U/Acc in Michael Cisco’s Animal Money | Jeremy Trombley

U/Acc in Michael Cisco’s Animal Money

by Jeremy Trombley

[[ originally posted at Struggle Forever! Feb 24, 2018 ]]

Acceleration, in physics, is the rate of change in velocity with respect to time. Importantly, I think, both velocity and (by extension) acceleration are vectoral concepts, meaning the require both magnitude and direction. A change in direction without a change in speed is an acceleration. Additionally, and interestingly for accelerationism, the change is not necessarily positive, therefore, slowing down is also a form of acceleration. That brings me to what has been described as “unconditional” accelerationism. Based on these definitions, acceleration can only be conditional (i.e. directional) and most of the variants I’ve seen do ultimately suggest some kind of directionality if not an ultimate teleology. In that sense maybe “acceleration” is the wrong metaphor and needs to be dismantled itself in order to open up the unconditional. Instead of a change in velocity (direction and/or speed), perhaps the better way to approach the unconditional is through the rapid proliferation of victors, i.e. both directionalities and speeds.

That brings me to Michael Cisco’s Animal Money… This massive book is, perhaps, the most hyperstitional, psychedelic, non-linear, mind-warping text I’ve ever read, and I’ve read some crazy shit. It took me a year to get through it because I had to stop at intervals and read something that made sense just so I could give my brain a rest. Having finished it, I can’t say that I know entirely what it was about, but I can say the experience was worth it.

The plot – if one could be distilled from the morass of intersecting and diverging narratives and non-narratives – is that a group of economists, ostracized from their professional meeting due to various injuries and illnesses, devise (or are implanted with) the concept of animal money – a form of living currency that self-replicates, proliferates, and evolves as any living creature would. As an experiment, they break into a nearby zoo and create the first – I guess you could say “batch” of animal money. What exactly animal money is, how it’s created, how it works – that’s all left up to imagination. But the effects of its creation are immense. The world is transformed, economies collapse and congeal, social systems disintegrate, new forms of life emerge, alien entities start to show up, and so on. In order to conceal their role in the creation of this disruptive currency, and avoid a conspiracy stop the currency from proliferating, the economists create a hyperstitional identity known as Assiyeh, an astrophysicist-errant whose experiments revolve around recovering the ghost of her father who she accidentally projected into space in an earlier experiment-gone-wrong. For much of the novel, Assiyeh is found on the lam, traveling through the cosmos taking refuge on various exotic planets, falling in love with robots, and having sex with what is essentially a literal body-without-organs.

As crazy as it is, the plot is subsidiary to the broader goal of the novel, which is the deterritorialization of literally everything. And Cisco does it with such beautiful and grotesque imagery that it is hard to turn away. For example, I can imagine whole volumes written on a small passage describing what is referred to as “The Fudge Machine”:

“Behind a facade of dull whiteboard meeting rooms there are sacred vaults that contain the Fudge Machine, a pile of cushions interconnected with hoses, hanging bladders, surrounded by curing meat and cheese like a delicatessen, a blue mold crust on everything and in the middle there’s a trench cut near and narrow into the stone floor, and the fudge pours into this trench from a concatenation of translucent bladders that look like sea anemone. The fudge is a creamy confection of tan rubber tepidity, made from the mucus residue left behind by the collision of human energies with the softly ablative baffles that are the basic substance of the organization. In an adjoining chamber, the fudge is sliced into marvelously uniform rectangular tiles and doled out, still sort of warm, neatly wrapped in wax paper pages to be gobbled up, paper and all, by accessories. The vaults smell like a candy store and there are candy dishes full of sticky, bland grandma candies, Jordan almonds, butterscotches, virtually flavorless peppermints in both barber pole and chalk hunk versions, drab pastel jellybeans with no black ones, of course.”

This is just one small part of the book and leads to nothing else, but the image has stayed with me as a metaphor for life within the structural confines of our social institutions. Such images are pervasive in the book, challenging our notions of everyday life and providing fodder for a surrealistic imaginary. You cannot come out of reading this book without experiencing a fundamental shift in your operating system.

To me, the book captures the spirit of the unconditional – a broad experimentation and the generative proliferation of multitudinous subject- and objectivities. In this framework, it’s not acceleration that matters – it’s not, fundamentally, about a change in speed or direction – but rather, it’s about proliferation, and the rapid production of alternate fictions any of which might lead to a hyperstitional future. Whether it’s a “good” book or not is beside the point – the goal is not to please or enjoy, but to produce. Much like its eponymous currency, Animal Money the book is meant to live and evolve, and we are meant to absorb it, and allow ourselves to be changed by it. What comes from such experimentation? Who knows… but that’s the point.

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