Fiction: “The Making of Incarnation” by Tom McCarthy


In his 2012 manifesto “Transmission and the Individual Remix”, modestly captioned “How Literature Works,” Tom McCarthy laid out his idea that writers have functioned like computers since before computers existed, not creating so much. than to broadcast “a set of signals” which are continually rearranged and repeated in a vast linguistic feedback loop. His new novel, “The Making of Incarnation”, extends this concept beyond art to encompass all aspects of experience, which “constitute an integrated circuit, in which the servo-mechanism is not only the mode of humanity, but also its measure. And not only of humanity: the elevators, the engines of steamboats, the amalgams of jellyfish, all the architecture of abstract systems such as the economy or the law, these too were born and structured by (and therefore readable in) the womb-womb of cybernetics.For the engineers of the novel, as for Mr. McCarthy, the technological singularity to come is not a nightmare but an outcome.

The field through which “The Making of Incarnation” explores the connectedness of all phenomena is kinesis, or the study of bodies in motion. The novel takes place behind the scenes at tech company Pantarey Motion Systems, which generates advanced data on all kinds of movement, which Hollywood interests hires, which hires its employees to consult with them on the special effects of a space opera called ” Incarnation”. as well as an infamous businessman looking for copyright grounds on human gestures. These concerns are cryptically tied to the novel’s main quest for the lost search for a Lillian Gilbreth, a real-life figure who, as a pioneer of movement efficiency, sought to optimize human movement from the same way assembly lines streamlined factory work. McCarthy re-imagines her as a data analytics prophet whose findings may hold the key to any understanding.

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