Category Archives: METAtropolis

Michael Hogan, narrating METAtropolis

METAtropolis by Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, & Karl Schroeder

In the Forests of the Night by Jay Lake

METAtropolisI truly love this book.  I’ve listened to it twice and read it once and every time I discover something new that I didn’t take notice of before.

And I love it when two concepts coincide between different METAtropolisbooks I read.  In the Forests of the Night takes an excerpt from the fictional “Bacigalupi Lectures” which describe the rise of many tiny “secret societies”  made up of just two people sometimes, where people trade among themselves and use knowledge to get what they need, truly trusting few but connecting to many.

I’ve also been reading Paolo Bacigalupi.  The Wind Up Girl and Pump Six are set in a future that is post-climate change and strikingly similar to the world described by METAtropolis.  On Wikipedia you can learn that Bacigalupi’s works are considered to be part of the biopunk genre and perhaps METAtropolis is too.

METAtropolis was designed as an audio book, not for print, and the narrators turn it into a completely different experience than if you are reading it.

Michael Hogan, taken from WikipediaWhat makes this such an amazing work of art, this short story, is the tone and depth given to it by narrator Michael Hogan.  I know and love him from Battlestar Galactica, and the beautiful job he does on this story is astounding.  It’s as if he’s reading a poem.  His voice sounds like he should be a legendary western character akin to Clint Eastwood or John Wayne.

This time it’s not the different voices for different characters that makes the narrator stand out, but instead his darkly melodious voice and the seriousness with which he goes about his task.

You can listen to this AMAZING short story by the late Jay Lake on his website, www.jlake.com.

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Cascadiopolis’s anarchist principles

METAtropolis by Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, & Karl Schroeder

In the Forests of the Night by Jay Lake

METAtropolisThis story tells of the intertwining paths of a mysterious colossal of a man, Tygre, and the forest city of Cascadiopolis.  They both fall, and we are told this early on, but the story is about how that happens, and so much more.

The story is a report (but doesn’t read like one) written by the members of the Cascadiopolis movement as an explanation for what happened, and intermittently includes quotes from various other reports that describe the state of the world at this future point.

“Climate change and resource pinches have caused semi-societal collapse.  America had become “a zombie empire shambling onward through the sheer weight of its extents, but devoid of initiative or credibility… Hope was not dead, but it lived in strange, isolated colonies on the warm corpse of the United States.””

So Cascadiopolis is a success story.  It’s a city based on the principles of anarchy and sustainability.  Whatever works, low or high tech.  And it answers the question as to how an anarchist government would run.  A difficult task, seeing as anarchy is defined as being not in recognition of government.

“Even here in the heart of fog-bound anarchy, there are processes, rules, requirements to be followed.  Freedom must be protected by a wall of suspicion.”

And later under the heading “How it Works:  The Newcomers Guide to Cascadiopolis:

Cascadiopolis is a self-organizing anarchist collective which aspires to the self-actualization of all citizens in accordance with green principles.”

Though a leaderless movement, a Citizen’s Executive committee (and other subcommittees created when need arises) “sits in proxy for the will of the whole” and a vote can be called at any time with 10% agreement from the city.

“This practice is a compromise between our anarchist principles and the unfortunate realities of existing in a world of governments, corporations and capital-intensive infrastructure.  Every citizen’s core aspirations should include a dedication to the day when the Citizen’s Executive will wither away and we are all self-actualized without interference from each other or the city as a whole.”

So Cascadiopolis is a city of ideals.  Unfortunately, sometimes those very ideals create room for downfall.

An infiltrator thinks “They will not do face checks, these people – against what they stand for…”

Sometimes your ideals are all you have, and as long as you survive you can pick them up and go somewhere else, as is the case with this very cool and romantic sounding city among the trees that I will only visit in my dreams.

Tygre comes to Cascadiopolis (METAtropolis)

METAtropolis (Book One) by Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, & Karl Schroeder

In the Forests of the Night by Jay Lake

METAtropolisI like it when a story tells you information about the end.  In the Forests of the Night tells us quickly that the powerful mystery man, Tygre Tygre (named after the Blake poem) will die at the end.  I appreciate this simply because as a reader I don’t want to be sad at the end.  I want to be prepared for it, to not have pointless hope, to not be disappointed.

The author doesn’t set up an ending that we wonder about and pine over but instead tells us the ending up front.  We are to find out how the great Tygre meets his demise and how that coincides with the falling of the mysterious and transient semi-post-societal collapse city, Cascadiopolis.  Intermittently throughout, we hear (or read) segments of a report created by the city members after the city has disintegrated.

The name In the Forests of the Night is appropriate for a number of reasons, and the book seems a little like a classic poem in just how beautifully lyrical it is.  The writing is dramatic yet strangely down to earth, even earthy.  Loving Cascadia, the area between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC., I can imagine the dark loam of the city-in-the-forest, Cascadiapolis.

So Tygre dies, but the story is as much about Cascadiopolis as about him.  It’s a romantic yet harsh place with lava tubes to protect from surveillance and for interrogations and other secret things.  Hotbed of open source tech discoveries and savagely protected sustainable haven, it takes skills and permission to be admitted to Cascadiopolis and the borders are heavily protected.  Greenies live here, and anarchists, and people who have something to offer this “idea” of organization and lifestyle.  Since that is what Cascadiopolis is, an idea, not a location.  It can be picked up and moved anywhere.

Blake’s poem though, The Tyger, conjures doom, brought by a terrifying being; this short story describes how the all-knowing Tygre brings doom to the city, or at least rides on the current of it.  Tygre is a modern day Jesus, savior and destroyer, a god-like figure.  He loves the people of the city and what it represents, calls it his “project”, yet we never really find out how this can be true when he’s a total stranger.  Could I dare to hope we find out more about him in the METAtropolis sequels?

More on this story in the next post.