The Granfalloon festival brings together musicians, artists, thinkers, and good people from all walks of life for a multi-day celebration of art, ideas, and community. This includes a wide variety of authors, poets, and thinkers whose works are being featured, discussed, and read throughout the festival. Below are descriptions of works by our guest speakers, many of whom hail from Indiana and all of whom we are proud to call members of our karass. More books coming soon!
Kurt Vonnegut - Player Piano (1952)
Player Piano is the first novel by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. The novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus navigating a dystopian world of automation partly inspired by the author's time working at General Electric. The novel describes the negative impact technology can have on quality of life. The story takes place in a near-future society that is almost totally mechanized, eliminating the need for human laborers. The widespread mechanization creates conflict between the wealthy upper class, the engineers and managers, who keep society running, and the lower class, whose skills and purpose in society have been replaced by machines. The book uses irony and sentimentality, which were to become hallmarks developed further in Vonnegut's later works.
Ted Chiang - Exhalation: Stories (2008)
Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine through a series of short stories. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will. Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.
Christina Jarvis – Lucky Mud & Other Foma: A Field Guide to Kurt Vonnegut's Environmentalism and Planetary Citizenship (2022)
A fascinating deep dive into Kurt Vonnegut’s oeuvre and legacy, illuminating his unique perspective on environmental stewardship and our shared connections as humans, Earthlings, and stardust. Vonnegut’s major apocalyptic trio— Cat’s Cradle , Slapstick , and Galápagos —prompt broad global, national, and species-level thinking about environmental issues through dramatic and fantastic scenarios. This book, Lucky Mud and Other Foma , tells the story of the origins and legacy of what Kurt Vonnegut understood as “planetary citizenship” and explores key roots, influences, literary techniques, and artistic expressions of his interest in environmental activism through his writing. Vonnegut saw writing itself as an act of good citizenship, as a way of “poisoning” the minds of young people “with humanity . . . to encourage them to make a better world.” Often that literary activism meant addressing real social and environmental problems—polluted water, soil, and air; racial and economic injustice; isolating and dehumanizing technologies; and lives and landscapes desolated by war. Vonnegut’s remedies took many forms, from the redemptive power of the arts to artificial extended families to vital communities and engaged democracies. Reminding us of our shared connections as humans, as Earthlings, as stardust, Lucky Mud helps fans, scholars, and book lovers of all kinds experience how Vonnegut’s writings purposely challenge readers to think, create, and love.
Friedrich Kittler – Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986)
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter analyzes how the hegemony of the printed word was shattered toward the end of the nineteenth century by the arrival of new media technologies that offered novel ways of communicating and storing data. Previously, writing had operated by way of symbolic mediation—all data had to pass through the needle's eye of the written signifier—but phonography, photography, and cinematography stored physical effects of the real in the shape of sound waves and light. The entire question of referentiality had to be recast in light of these new media technologies. Part technological history of the emergent new media in the late nineteenth century, part theoretical discussion of the responses to these media—including texts by Rilke, Kafka, and Heidegger, as well as elaborations by Edison, Bell, Turing, and other innovators— Gramophone, Film, Typewriter analyzes this momentous shift using insights from the work of Foucault, Lacan, and McLuhan. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter is, among other things, a continuation as well as a detailed elaboration of the second part of the author's Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 (Stanford, 1990). As such, it bridges the gap between Kittler's discourse analysis of the 1980's and his increasingly computer-oriented work of the 1990's.
Byung-Chul Han - In the Swarm: Digital Prospects (2013)
In the Swarm: Digital Prospects argues that, contrary to “Twitter Revolution” cheerleading, digital communication is destroying political discourse and political action. In this contrarian reflection on digitized life, Byung-Chul Han counters the cheerleaders for Twitter revolutions and Facebook activism by arguing that digital communication is in fact responsible for the disintegration of community and public space and is slowly eroding any possibility for real political action and meaningful political discourse.In the predigital, analog era, by the time an angry letter to the editor had been composed, mailed, and received, the immediate agitation had passed. Today, digital communication enables instantaneous, impulsive reactions, meant to express and stir up outrage on the spot. “The shitstorm,” writes Han, “represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication.” Han, one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, describes a society in which information has overrun thought, in which the same algorithms are employed by Facebook, the stock market, and the intelligence services. Democracy is under threat because digital communication has made freedom and control indistinguishable. Big Brother has been succeeded by Big Data.
