Artisanal Tech Satire-- kind of like a llama you've never heard of
June 10, 2015 2:58 PM   Subscribe

"Who wrote this amazing, mysterious book satirizing tech startup culture?" "A mysterious little book called Iterating Grace is floating around San Francisco right now. At least a dozen people have received the book in the mail—or in my case, by secret hand-delivery to my house. (Which is a little creepy.) The artifact itself consists of a 2,001-word story interspersed with hand-drawn recreations of tweets by venture capitalists and startup people like Chris Sacca, Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Sam Altman, and others. The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas)."
posted by wuwei (55 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like an undiscovered _why work.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:01 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Text satirizes subculture. Reaction by said subculture to said text satirizing said subculture:
"They think Microsoft or Google or some startup is behind this whole production, and that the commercial purpose of this thing will soon be revealed to us"

Damn these peeps be insular y'all.
posted by NervousVarun at 3:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


Damn these peeps be insular y'all.

A regular ouro-BORE-os! Haha!

No I actually find this interesting and cool
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:14 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think it was made by an optics bot with archival access and a multi-plex 3D printer loaded with pulp and ink.

Drones mailed it and helped with the stamps and envelope sealing.

As a text, I like this. Nice find for us non-silicon folk.
Bless the Horta.
posted by clavdivs at 3:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The author is Satoshi Nakamoto, obvs.
posted by honest knave at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Itaxpica: "Sounds like an undiscovered _why work."

this was exactly what I thought!
posted by boo_radley at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2015


We're gonna, like, demolish satire.
posted by indubitable at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Before clicking through, I thought suspiciously of Robin Sloan, who wrote convincingly of arcane knowledge and Bay Area quirks in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Imagine how much my suspicions increased when I read the story and Mr. Sloan was discovered to be a personal friend of the author...
posted by redsparkler at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Bless the Horta.

NO KILL IPO
posted by RogerB at 3:20 PM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Personally, I just attribute all books of mysterious lineage to a hoax by John Dee.
posted by ckape at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


or Tristan Shandy? Maybe needs more farts, bendy dolls.

(e: maturing???)
posted by boo_radley at 3:24 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bless the Horta.

NO KILL IPO


Does this mean that we shouldn't kill the IPO? OR that the IPO won't be a killer!?
posted by emmet at 3:26 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


we're gonna enable and connect with the sharing economy to disrupt the parody market after our next round of vc and angel funding

pledge now to be one of our first backers and get in on the ground floor supporting us at Satyr

check out my TEDx talk here
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:32 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "we're gonna enable and connect with the sharing economy to disrupt the parody market after our next round of vc and angel funding

pledge now to be one of our first backers and get in on the ground floor supporting us at Satyr

check out my TEDx talk here
"

Dude. I was SOOOOO willing to jump into your Kickstarter, but your TEDx link didn't work...
posted by Samizdata at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll also say that Robin Sloan showed a healthy interest in the history of fonts and typefaces along with a working knowledge of graphic design, and Iterating Grace has that whole calligraphy/Steve Jobs thing going on. I've got my eye on you, Sloan!
posted by redsparkler at 3:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


That cover art is pitch-perfect. What's that typeface used in the subtitle and internal text? It's such an earnest typeface, somehow.
posted by ostro at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2015


Robin Sloan sent out an email to his mailing list today that basically ended "I'm going to be upset if this is for some ARG", regarding the book.
posted by mrbill at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, maybe it's just Dave Eggers.
posted by redsparkler at 3:43 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


the jig is up
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas)."

Sounds a little like the Pynchon of V, doesn't it?

And it wouldn't be the first time he's been up to something like that around there.
posted by jamjam at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


IPO time machine.
posted by clavdivs at 3:49 PM on June 10, 2015


"Sounds a little like the Pynchon of V, doesn't it?"

