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This website was archived on July 20, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Exolymph creator Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

In Conclusion…

First things first: Hello! Happy 2018! You haven’t heard from me in ages. This is Exolymph, a cyberpunk newsletter that you probably signed up for on the website.

If you joined within the past couple of months, then you’ve never received one of these dispatches, since the newsletter has been on hiatus since last summer.

The other possibility is that you signed up for my personal mailing list — the name Sonya Mann might ring a bell. I decided to collapse that list into this one (or maybe it’s vice versa).

I’ll cut to the chase. Exolymph has been finished for a while, just not officially. In retrospect, I should have said goodnight to the project when I tried to pivot the editorial direction last April. I needed time to come to terms with the decision, I suppose.

Going forward, this newsletter is an Updates on Whatever Sonya is Writing, Creating, or Doing newsletter. I don’t anticipate that I’ll email y’all more than once a month, if that, because I pretty rarely do anything significant beyond writing articles for work.

Please feel free to unsubscribe if you’re not interested in this new version of the newsletter!

Anyway. The website will stay up as an archive. I converted my Patreon account to patron-only.

I can’t put into words how much I appreciate your time, attention, and thoughtful feedback over the course of Exolymph’s life. Much love to all of you.

Catch you on the flip side!

— Sonya

You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me Yet

The responses to my recent ennui-fueled dispatch were very encouraging and helpful. Ironically, having a bunch of you tell me that it’s okay to take a break made me feel more energetic and enthusiastic. I’m gonna play it by ear. Thank you for bearing with me.

Another thing that surprised me is how many people said they’d still be interested if I took a more links-links approach. I guess y’all don’t subscribe to 2342424314134 other newsletters like I do?

If you like links, I wanna take the opportunity to plug Glitchet, which is curated by my friend Way Spurr-Chen. You might also like Exponential View by Azeem Azhar or the Meshed Society newsletter. Part of the reason why I’ve always shied away from focusing on links is that others are out there doing a killer job already.

Lastly, here’s a relevant article that I wrote for work: Kik, the chat app, is launching its own cryptocurrency.

I Don’t Know How, or Whether, to Keep Going

Perhaps you’ve noticed the radio silence. I apologize for not sending anything last week.

I keep hoping that my verve will come back. So far it hasn’t. I thought changing Exolymph’s editorial direction would do the trick! But no dice. Whenever I sit down to write this newsletter, I just feel depleted. I feel like I have nothing to say.

My best guess is that I’ve been using up all my creative energy at work. Having a full-time journalism job means writing way more frequently than I ever did when I was freelancing, plus other responsibilities. So I think all my energy is going to that.

I’m not sure about how best to proceed. I feel like the most practical thing is to go on hiatus. I already paused my Patreon — those of you who support it won’t get charged when July rolls around. I set a calendar reminder to re-pause it (because of course I have to do that) before August starts.

I could turn Exolymph into a “here’s what I wrote at work plus some interesting links” newsletter, but that feels wrong. That wasn’t what I set out to do, nor is it what you signed up for.

So… hiatus? What do you think? How would you prefer for me to cope with my dearth of inspiration and drive?

A Shift in the Wind

I think that Exolymph is ready to change. In retrospect, I’ve been getting bored with my “dystopia is real and we’re living it” thesis since writing “The Cyberpunk Sensibility” last October. (Luckily I didn’t call the project A Cyberpunk Newsletter, so the inscrutable name will stay. Besides, it’s more like I want to zoom in on a particular niche topic, not ditch everything.)

“Cyberpunk is now” was an exciting revelation a year ago — at least to me, although I certainly didn’t come up with the idea. Now it feels banal. The mainstream press is covering cyberpunk themes more and more, and other blogs are doing my schtick better than me. I talked around this when I made a list of cyberpunk content sources back in February.

Most of the publications that I mentioned then don’t delve into the sociopolitics of cyberpunk, but anecdotally the topic is more prevalent than it used to be. Today someone posted on Hacker News, “Would you be interested in a ‘cyberpunk’ inspired news site?” In the comments people pointed out that Wired covers a lot of this territory, as do fringe outlets like those I listed months ago, and N O D E.

So anyway. Like I said, the dissatisfaction has been simmering in my head for months. But reading David Auerbach’s latest essay on the Trump regime is what flipped the switch and made me realize that I need to change Exolymph’s editorial mandate. (No, I’m not going to join #TheResistance and write about Trump all the time — let me explain before you roll your eyes.)

In his essay, Auerbach laid out the relationship(s) between the American overculture (his preferred term) and the country’s surging undercultures. “If you went on 4chan in 2016, you were part of the underculture. If you read about 4chan in the news and believed what you read, you were part of the overculture,” Auerbach quipped.

As it happens, I tend to bounce between these realms more than the average person. Subcultures have long fascinated me, since I’m an incorrigible drama voyeur (like any good journalist). That’s what I want to concentrate on now: How subcultures relate to the mainstream in the twenty-first century.

The internet has transformed the way that social information (memes, if you will) travel up and down between subculture and mainstream. Traditionally, the elites of the mainstream directed the grand narrative. The geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths of subcultures provided the components that were used to compile that grand narrative. But now the elite gatekeepers have lost so much of their power — not all of it, but enough for Auerbach’s underculture to shake things up.

