People have been talking about Max Read’s look at the internet turning us into medieval peasants, and at least among people I read everyone from Delia Cal to Drew Austin seemingly has been quoting or referencing the same passage.

In my own daily life, I already engage constantly with magical forces both sinister and benevolent. I scry through crystal my enemies’ movements from afar. (That is, I hate-follow people on Instagram.) I read stories about cursed symbols so powerful they render incommunicative anyone who gazes upon them. (That is, Unicode glyphs that crash your iPhone.) I refuse to write the names of mythical foes for fear of bidding them to my presence, the way proto-Germanic tribespeople used the euphemistic term brown for “bear” to avoid summoning one. (That is, I intentionally obfuscate words like Gamergate when writing them on Twitter.) I perform superstitious rituals to win the approval of demons. (That is, well, daemons, the autonomous background programs on which modern computing is built.)

Earlier in the piece Read says that lately he’s “reminded less often of Gibson’s cyberpunk future than of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical past, less of technology and cybernetics than of magic and apocalypse”, and I’m compelled to point something out.

Gibson himself in his seminal Neuromancer trilogy didn’t evoke just “ultramodern, hyper-capitalist visions” but specifically utilized (appropriated?) the imagery of the loa and overtly compared these ghosts in the machine and our technological invocations to “magic and apocalypse”.

I haven’t really read other works from other authors out of that same early-Gibson era, but my recollection from just generally being around at the time, Read’s suggestion notwithstanding, is that the cybernetics of it almost always was looked at as a kind of magic.

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