On 02 Nov 2021, at 08:06, Brian Ameringen wrote:
This is to let you know that the Porcupine web-site: http://www.porcupinebooks.co.uk – has now been updated.
Porcupine mailing list, subscribe
Thank you, Brian.
I am sad that UK has left the EU, for many reason, but customs make it hard on all.
I wish for you that all of your wonder wonderful books find a home away from you.
The Custodian of Paper. The Seller of Imaginings.
Every time I had a catalogue from you, my mind instantly reached out to ask: How can all of this be saved for prosperity, the art, the dreams, the ideas, the longing, the professionalisms? Public libraries are no good for books – they throw away the worn. Virtualisation is counterproductive. Reading museums? Freeshops? Rewards for keeping them at home and available? How? They are humanity’s forecasts. Only one way: Give them to young people.
This inner discussion inspired the short story attached (printed in a German anthology). Thank you for all the catalogues, Brian.
best, kenneth krabat
Poet At Large
AVENUES OF RIDDANCE
Entering into the largest room of the house in the light of real wood burning in the real fireplace felt like a sinister retro sincogame devised by her paternal side, except there was no damn feedband on this island. And even if she had thought to bring an amp for Plant, none would work here – so out-out-out, this void. What good was an implant, if you were alone?
‘To the youngest heir of my bloodline my house and all of its artifacts’… voice of her granuncle booming in her mind.
Artifacts, my B hind!
True-true? This room made here feel like drowning. Right in the middle of this cathedral made of cock sucking dead trees and shit it felt like she was drowning in air, fighting to take in oxygen. But still she remained observant. And still she felt like she was suffocating. Which is it then, she exhaled forcefully. Die or what?
What may I do for you, Sir or Madam?
Yu-ew! A voice to make you wince. Suddenly she had no problems breathing. It was the old chocky-bot that had let her into the mansion. A would-be feast for retro parties. Rusty tech, voice box needs dimmin’ or trimmin’. Sounds like chewing metal. Not much of a tech fiend, her granuncle.
What can you do? she asked, not turning around. They usually weren’t up to much, programming very basic, but since it was so old, it could have received custom upgrades. But most just kept it at default; why else go retro?
Madam or Sir, clearance decides, the bot said.
Oh. Damn antiquity’s forgotten the bounds of her invite. But she really wasn’t up for the big leap. Leave me be, she said, dismissing it with a hand.
The bot made no sound of leaving. That is not possible, it said.
Guests have no solitary access to this room? she said.
Sadly, no, said the bot.
Sure. The bot had its orders. Then I invoke ownership, she said – to get it out of her hair, at the same time feeling irresponsible. So young-young. So soon.
She bt’ed the owner code the lawyer had imprinted on her insert, but the bot did not respond with the expected recipient code. Pre-inserts-in-capable? she muttered. Incredible! Instead she rattled off the code in ascii.
Welcome, Madam Master Alice, said the bot. How may I be of assistance? My name is Wai.
A nigga-bot wit’ a wop-name! She giggled. You may take your bot-butt out of here and leave me to my messin’, she said. And bring me some food, but leave it outside. And keep it quiet-quiet out there.
The tiny click would be the doors closing, but she never turned to face the bot, her eyes never ceasing to dart nervously between the top, middle and bottom of the room, so-so incomprehensibly large.
The ceiling would have to be five stories high. Five stocks… said her insert. A rounded brick wall tower converging in a square, pointy dome set with colored glass dimming the sun coming in to meet the light from the chandeliers spaced at intervals down through the open shaft to adequately light all balconies and the contents of dark-brown shelves running from top to bottom of all walls. There were no windows anywhere in the walls, apart from the ones on the ground floor facing the garden, but down here creamy colored flimsy curtains filtered the light coming in from outside to a misty dusk. Was this a graveyard or a church? Creeps, either way!
Feedband not present she couldn’t Craig for estimates, that was her first impulse, just unload everything and get on with life. Maybe the lawyer would know? But that clause? ‘Can not rightfully remove any artifacts from the premises prior to 5 years of residency’. She would have to live here for five years, before she could cash in.
No frakkin’ fuck!
