Snuff Memories: A Panel Discussion
Foreign Objekt presents an upcoming book reading and panel discussion for David Roden's newly published book, Snuff Memories (Schism Press: 2021), on March 7th, 2021, at 9am PST.
Panelists: David Roden, Amanda Beech, Martin Rosenberg, Romina Wainberg, Corey McCall, Simon Sellars
In David Roden’s Snuff Memories, an ancient time-war ripples through a demon-haunted cosmos as its characters systematically expunge their humanity. Their ‘posthuman becoming’ pre-empts any possible ethics or sane politics. Instead, desire is weaponized from a bleak, inhuman future. Bodies replicate and unzip across the novella’s pornographic vignettes, remade in erotic rituals of mutation, death, and pain.
Snuff Memories explores themes common to the discourses of New Realism, Posthumanism, Accelerationism, and Weird fiction: the cultivation of general intellect, the storming of heaven, our complicity with alien intelligences and uncontrollable technologies, the possibility of an ethics of ‘becoming inhuman’ in a world without transcendental norms.
In this seminar five contemporary thinkers and writers--Amanda Beech, Martin Rosenberg, Romina Wainberg, Corey McCall, and Simon Sellars--consider the themes and questions thrown up by the novella in dialogue with its author.
Moderated by: Setareh Taghvaei
Snuff is a paradoxical theater of actuality – the organization and performance of pain that is real. In this, it is a dimension of the genre of horror but unlike horror which operates by threatening to collapse the dialectical distinction between artifice and reality, and which therefore maintains some order between them, snuff collapses artifice and life and makes us feel that this is all real, that it not staged. Snuff does this by intimidating reason in excess of horror. This structure has consequences for the political. The theatrical framing of ‘real’ oppression functions as a form of insurance against having to commit to the possibility that pain is actually happening in the world; if the pain of others is staged it is somehow consensual, but also therefore, unreal and we can keep watching. At the same time, this pain has to be understood as real - it is a fact that pain and suffering is happening in front of us. But, seeing this pain as real does not bring us to any kind of social empathy that recognizes the pain of others. Instead, the consolidated identicality of being and image brings us the kinds of ecstatic pleasure of a Judeo-Christian theological dimension. Read More
Before we read this novel to evaluate the philosophical coherence of what is happening in Snuff Memories we should wonder whether this novel might be about the impossibility of conceiving the post-human. First of all, SM is not an easy read, because it lies on the edge of our cognition. We do not recognize this world of strange creatures engaging in strange forms of eroticism in a strange landscape with events that do not easily fit into the sequentiality of a narrative flirting with our sense of a beginning, middle and end. SM is an experimental fiction, but not in the vein of John Barth, Thomas Pynchon or Italo Calvino (although we find hints of these experimenters and others), and it’s not clear whether the novel is a failure as a work of fiction, or a work of fiction that is about the failure of the project of envisioning a post-humanity. I proceed firmly committed to interpreting it as the second kind of failure, and assert that Snuff Memories is a triumph.Read More
The centuries-old formulation: “We don’t know what a body can do” had already become a refreshing question with the publication of Posthuman Life, and it becomes a refreshing conundrum again after the publication of Snuff Memories. This novella invites (or lures) us to reassess our narratological assumptions regarding what is a character, how is the body of a character feasibly constituted and how it may change, what does it mean for X or Y kind of body or state of the art of a body to feel pain, to feel pleasure? (And here the age-old question of the quality and the feasible intransferability of one’s own pain becomes refreshing as well: pain becomes a particularly elusive and equivocal concept+affect). What kind of verisimilitude corresponds to a text like this, what can happen and what cannot happen within the constraints of this fictional (un/anti)-world, which happens to engulf many other preexisting narrative universes or multiverses? How is the narrative space of Snuff Memories populated, can all modes of existence inhabiting this space survive the constant whip or whiplash of affect, can affect survive incarnation? Read More
Snuff memories presents us with another world, a posthuman world in which we who cling so desperately to the distinction between the true and the false, the authentic and inauthentic and even the human and inhuman are little more than a dim memory. Here’s how David characterizes Snuff memories in a recent blog post:
Snuff Memories, which might be termed a novel of speculative eroticism, effectuates this subtractive desire, a desire nonetheless distended by the pervasive magnetism of things-to-come and their iterated catastrophes: not only personal death, but ecological death, the death of the Sun and (extending this Platonic motif) of all Solar Transcendence.
This book is a montage of texts, genres and perspectives – alternating between the subtractive eroticism of death-driven biomorphic bodies and the disindividuating mesh of all the alienating ‘moral powers’ haunting its ancient, demon-haunted Cosmos (technological, alien, theological). Read More