Jeremy P Bushnell Interview

Jeremy Bushnell's The Room of Zip Code was featured in Reality Hands 9. They talk about it and SF as a genre and other inspiration. You should follow them on twitter and their website and buy their books: The Weirdness and coming-soon The Insides

RH: I saw on Twitter that you described your piece titled The Room of Zip Code as 'ambient SF'. Why did you give that label to the work?

JB: Like many readers, I love science fiction for the strangeness of its ideas and the vividness of its imagery. With my project The 144 Rooms, of which "The Room of Zip Code" is a part, I began to wonder if a piece of writing could run on the energy produced by those ideas and that imagery alone. If so, it seemed to me that you could jettison most of the narrative claptrap that typically serves as genre fiction's motivating apparatus. So I tried. The work produced as a result of this experiment seemed, to me, to have the same relationship to traditional SF that ambient music has to traditional music: it evokes it, it references it, but only by way of atomizing it, reducing it to a tint, an atmosphere of textures, disembodied gestures, free-floating tropes, rogue signifiers.

RH: How would you describe The 144 Rooms project? The Zip Code is a description of a room nested in a larger structure?

JB: I see the 144 Rooms as being some kind of megastructure, yes, within which "The Room of Zip Code" exists, though whether the "rooms" are in fact Rooms as We Traditionally Understand Them... perhaps the best answer is to say "sometimes." At times they might gel into spaces with entrances and exits, with dimensionality, but at other times they are more akin to a bounded sequence of activity, or a unstable fictive reality, or an array of faceted light... and then the megastructure changes accordingly, mutating into whatever it would mean to have 144 of those things hanging together in interrelationship.

RH: What was your approach to structuring The Room of Zip Code?

JB: The pieces in The 144 Rooms can be appreciated as dense clouds of non-narrative language, but most of them--"The Room of Zip Code" included--do have at least a remnant of "plot" somewhere in them, providing structure, albeit a structure that is smudged out, half-erased, only dimly visible through the haze. "The Room of Zip Code" is structured as a caper, and I think of it as having a beginning, middle, and end, though I believe that you could completely overlook this and still enjoy the piece. Any ambient piece that's earned the label should have elements that are wholly ignorable. 

RH: How does your text reflect or reference the world outside the text?

JB: I think SF is a deeply referential genre in general--in Starboard Wine Sam Delany argues that we can only understand how the worlds of science fiction work by way of contrasting them against the real world that we inhabit.  The pieces in this project take that to an extreme, making a sort of mania of reference, and they gain part of their energy by crashing references drawn from SF or comics against references from other fields of knowledge--looking over "Zip Code" shows references to Jewish mysticism and critical theory, all in an attempt to make a sort of thicker, richer fog.

RH: What effect do you want the text to have on the reader?

JB: In one of his essays, Rudy Rucker talks about cyberpunk SF, and the way it invigorates the reader by providing a wealth of "little touches." He relates this to the overcrammed visual style of MAD Magazine and the underground comix of the 1960s--he refers to them as being dense with what he calls "eyeball kicks." Touches, kicks: these are really ways of talking about a kind of nearly tactile aesthetic pleasure, which is ultimately what I'd hope readers get out of my piece.