‘Artifacts’… sure. The house would probably be full of other old stuff she could trade for serious tech or even Cees – tomorrow she would have Wai give her the grand tour – but she had a vibe the definition of her inheritance was a direct referral to the contents of this room. But how was she supposed to be able to represent så much analog stuff?! Much negivibe, this!
No matter who her granuncle was for real, he had been real anal. Reminiscent of her father – poor man’s preacher only counting the has-been. As if mother had only belonged to his world. Anger felt old in her. She had been dumped this man’s, this granuncle stranger’s shitload of knowledge-masturbation for what ever re-educative reason possessed him to choose the person farthest removed from him in years – and not just any arty crap info-containers, but real frakkin physical old paper books with front and back, pressing up against each other like line humpers at a spaced out burlesque party all the way up through the pointy tower.
Gods of the Almighty, she muttered. What did I do?
At no point in her life had she herself owned a paper book – the thought alone! She had of course, like most people, experimented with paper in statecare, but most people left it at that. How old was she, when she squirmed her way out of reading aloud from father’s paper books? Two?
Some thing about limited info ownership was deeply disturbing and scorned by people, paper print buyers equal to the number of tobacco smokers left. Most handicraft artwork image copied and shared with millions; only rich-rich people concerned themselves with originals and limited editions. Everybody else just shared free or leased a copy and was free to move and go anywhere.
she composed in her head. And, another fraction – how she loved brevity in poems:
She filed both in Plant for later dissemination and gazed up into the well-lit book-storage tower. A ‘select’ Library. Probably first editions. Limited print runs. Lifeless, unchangeable data.
Most likely she was very rich now… She so-so felt like a bath!
On two sides of the room, winding staircases going all the way up to fifth stock had a tiny center elevator going up to third. In it was room for one person and a low trolley on wheels with a long handle. To bring down stacks of books, she assumed. But why would anyone want to consult big, bulky… Plant supplied the word… tomes, when banding Wiki or friends could do the trick in real-time? Unfathomable!
She passed the rows of multi-colored books of various heights and widths ten-shelves high along the curving walls across the room from elevator to elevator on the first level, her mind’s eye glazing over with lack of pattern recognition. Stopping on the other side to look back along the platform each book… spine now stood out on its own. Not like real books, which only had fronts, fronts always vying for attention, but not so here – many-many little differences not crying out to become absorbed, but to somehow remind someone of something. Did such a someone exist? Then a sense of shame, a deep feeling of shame. You, they belong to you now. But how, how could she… why would anyone own any of all of this?
She suppressed an urge to try banding again – to check out titles at Amazon. Firstly, feedbee would still be absent, and even if nearly all of the world’s quadrillion paper books were in Amazon’s inventory, a few going at a bundle, the majority of titles for sale were digital, 99.99% of paper editions just waiting to auto-ignite.
Rising slowly to the second stock by way of the second elevator – which also contained a book trolley – mentally she began pursuing ways to rid herself of her inheritance.
On the second stock, slowly walking along the shelving from the elevator to the other elevator, half noticing how the books were taller and less colorful than on the level below, she explored avenues of riddance by way of the copy of her ancestor’s will and testament in her implant, soon lost-lost in the implications of one-sided contract law.
Climbing the winding staircase on the other side rather than taking the elevator soon brought her back, gasping for air. Seriously! she thought. Only someone out of it would build a vertical library… gasp!
Unless they had a mechanism of retrieval… gasp!
Wai, of course! Wai was the bringer and returner of books. Gasp! The adequate method of data retrieval. At least from the topmost floors…
Stopping to suck in air and glance up into the tower room made her feel dizzy. Such a division of data storage could be a division of usefulness. In all logic less useful at the top – furthest away – and most useful at the bottom. Which could indicate a feedband amplifier down there somewhere, with an on/off-switch!
She looked down over the railing, immediately regretting having begun her exploration on the first level rather than on the ground floor. In concord with her frustration she rattled the railing. Damn it; relevance changed all the time! Her body changed, her needs changed, trends changed. Today access to relevant overview of the present atrocities in the wake of Islamic unification attempts would be needed to adequately decide which cause to support, tomorrow a top-10 list of eco-disasters would be needed to contrast the latest in pre-industrial nations fraught with international investors. How could any knowledge not be at the center of possible and un-foreseeable need-to-know?
