by Steven Shaviro

©1995-1997 Steven Shaviro

This book is a theoretical fiction about postmodernism. A theoretical fiction, because I treat discursive ideas and arguments in a way analogous to how a novelist treats characters and events. About postmodernism, because the term seems unavoidable in recent discussions of contemporary culture. Postmodernism is not a theoretical option or a stylistic choice; it is the very air we breathe. We are postmodern whether we like it or not, and whether we are aware of it or not. For this very reason, the word postmodernism isn't explicitly defined anywhere in my text. Its meaning is its use: or better, its multiple and contradictory uses, as these emerge gradually in the course of the book.

My approach to postmodernism is informed by the theorists I have read and written about in previous books: Bataille, Blanchot, and Deleuze and Guattari. But also by Marshall McLuhan and by Andy Warhol, whom I have come to regard as the most significant North American theorists of postmodernism, even if neither of them ever used the term. Kathy Acker and William Burroughs, exemplary postmodern thinkers by virtue of their literary fictions, are frequently present in these pages as well. And I have also been attentive to recent developments in biology, inspired by the neo-Darwinism of Richard Dawkins and by the late Morse Peckham's provocatively Darwinian approach to the study of culture. Working in the trace of all these figures, I do not propose anything like a balanced and well-grounded critique of postmodern culture. To do so would be to assert my own separation from the phenomena under discussion; but this is a claim that I find utterly unacceptable. I try, instead, to be as timely as possible; and also perhaps a bit untimely, in the sense that Deleuze has usefully rescued from Nietzsche. It's a matter of learning how to live and feel differently; or more accurately, of articulating ways in which we already are living and feeling differently, whether we like it or not. It's for this reason that I've used the pronoun we rather freely throughout the book, at the risk of seeming to impose a false solidarity upon the reader. All becomings are multiple, as Deleuze and Guattari insist; the we is one marker of this perpetual divergence. There are others; the book shifts frequently between the first, second, and third persons, and at times makes use as well of the Spivak gender-neutral third person singular pronouns e, em, and eir.

Doom Patrols, then, is not a work of historical scholarship or objective description or ideology critique or in-depth interpretation. I have scrupulously followed Oscar Wilde's two fine maxims, that the critic should avoid "careless habits of accuracy," and that e should strive "to see the object as in itself it really is not." Each chapter of Doom Patrols is headed by a proper name. But these names are themselves fictional, even when they ostensibly refer to actual individuals. For they are not identities, but singularities, as I try to work out in the course of the book. Any resemblances to persons living or dead, to objects or commercial products, or to other works of fiction and the characters and situations therein, are precisely that: resemblances, which is to say simulacra, deceptive and superficial imitations, fraudulent impersonations. All accurate depictions and representational correspondences, on the other hand, are accidental and unintended, and should be taken as signs of failure on the part of the author; the aim of the book being precisely to pervert and undermine all such forms and canons of representation.

Every text, as Burroughs says, is "a composite of many writers living and dead." To a very great extent, the present book is a collage of citations. When it comes to printed material, I have carefully observed "fair use" guidelines as specified by copyright law. But of course, many other voices have also entered into the making of this book: voices found in conversations, in email correspondence, in virtual encounters, and so on. I cannot list all of my obligations, but there are many people I would particularly like to thank. Kathy Acker, for general inspiration, and for introducing me to DOOM PATROL. Tatjana Pavlovic, for overall support during the time that most of this book was being written. Roddey Reid, for careful perusal of the manuscript, and for his incisive and useful comments. Lee Graham, Leo Daugherty, and Erin Casteel, for reading the manuscript chapter by chapter, as it was written, for sharing their reactions, and for helping me to discover my own sensibility. Kirby Olson, for provocative conversation on Sade, Klossowski, the food chain, and many other things. Hans Turley, for showing me the Way to Dino. Robert Neveldine, for many suggestions regarding My Bloody Valentine, and for comments and advice on music and other matters. Barry Schwabsky, years ago, for discovering Pullman's Galatea; and for much comment and discussion in the time since. Carlos Seligo, for information and inspiration on the subject of insects. Various friends at LambdaMOO, and especially legba, for listening, and for helping me to work my ideas through. Doug Brick, for initial guidance on Unix and theWorld Wide Web. Don Mitchell, Shannon McRae, and Craig Horman, for making it possible for me to set up a Web server. Victoria Landau, for the wonderful GIFs. Faye Hirsch, Laurie Weeks, Tom Wall, Susie Brubaker, Billy Flesch, Laura Quinney, Robert Thomas, Bucky Harris, Paul Keyes, Mark Lester, Therese Grisham, Brian Massumi, Sandi Buckley, and Michael Hardt, for friendship and intellectual stimulation.

Needless to say, this book is autobiographical. Every word.

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