For odd referents with animals, a bit.
posted by clavdivs at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2015


People of San Francisco: does this consume the whole city, or is there just a clique of tech people and journalists who report from inside a bubble? (I mean obviously there are normal people in the city living normal lives, but is it insane domination to the degree that federal stuff dominates DC?)
posted by vogon_poet at 4:05 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


does this consume the whole city

Certainly not. Although Alexis Madrigal lives in Oakland, and it certainly doesn't consume all of the East Bay, either.

When I get together with friends, the last thing we would think about discussing is the ins and outs of tech funding (except for the one friend I have who is working on her own tech project).
posted by suelac at 4:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Down in like Palo Alto and Mountain View it is difficult to avoid tech people and tech conversation. Less so in the city, though there's some neighborhoods that've filled up with people who seem like they belong in Palo Alto or Mountain View. In Oakland, left activism is the thing that feels ubiquitous god Oakland is the best, but we're always sort of thinking about the tech people because of the pressure they put on our rents and the ever-present sense everyone has that any second now our landlord is going to kick us out.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:23 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Okay, maybe it's just Dave Eggers.

But it's supposed to be well written?
posted by kenko at 4:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Nice touch that it's printed in an edition of 140.
posted by metaphorever at 5:05 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh wow. That was really, really good.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:31 PM on June 10, 2015


It's like the Uber of samizdat.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:37 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hope the aliens find this among the ruins of our civilization. It'll probably save them a lot of time.
posted by uosuaq at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's that typeface used in the subtitle and internal text?

Glypha, maybe?
posted by RogerB at 6:01 PM on June 10, 2015


It's like Uber, except for stories

No, wait.

It's like stories, except for the sharing economy no that's wrong too.

It's an app that

No, it's not an app.

Wait, how do I...

Where do I put money into this?
posted by clockzero at 6:06 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Cookiebastard: "It's like the Uber of samizdat."

Curb thy slanderous tongue, knave, lest I flense it from thee!

(Yeah, I think Uber are dicks. Got a problem with that?)
posted by Samizdata at 6:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


one change of clothes, a solar-powered laptop and satellite wi-fi hotspot that he seems to have built himself, an iPod shuffle with exactly one song (“Even Flow”), a photograph of Vannevar Bush

This is great.
posted by almostmanda at 8:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am puzzled by why people are so impressed by this. The writing is so-so--simply competent--and lacks verve. It's 2000 words. It seems that this is being treated as a fascinating mystery because in the intellectually enervated world of Silicon Valley it is unfathomable that someone might make something that is not intended to result in a big haul of cash? I mean, basically this is a zine, with wooden writing, some tweets harvested from luminaries, and cute hand lettering ... only really distinguished by its mysterious delivery.

I mean, the tweets are far more interesting than the 2000 word story. And the Pynchon comparisons are laughable.

I'm just struck by how the bar seems to be very low to stir up so much interest with such a slight work.
posted by jayder at 8:36 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


My money is on Alexis Madrigal, or his writer wife - the recipient initials suggestion at the end of the second article reads like transparent instruction.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You guys, isn't it obvious the internet has become self-aware, and this is an early attempt at target selection?
posted by Happy Dave at 10:40 PM on June 10, 2015


It's cute, smug, well-done, and slight. (See? Oxford comma. Not me.)

Perhaps it's the beginning of a body of work, a la Edinburgh Book Sculptures, but if this is it I'm happy to let it slide gently from my consciousness.
posted by Devonian at 5:29 AM on June 11, 2015


The writing is so-so--simply competent--and lacks verve.

There are a lot of little images and sentences (like the iPod shuffle that only has a single song by Pearl Jam) that are just pitch-perfect hilarious.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:42 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your favorite whimsical mystery sucks.
posted by gilrain at 5:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


It has a very Dave Eggers feel.
posted by domo at 6:01 AM on June 11, 2015


That bar code looks like ogham to me.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2015


I'd say someone has a book of short stories coming out and guessed that hand-illustrating one and making a mystery of the author would be a great viral marketing trick.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:16 AM on June 11, 2015


Text satirizes subculture. Reaction by said subculture to said text satirizing said subculture:
"They think Microsoft or Google or some startup is behind this whole production, and that the commercial purpose of this thing will soon be revealed to us"

Damn these peeps be insular y'all.