Memory, forever unchangeable, and preserved forever, was like going against life itself!
She willfully vomited over the bannister. But hardly did it spread out into a thin pool on the floor below, before Wai was there scooping and cleaning. Are you unwell, Master Madam Alice? it said, its voice so-so unlovable.
To this she had no answer. She just pulled away from the railing.
On the fourth stock she decided on a strategy. She would attempt to hack Wai’s permanent storage – most likely it would be accessible from where the bot went to recharge – and imprint on it a sufficient number of fake bot-observed live-in periods to satisfy the legal demands of her stay on the premises and then hurry back to the city, and feedband to her sync’ed now. Five years from now she would liquidate the book collection and all the rest into ownership by some other anal retentive. Any of it losing value in the eyes of the rich-rich was hard to imagine…
Then maybe spend the fortune on virtualizing the whole house into a real sincogame and have decent feedband at every corner of this damn island-void!
At the topmost balcony, which seemed to be the repository of the biggest and possibly the old-old books – Wai might temper the illusion, but they just looked old-old – impulse had her easily pull out a tome half a meter tall from among similar tomes, its spine perfectly gilded, to immediately drop it to a hollow THUD! that rattled the wooden railings of the balcony and long ecchoed between the wood-covered walls.
Cussing silently couldn’t mask a feeling of shame. But hot damn, these things were heavy!
Struggling to lift the tome back into place she felt her grip sliding. This time the pointy corner caught her flesh, bloodily nicking her left calf. Feeling all white inside she wailed and fell to her knees, angrily pushing the big book away from her.
Coming to sit up against ancient tomes while stroking her calf, the bleeding slowly subsiding, the pain dulling to a throb, she felt very alone. Damn physical! – but she refrained from yelling out aloud; in Sync there was no echo like here.
She again became aware of the tome in front of her, its sheer whiteness in sharp contrast to the dark brown lacquer of the balcony floorboards.
The big book was open to about the middle, the center pages rounded – like half a sine wave, she thought – from the binding in the middle of the book and out to the sides, the thick paper pages below less and less wavy from the pressure of those on top.
The book lay open to a colorful and gleaming image taking up most of the right hand page, while the left was covered in black lines of stilted handwriting that seemed irregular, but viewed as a whole was none the less good-good to the eye. She asked, but Plant had nothing stored on either.
While stroking her throbbing calf with one hand, she leaned in to slightly flatten the wavy pages with the other, only almost ashamed of thinking it had better be worth it.
When next she was aware of her surroundings, Wai stood by her side with a plate-full of European-style rye sandwiches in one hand, and a glass of whitish fluid in another. Could that be milk? Real goat’s milk? But somehow, having the bot see her like this felt uncomfortable. Didn’t I tell you to stay outside? she said.
You did, Madam Master Alice, said Wai. But until re-programmed, an override instigated by my previous Master is still in effect. “With eating comes thinking”.
The brief recording playing through Wai’s speakers would have to have come from her granuncle. The voice was deep and pleasant, though somewhat self-satisfied. Like an adult admonishing a child. Like her father.
I am perfectly happy to leave you with this… The bot stretched out both plate and glass at the same time. Do you require medical assistance? indicating the drying blood on her calf.
No. No, thank you, Wai, she said, shame over having scolded the bot illogically sweeping through her. She got up onto her feet. Look, Wai… I’ll eat downstairs. She indicated the tome on the floor. Is it alright to bring that?
Naturally. You are the Madam Master, said Wai.
Can we do ‘Madam’, Wai? she said. She resisted an urge to smile.
We can, Madam Alice. Wai bent over and picked up the large book in its other two arms.
The ease of it surprised her – as did a twinge of jealousy. Possibly not an antiquity yet, this bot. Hopefully not a bad omen for her attempt to hack it. You lead the way, Wai, she said, forcing a laugh to mask the uncertainty of her voice.
Yes, Madam Master Alice, said Wai and headed for the stairs.
