Poet Turned Scientist. Scientist Turned Novelist. Who Will Prevail?

Christian Bök.
My Nemesis.

You may have heard of this guy before.

You may remember the occasional item on the crawl where I speak of his genetically-engineered Xenotext, or grumble about this fucking poet who makes microbes dance at his command while I spent two years failing miserably in my attempts to master the Fischer-Price Gene Starter Kit. If you read Echopraxia you may have encountered a fragment of the man’s work, iterating quietly away in the Oregon desert while Humanity burns itself to the ground:

He sampled the water, scraped flecks from the stone, pulled leaves from the ground and ran them through his barcoder. He found a thousand common bacteria, a few purebred, most rotten with lateral transfer.

He only found one that glowed in the dark.

It was a dialogue: gene and protein, talking to each other. It was a straight transposition of amino into alphabet: valine, threonine, alanine into t-h-e, phenylalanine-glutamine-valine-alanine into f-a-t-e, serine press-ganged into hard-space or hard-return depending on the iteration. The fluorescent protein spelled out a message—

                the faery is rosy
                of glow
                in fate
                we rely…                               

“It’s not contamination or lateral transfer. It’s a poem.”

“Not for you,” Valerie said. “You’re looking for something else.”

No, he thought. You are.

 

Picture.  It happened.

Picture. It happened.

If you use the Internet for things that don’t have anything to do with me (although really, why would you want to?), you might have even encountered Bök’s Griffin-Award-winning and Obama-autobiography-outselling (in the UK at least) Eunoia, or his debut work Crystallography— which, in addition to being a work of poetry, is also the Amazon #1 nonfiction seller in an arcane subspecies of chemistry.

But if you live in the GTA, instead of following all those obscure links you might just want to head down to the waterfront this coming Sunday, where I’ll be interviewing him at the 36th iteration of the International Festival of Authors.

You read that right. Your ‘umble Narrator is going to be interviewing a poet. 2pm, Brigantine Room, 235 Queens Quay West. It’s even free if you’re a student and/or under 25. If you’re neither of those things it’s $18, but those are Canadian bucks so it only comes out to around $2.50 US. Plus it includes a Q&A so you can ask your own questions, if you even have any after I strip away all of Christian Bök’s dirty little secrets on-stage (do you know, for example, that he worked on a cheesy Canadian SciFi cable feeder show? Now you do).

Think of it as a kind of Canliterary Thunderdome: Two Men Enter. One Man asks questions.

Come on, it’s a Sunday. What else are you gonna do, go to church?

Or if not Thunderdome, then maybe this.

Or if not Thunderdome, then maybe this.


(Quick note for those who don’t obsessively go back over the comments of Crawl Posts Past: pursuant to last week’s entry, Jesus Olmo has pointed me to "Investigate Fortitude", a nifty series of 3-minute Youtube shorts exploring the science that underlies the show. Be warned: these were originally aired following each episode, so they contain massive spoilers; the last one gives away the punchline of the whole season.)

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday October 21 2015at 08:10 am , filed under interviews, On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Responses to “Poet Turned Scientist. Scientist Turned Novelist. Who Will Prevail?”

  1. This is my favourite Christian Bok story, apparently verified (https://twitter.com/christianbok/status/653744603946840064)

    He worked at the Chapters flagship store, and for whatever reason Maya Angelou came in looking to buy one of her books to give to someone, and asked him if they had any in stock. He replied, “Why yes, of course, we have books by Maya Angelou—they’re shelved right beside the works of Christian Bök.”

  2. Peter, I sadly can’t find much directly relevant to Christian Bok, but I did find something a bit related to one of your short stories. However, unlike the story, this one is a giggler. Evidently, some Fundie type has discovered that the “god spot” could potentially be tickled by transcranial magnetic stimulation, and now he’s convinced that [the] ‘Transgender crowd’ will use magnets to suck God from your brain.

    Perhaps this might give you and Mr/Dr Bok something to talk about to break the ice.

  3. An off-topic holiday wish for the Crawl and all its crawlers, associates, and missing friends. Today because tomorrow we down under celebrate genocide perpetrated by people with multiple sexual hangups and too-tight, yet non-revealing clothing.

    Cheers to the Internet!.

    As a bonus, the essence of my 2012 Canada vacation in one brief comic strip.. Darn those bureaucrats and their “rules.”