NervousVarun

I don't think that's true. It seems like the last decade has been full of seemingly whimsical, fun things that turn out to be marketing campaigns. I'm reminded of Horse_ebooks. It's not unreasonable to think this thing is some elaborate campaign or ARG or something.

In the future anything appearing even remotely interesting or creative will be a promotional item.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:56 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the future anything appearing even remotely interesting or creative will be a promotional item.

I think you are sadly onto something here. Or, rather, anything remotely interesting that actually gets attention will be a promotional item.

My initial reaction to this was a little off. I initially found it sad that people assumed this must be part of an attempt to make money ... because I am a big fan of zine culture which really is about love of making things and not about money.

And now I realize that what's sad is that, in Silicon Valley, it really is the case that a piece of whimsy like this must be an attempt to make money.

----------

I am waiting for the inevitable "aww shucks guys, I'm glad you like it!" announcement where the author reveals him-/herself, accompanied with details on what product you can purchase if you liked this zine.

----------

I am annoyed by the calculated nature of this -- the way it was hand-delivered to a bunch of Twitter addicts and tech insiders, and is sort of calculated to appeal to their most flattering self-perceptions (venture capital meets Po Bronson meets "Into the Wild" meets Zen koans meets Twitter meets Burning Man) -- and also by the way it is getting attention that, in my view, is way disproportionate to the quality of the work. It seems really aimed at the kind of chodes who work in Silicon Valley and rent luxury RVs to go to Burning Man and don't read much so they don't really realize that this isn't that great.
posted by jayder at 8:40 AM on June 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


jayder, i hope you're wrong. but fear you're not.

Hell to pay if it DOES turn out to be Madrigal...
posted by lodurr at 8:43 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is The Grotto? Is it just a bunch of people who get together to write, or like a writers workshop?
posted by gucci mane at 10:18 AM on June 11, 2015


Where is Carl Steadman these days? This has his fingerprints all over it.
posted by mikel at 10:42 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was all a lot more exciting/entertaining before I went and found the book in question. I was expecting a full book, rather than a little short story. It was OK.
posted by unknownmosquito at 5:41 PM on June 11, 2015


A mediocre work reported with breathless enthusiasm. All part of the startup culture satire.
posted by ckape at 5:45 PM on June 11, 2015


Lotta lotta lotta books out there. Gotta differentiate somehow. Marketing. Promotion. Books. More stuff.

I read it. To compare it (the writing) to Pynchon seems a bit much.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:55 PM on June 11, 2015


Three of my four guesses re: authorship: Amelia Greenhall (cofounded Model View Culture and loves making physical print books and likes to write tech satire), Liz Henry (makes zines and jokes, groks SF tech culture, runs a small press), and Hugh MacLeod/Gapingvoid (cynical sense of humor, drawing style reminds me of him).

My fourth guess is that whoever was behind @RealAvocadoFact, which as of its second anniversary has just gone dormant, also made Iterating Grace.
posted by brainwane at 3:48 AM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't get hung up on whether it's mediocre or great. As a rule I don't believe these things can be assessed. There's only what it means to you.

That having been said, this does seem to come from a subculture which is obsessed with the idea that there are de facto measures of greatness that can essentially be quantified in terms of your social graph. That's what the whole article is about, and to a great extent what the story is about: Who are you connected to, in this precious subculture which is obviously the most important subculture that there is?
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


(and that having been said, carl steadman is probably a reasonably good guess.)
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2015


the jig is up
-robocop is bleeding


Frog Fractions 2?
posted by Snjo at 6:30 AM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


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