It was well into the night, when she gave up hacking Wai’s data storage. Even with the aid of her implant and 50 years of tech advance she couldn’t make temporal programming stick. Wai was a genuine antique; kinda sameage as her granuncle. No way to have it “remember” her being present at the house on future dates without her actually being present. If she was to cash in her inheritance, she would have to earn it the hard way.
As she walked back to the library through the silent, empty house, she had friends and living family dancing, talking, seemingly come alive in front of her to keep her company. But due to her plant’s limited offline capacity her favorite recordings had too few marking variables even for a sincogame.
Talking, dancing, eating in the company of any of them, to touch, kiss, make love and be close would be a rare treat. Sinco was good. ‘Real is real’. But, why would that thought all of sudden feel so disturbing?
The rest of the way to the library she alternately dragged her shoes, stomped on the floorboards and kicked unfamiliar furniture along the walls. Was any of it for real? Was all of this sinco? Like a vid-plot ploy to notkill an heir by remote tampering with an implant to turn up its reality settings? How would she know?
Her food was on the big desk in the center of the library floor, where she had had Wai leave it. She realized how hungry she was, tore at the film covering the open sandwiches and dug in.
Also on the desk, almost so big it was invisible, was the tome with the gilded spine that had nicked her. The book from the 5th. The enormity of it made her tremble.
Putting down her half-eaten sandwich to wipe her fingers scrupulously on a napkin provided by Wai, she then held out both of her hands in the air above the book, palms down.
The binding was not paper. Cloth… said her implant. Some kind of weave like her granmut’s knitting, probably. She couldn’t recall having touched the material, but she remembered… something.
She let her hands fall to the weave. A zip of a feeling. Instant recognition of the binding. Coarse. Stubby. Like the touch of a friend’s hand – familiar. Sitting on the floor of the upper balcony she had stroked it for a long-long time. She saw that now. Her hands remembered.
Not thinking she opened the tome at random – to easily locate the spread that had made her feel… serene. But on that ancient page bloody fingerprints was all over! Not an accident, though. Her calf had bled furiously, yes, sure…
She recalled how she had so-so needed to leave a like to intimate the pleasure the paper spread had given her. Fuck me-you! A page full of blood!?
A burning feeling spread across her chest. The woman on the balcony was not just hours younger than her, but also a mere child! She, the woman she had been, had defiled the most beautiful work of art she had ever seen. No, the only real-real work of art she had ever seen. And for what?
Her hands flat on the blood stained pages she recalled crying through half open lids, her fingers following the curves and edges of the colors on the paper, the matt feeling of the wide lines of ink, the tiny faults in the paper that were un-dissolved lumps of cotton and straw. How the colorful image of some fair maiden in the imaginative hand of a long dead monk had made her cry for him. Caused her to understand the austerity of the cloister and the need to be at one with his God and his superiors and his peers in that lonely place. The loneliness.
There was no way to own a thing like that. Nobody…
Frak me! She wanted to push the tome away, but could not make herself do it. I am owned, she thought. A memory of fingers owns me and makes me come back for more. She looked up at the library towering over her.
Sinco could have VD’ed sinister forces coming out of each and every book like grey smoke, but she didn’t need it to understand that each of them on its own held the power of gravity, of tactile memory, and that her body somehow knew what they offered: Impossible embraces. Intimacy of an unknown nature.
On impulse she closed the book, hefted it her arms and let it drop to the floor. The familiar THUD brought a new, but reassuring warmth to her cheeks.
Herself dropping to the floor she manhandled the book back onto the desktop. She touched the wood of the desk. Knocked on it with her knuckles. Smelled it. Smelled the book. Knocked on the cover. That this was not virtuality – how did she know!? But she knew. All she would ever need to know was right here. She inspected her hands in the light from the green desktop lamp, slowly rubbing the fingers of one hand against the fingers of the other. They seemed brand new.
The book was gone, when she awoke, her face resting on her hands on the table. She raised her head and strained to focus on 5th stock, blinking to clear her eyes.
There appeared to be no holes in the rows of books up there. Somehow that was comforting… No, no. Actually that felt good-good.
A shadow cast across the floor made her glance towards the terrace doors. On the sunlit patio above the lush garden Wai was pouring coffee. The scent wafting into the room was delightful.
So simple-simple, old programming, now hers. Was that bad? Really, where was the sin?