David Noble - Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation A Social History of Industrial Automation (1984)
Focusing on the postwar automation of the American metal-working industry--the heart of the modern industrial economy--this is a provocative study of how automation has assumed a critical role in America. David Noble argues that industrial automation--more than merely a technological advance--is a social process that reflects very real divisions and pressures within our society. The book explains how technology is often spurred and shaped by the military, corporations, universities, and other mighty institutions. Using detailed case studies, Noble also demonstrates how engineering design is influenced by political, economic, and sociological considerations, and how the deployment of equipment is frequently entangled with certain managerial concerns.
John Durham Peters - The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (2015)
When we speak of clouds these days, it is as likely that we mean data clouds or network clouds as cumulus or stratus. In their sharing of the term, both kinds of clouds reveal an essential truth: that the natural world and the technological world are not so distinct. In The Marvelous Clouds, John Durham Peters argues that though we often think of media as environments, the reverse is just as true—environments are media. Peters defines media expansively as elements that compose the human world. Drawing from ideas implicit in media philosophy, Peters argues that media are more than carriers of messages: they are the very infrastructures combining nature and culture that allow human life to thrive. Through an encyclopedic array of examples from the oceans to the skies, The Marvelous Clouds reveals the long prehistory of so-called new media. A wide-ranging meditation on the many means we have employed to cope with the struggles of existence—from navigation to farming, meteorology to Google—The Marvelous Clouds shows how media lie at the very heart of our interactions with the world around us. Peters’s book will not only change how we think about media but provide a new appreciation for the day-to-day foundations of life on earth that we so often take for granted.
Marilyn Chin - Sage: Poems (2023)
Lars Horn - Voice of the Fish: A Lyric Essay (2022)
Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish is an interwoven essay collection that explores the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology, set against the backdrop of travels in Russia and a debilitating back injury that left Horn temporarily unable to speak. In Horn’s adept hands, the collection takes shape as a unified book: short vignettes about fish, reliquaries, and antiquities serve as interludes between longer essays, knitting together a sinuous, wave-like form that flows across the book. Horn swims through a range of subjects, roving across marine history, theology, questions of the body and gender, sexuality, transmasculinity, and illness. Horn reexamines the oft-presumed uniformity of bodily experience, breaking down the implied singularity of “the body” as cultural and scientific object. The essays instead privilege ways of seeing and being that resist binaries, ways that falter, fracture, mutate. A sui generis work of nonfiction, Voice of the Fish blends the aquatic, mystical, and physical to reach a place beyond them all.
Megan Giddings - The Women Could Fly (2022)
Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times--a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored. Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother's disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman--especially a Black woman--can find herself on trial for witchcraft. But fourteen years have passed since her mother's disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30--or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has never understood her mother more. When she's offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother's will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.
In this powerful and timely novel, Megan Giddings explores the limits women face--and the powers they have to transgress and transcend them.
Alexander Weinstein - Children of the New World (2016)
Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago. In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, while struggling to maintain a real-world relationship sabotaged by an addiction to his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and only in his absence does the family realize how real a son he has become. Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society.
Taylor Johnson - Inheritance (2020)
Inheritance is a black sensorium, a chapel of color and sound that speaks to spaciousness, surveillance, identity, desire, and transcendence. Influenced by everyday moments of Washington, DC living, the poems live outside of the outside and beyond the language of categorical difference, inviting anyone listening to listen a bit closer. Inheritance is about the self’s struggle with definition and assumption.
Mitchell L.H. Douglas – dying in the scarecrow’s arms (2018)
In urgent newpoems, Mitchell L. H. Douglas depicts the assault on people of color in America’s increasingly divided Heartland. A devotee of American popular culture, from rock ’n’ roll to Star Wars to Marvel comic books, Douglas now wonders whether we will withstand its most odious, self-destructive elements in this searing collection.