Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Preamble to Insecticide (pt. 1)


Taking a page right out of Subtopia's book, DARPA is now soliciting proposals to further actualize an Entomomechanophilic Army. Yes, that brachypterous Sci-fi mechanized war-bug bit I have set my creepy crawler fingers to write about on this site occasionally, whose words may soon orient the destiny of a fictitious and absurd pseudo-novel -- (while perhaps alluding to that other great cartoon epic You Bright and Risen Angels as a precursory landscape by which to breed an errant sequel) -- so, that Vollmann's story may go on living here, too, starring yet another metamorphic boy hero stranded in a war rot country whose fertile imagination is equally tickled by a tropical affinity for bugs. Relieving himself of the human suffering looming over his village, this new Subtopian protagonist, with the same odd and gentle innocence as Bugs himself, periodically escapes to the quiet country side where his delicate speech is given to a fascination with the insects there, for whom many curious tribes have pricked up their raspy feelers to follow him about the trees and listen.


Set in his own private eden, our little narrator wanders through the jungle a lonely prince cloaked in soft plumes of tiny fluttering wings and wriggling antennae, telling the bug-flocks stories about how he always fancied himself an unknown bug of some kind ever since he got shocked by one of the house's exposed power lines, for which has made me the most super-charged dreamer of all my people he tells them shedding his imaginary cocoon in the solitude of the jungle as their spirits are lifted like the opening pages of a book by almost child-like sorcery. The ecstatic swarms hover around him wherever he goes ritually grazing his forehead and cheeks, landing on his shoulders, soaking up the static cling exuberance of his electric storytelling baths, which seems to wet the entire jungle's appetite with a soundtrack of conductivity. All the while, without knowing, his crackly voice would go on to command a subversive novel told in the bugs' upcoming rebellion against those on the other side of the pond who would try to do him and his people harm, who would extinguish him.

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of a California research lab, another boy - the prodigious teenaged darling of the defense world, (who will eventually meet his match on a collision course with our young hero whispering to invisible praise in the jungle) - is busy surging ahead with his own electric curiosity about the insect world. A self-proclaimed boy-genius of the entomological universe, this budding jungle conqueror schemes with a team of scientists to deliver a tactical envoy of war-bugs that will be sure to stoke Rummy's military doctrine for a "full spectrum dominance" utilizing any available means of warfare.


As this bug-eyed man-child would explain in frightening detail, the idea with the HI-MEMS (or, "Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems") project, "is to insert micro-systems at the pupa stage, when the insects can integrate them into their body. Through each metamorphic stage, the insect body goes through a renewal process that can heal wounds and reposition internal organs around foreign objects. When the insect is fully developed the Mems could allow it to be remotely controlled or sense certain chemicals, including those in explosives."


And so, theoretically, DARPA's wiz kid races on to mechanize the objects of his rival's fancy rearing them so, that in times of war, they would be able to carry nanoscale weapons, scavenge power, transmit data from gas sensors, microphones, and video, beaming back information about any sort of inhospitable environment. An environment, perhaps, not entirely unlike the innocent paradise shared by our young jungle poet, who, meanwhile, hides from the death plaguing his community by rallying acrobatic swarms of dragon flies, butterflies, wasps, moths, and other exotic flyers in games together all their own lost in the deep leafy pages of the jungle, as if the war around them were seemingly far off chapters lingering at both ends of his book.


Suddenly, there are talks of test grounds reverberating inside the lab's main hive. "We need a tropical environment, humid, harsh, one that may not be the HI-MEMS' primary climate. And preferably one where there is a close enough proximity to an ongoing conflict, but off the radar, if you know what I'm saying. We need to test their ability to deliver payloads as well as transmit cartographic data." A globe spins for a moment on some cold metal desk. Then, a purely unwrinkled finger points to it --there! -- and the miniature spinning axis comes to a halt. A room full of stares pressed together under a short fingertip marks the precise location. "We'll test them here," a voice too sinister to be as young as it sounds turns to the others. "Ready the bugs for war."
(To be continued)

(Thanks to Happy Consumptive for being the first to shoot this my way!)
BBC: Pentagon plans cyber-insect army
Mother Jones: Weaponizing the Shark and Other Pentagon Dreams
Mother Jones: DARPA's Wild Kingdom
UPI: U.S. military plans to make insect cyborgs

The Entomomechanophilic Army : Suiting Wasps for War : Atomic Monarch (Danaus Plexippus: Plutonium Lepidoptera) : Withus Oragainstus

2 Comments:

Blogger happy consumptive said...

Appreciate the shout out Bryan. You Bright and Risen Angels is one of the few Vollman books I haven't read (am making my way through volume three of Rising Up, Rising Down between forays into Europe Central).

Think what's most interesting to me about the DARPA posting, is that it seems to refer directly to some very specific instances of either failure in the field, or in the laboratory.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

Vollmann is my favorite. Amazing, how easily devourable those books are to read. Makes it easier to understand how he cranks so much of it out writing them. Like epic children's tales, but for adults. I've read most all of his earlier works, flipped through RURD, and only read The Rifles in the Seven Dreams. Just saw him on Upper Haight reading from Copernicus. Unbelievable stories, not to mention all the layers and genres he works into his re-imagined psycho-historical landscape. He's got a book coming out on the border soon. Can't wait.

....to me, the field and the laboratory are becoming one and the sample place, gradually militarized; public space as the ultimate test grounds. A universal battlefield converted out of everywhere. Arming the bugs, who are already able to withstand our every attempts to exterminate them, just makes for the greatest story for me. You Bright and Risen Angels i think i read, was written while Bill was working as a programmer hanging out under his work desk overnights, feeding off vending machine foods and candy bars in order to use the office computer to clack out his cartoon masterpiece. crazy bug heroes, i tell ya.

4:32 PM  

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