentary covering topics and transhumanist themes such as nanotechnology, cryonics, uploading, and human enhancement.– with a portfolio ranging from X-Men and Iron Man to Ellis’s legendary Transmetropolitan, FreakAngels, and Fell.

—Architects Francois Roche and Stephanie Lavaux of R&Sie, designers of, among other things, the awesome Spidernethewood house

—Novelist Ian MacLeod, winner of the 2009 Arthur C. Clarke Award and author of The Light Ages and The House of Storms

—Journalist and games critic Jim Rossignol, author of This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities

Viktor Antonov, art director for Half-Life 2 and production designer for Christian Volckman’s film Renaissance

Squint/Opera, independent media studio and producers of last year’s widely publicized Flooded London

Nic Clear, director of Unit 15 at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Those who I found to be quite insane and fantastical were the architects R&Sie who discussed their approach
to creating architectural stories based on investigations into new biopolymers, time restrictions, temporary structures becoming permanent, buildings as parasites, self-sufficient pacyderm powered structures etc

SquintOpera make visually delicious 3d renderings to tell pure eyecandy fuelled stories. One piece of work they briefly showed were their visual speculations of how London might look if it were flooded. They told us how to make the world in 6 steps:

One practitioner in particular who struck a chord with me was Ian Mcloud. A science fiction writer who has written a variety of novels, none of which i unfortunatly have not read, discussed his opinions on the difficulties of writing about the future in a time where the idea of the future has become saturated and people no longer buy into the myth of progress and optimistic change generated by European and American ideals since the 30s.

What interested me the most about his talk were the outcomes from various scifi writing workshops he has conducted with children. He found the children needed very little prompting when asking them to imagine how their world might become as the grow older.When writing their stories they were not full of tales of monorails, takin food pills and jetpacs but he noticed that the modern child will write dark, catastrophic tales that describe more of a continuation of now, a variety of ways of looking sideways rather than a progressive forward looking vision. Mcloud suggested this maybe the result of young people being surrounded by the news of the future that was not the same for news of the future when Mcloud was in the 60s. Everyone bought into the western dream of progress even though at the same time there were realities of cruelty of Atomic bombs, Auschwitz and carpet bombing.

How do young people address the issues of imagining what is going to happen in their lives?

Excerpts from Ian’s talk of various childrens own speculative storytelling…

“The room stank of last nights pasteurized steak and chips with a hint of that disgusting grass-seed juice. I’m just so glad thy I don’t have to put that down my throat …I’m lucky I don’t have a throat.”

“Nowadays noone speaks to each other in the community, you don’t even know your next door neighbours name. Noone walks anymore they either drive or fly. This may sound exciting but it means traffic is on more than one level. …Cars just get programmed to take you from A to B. But it can be hard to understand the technology thses especilly for old fogeys like me…”

He also had 8 points to make about what the world has in store:

1 the future won’t be dominated by western culture
2 people won’t be people
3 space travel won’t happen
4 science is becoming increasingly incomprehensible – we can’t understand the world
5 real aliens if they did exist would barely be comprehensible to us and they would be here already
6 we are as incomprehensible to the past just as the future is incomprehensible to us
7 language and communication is going to be completely different as to it is know
8 we are all going to be dead

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