These are the questions that I want to explore:

  • Who is able to travel up and down the cultural stack?
  • What do they bring with them?
  • Do the messages that they carry change along the way?
  • How much do they change?
  • Is it on purpose?
  • When are travelers able to make the trip safely, and when are they hijacked?
  • How do the different levels govern themselves?
  • How do they govern each other?
  • Which factions are able to go vertical, encompassing cross-sections of multiple strata?

On a concrete level, the newsletter probably won’t feel very different. For example, here’s an issue that I would have covered before that will be even more relevant given the new focus.

And now, an abrupt ending! I have an early flight tomorrow and honestly that’s all I have to say.

Header artwork by Albert Ramon Puig.

Uh, Um

I don’t know why I feel the need to do this, since y’all haven’t noticed in the past when I’ve simply forgotten, but no dispatch tonight. (Unless this counts.) GUESS WHY.

Yeah, I’m displeased by the results of the election. I was never an HRC fan but I preferred her policies in every domain.

That said, I’m actually the most gutted by realizing that my perception of reality was so wrong. I said this on Twitter and I’ll say it here too — I was willing to bet money on Hillary Clinton the whole time and I would have rightfully lost that money.

So anyway, I need to process my epistemic failures before I can keep opining.

(inb4 someone replying to say that worrying about my perception of reality is selfish)

(it probably is but I don’t know how I can serve a world that I clearly don’t understand to the degree that I thought I did)

(brb updating my priors?)

Luckily No One Else Knows What They’re Doing Either

When I first launched this cyberpunk newsletter, I think my desire was to be a weirder version of Ben Thompson’s Stratechery. I usually describe him as a tech-biz analyst, but it’s probably more accurate to say he’s a business futurist. Thompson looks at the trends embodied by companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, then extrapolates where they might take us in five years, ten years, or twenty years.

I wanted to do the same thing but with a focus on sociocultural power dynamics. Of course that includes a heavy dose of economics, but it also encompasses government, day-to-day oddities, the nouveau riche — all sorts of bits and pieces. I’ve dabbled in micro-fiction (and to be honest it seems like many of you would prefer if the main thrust of this newsletter were fiction).

I knew from the outset that there was no way I could write even 500 words every time, so I let myself keep it short and tried to have that be a feature rather than a bug. Exolymph is morning-cup-of-coffee length and that’s the intended use-case. I chose a pulpy sci-fi name because I wanted to evoke the classical cyberpunk aesthetic, which I also try to maintain with the images I choose to accompany my words.

I’ve been surprised and delighted by how many people are interested in this area of exploration. 596 readers is not a lot in the grand scheme of the internet, but it’s more people than have ever consistently paid attention to me before. I think this is mostly a product of the zeitgeist, especially in the US — life feels increasingly dystopian and it helps to marvel at that. Okay, “marvel” isn’t quite the right word. Maybe “gawk” fits better.

Exolymph will be coming up on a year in December, and I wonder if I’ve said everything that I want to say. Currently I’m working on a longer essay for another outlet that will lay out my Grand Theory of Cyberpunk, and maybe that would be a natural closing point.

On the other hand, the cyberpunkness of our world keeps intensifying. (Cyberpunkitude?) I like pointing that out. But I’m not sure that I’m adding anything intellectually anymore.

What do you think? Any ideas for how I could change things up? Comment below or tweet at me or whatever.

Header image by Candace Nast.

Housekeeping Note (Actually a Fundraising Note)

With the help of a few readers, I revamped Exolymph’s Patreon page! There are now three main supporter tiers:

  • $1 monthly: Undying gratitude + Exolymph continues indefinitely.
  • $5 monthly: Your name (or pseudonym) listed on the Exolymph support page!
  • $10 monthly: Currently, $10 patrons get to pick a topic for Exolymph to cover (must be relevant to cyberpunk or futurism). BUT when I hit $135 per month, patrons at this level will receive an exclusive short story every month. It will be at least 5,000 words long, which is a twenty-minute read for most people.

I also came up with $20 and $50 rewards in case anyone is feeling REALLY generous. Go check ’em all out.

I have a small goal to start with. When I reach $30 per month, I can upgrade my MailChimp account and disable click-tracking on links! (MailChimp requires link-tracking on free accounts. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel scummy.)

Like I usually say at the end, even if you don’t want to pitch in or can’t afford to, you are still 100% welcome here and I’m grateful for your readership ❤

THAT SAID, more money would be great. I don’t earn a lot and it would make a difference in my life if even five or ten of you decided to donate.

Feed Me Some Feedback

Coming soon: 1) Interview with Tim Keenan of Misfits Attic Games. 2) Short story by Pythagorx. 3) Interview with Darius Kazemi, internet artist and cofounder of Feel Train.

So… are you enjoying Exolymph so far? Do you like the interviews? Do you like the flash fiction? Would you prefer more or less frequent emails? Please let me know — I am begging to be guided!

twisted artwork by ravensmarket of Etsy

You can buy a $12 print of the above painting on Etsy.

Seriously, it would be wonderful if you can reply and answer those four questions:

1) Are you enjoying Exolymph so far?
2) Do you like the interviews?
3) Do you like the flash fiction?
4) Would you prefer more or less frequent emails?

Thanks either way 🙂 I really appreciate that you’re letting me into your life, or at least your inbox. It means a lot. (Sorry this is OOC — back to the usual mood tomorrow!)

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