Zero HP Lovecraft’s “Key Performance Indicators”Anthony Bavaria
Though he has a dedicated fan base from Twitter, Zero HP Lovecraft’s (ZHPL) long-form writing allows us to experience his words beyond a mere 280 characters. This is not to suggest that the extreme short form doesn’t have its merits, but for those who need more, ZHPL’s stories have a profound delivery. In particular, “Key Performance Indicators” is a head-spiraling peek into our future if current trends are taken to their logical conclusion. The story has nothing to do with White Nationalism or other commonly-discussed topics at Counter-Currents, but it sticks a finger in the eye of the very same regime and all of its associated beliefs that make war on the Dissident Right writ large.
ZHPL is a modern horror writer in the vein of — to no surprise – H. P. Lovecraft, and KPI appears to be a near-future Western example of China’s social credit system, which has occasionally been a topic in mainstream geopolitical discourse. A little more than satire, KPI is a benchmark in the dissident literature scene and will hopefully serve as a catalyst for the continued expansion of the authentic, outside-the-Overton window artwork movement that is currently underway. It’s worth noting that not everyone admires this type of writing. Some see it as satire on low-hanging fruit, others might view it as unproductive; but as all good fiction does, it evokes a response.
The story’s protagonist is an unnamed young man equipped with Neuralink. Every aspect of his life is quantified and projected on a Heads-Up Display (HUD). An Artificial Intelligence persona, Ashonda, reminds him of various metrics throughout the day, ranging from “impulse control ratings” for waking up on time, “social justice points” for buying fair-trade toothpaste, “social responsibility ratings” for adhering to the right causes, a percentile ranking for how much prescribed news is read, a progress bar for daily tasks, and “honesty scores,” as well as various additional programs that mimic the taste of food, cause pain when deviating from work, and simulate normal human emotions.
During the main character’s quest to supply drugs to a work associate, Qiyara, he delves into the morality of Neuralink and how it is making himself, as well as society, better. Another way this is accomplished is through mandated “personal growth team” sessions, where co-workers sit around and tell each other why they’re feeling bad and what social action they can take to combat a variety of issues, including advocating for black women, Human-Animal Love (HAL) rights, gender-affirming hormone therapy for children, and Neuralink-aided attraction for obese women.
Regardless of their ideological slants, there has been a substantial drift toward dystopian storytelling in text and on screen over the past 30 years. Some well-known examples are Neil Blomkamp’s socialist agit-prop film Elysium, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, Nick Land’s theory fiction Meltdown, and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest; of which the author has much to say. To summarize, he sees Infinite Jest as a “get over yourself” message; a notion which ZHPL seems to have grasped, conveyed by his willingness to remain anonymous and a lot of his writing and thoughts’ generally accessibility. If “Key Performance Indicators” (KPI) is also dystopian, then it’s one of the genre’s more accurate examples.
Online interviews via voice or text indicate that ZHPL might be a cyborg: half man, half machine. His knowledge of literature, ideology, and dissident thought in general is apparent. Not too long ago, a writer in this style would have been tapped to pen the next Blade Runner or Dune and have millions of dollars thrown at him. Unfortunately, crushing modern orthodoxy treats honest writing like a medieval leper. However, it’s all a moot point; in an interview with @FlightAstral, he says the following about mainstream publication:
I do not believe it is possible for Western institutions of publishing — that is, any commercial publishing house — to publish anything good at this time. A few legacy authors of the past generations are still shackled to these decrepit leviathans, but everything exciting, interesting, and true, is happening outside of that. Even previously good authors now season their writings with mental AIDS, whether from implicit or explicit pressure, I’m not sure. It’s a Havel’s greengrocer kind of situation in most cases, probably. I am interested in fiction that tells the truth, and I would rather write nothing at all than collaborate with these lords of lies.
KPI is broadly about the infusion of technology with the human mind. Showing how current neoliberal norms can be baked into AI, this story sheds light on the obvious side-effects technology has on the human soul. Although a lengthy probe into the works of Rousseau and the idea of noble savages can be undertaken, for the purposes of this review it is better to merely cite the words of ZHPL himself; delving into the specifics of the woes of unchecked advancement, he states,
Technology hurts us in a lot of ways, because it lures us into Goodhart’s law hazards (any proxy of success ceases to be proxy of success when you optimize for it directly) and it produces unfathomable excesses of time and energy, which we then use in human, all too human ways. Technology does good things for us: it feeds us, it cures (some of) our diseases, it allows us to master harsh terrains, and it allows us to out-communicate and out-coordinate our enemies. But these things come at a terrible cost. As our power increases, our power to destroy ourselves also increases, and it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and how. I don’t mean “destroy ourselves” on a grand, nuclear apocalypse scale, I don’t mean on a climate change scale (and climate change, though real, is exaggerated histrionic propaganda designed to control you.) What I mean is that technology equips each man, individually, with many novel ways to destroy himself. There are also many ancient ways to destroy yourself, but modern man is also the product of an evolutionary history that optimized him to evade those ancient methods of self-destruction. We have no such adaptations to protect us from novelty.
Pending KPI’s accuracy, it has the potential to be listed among the greats of dystopian fiction. If the story’s premonitions come to fruition, it will be lost to time; if and when the current order dissolves, it has a chance to survive. There are countless examples of dissident thinkers and writers in our past whose work underwent neglect or even attempted eradication. Some are lost to time, while others persisted. ZHPL’s namesake, H. P. Lovecraft, is one such example. Dying alone and destitute, it took decades for his work to finally be appreciated. It should not be lost on the reader of this review that Lovecraft’s ideological standpoints broadly align with those of the current Dissident Right and Counter-Currents.
As mentioned above, there is a growing camp of writers and artists who are doing great non-conformist work. As ZHPL stated, this is occurring completely outside the purview of legacy publishers, in the world of fine art, galleries, and dealers. If politics really is downstream from culture, then this burgeoning movement will hopefully serve as the catalyst to something new and, at minimum, authentic.
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Interesting, but this just shows what a hypocrite Zero HP Lovecraft is, or has become. This story is a dystopia satiring progressive trends. Fair enough. But recently, there was a Passage Prize contest for right-leaning artists. Zero HP was the judge. On Twitter, he frequently posted his thoughts on the submissions. One consistent theme of his postings was he would attack dystopian stories satiring progressives. He even had a nickname for this kind of story “Pod stories.” It seems only Zero is allowed to write this kind of story! 😆
“Not too long ago, a writer in this style would have been tapped to pen the next Blade Runner or Dune and have millions of dollars thrown at him.”
Zero HP DOES make millions of dollars, though. Surely, you are aware that his book They Had No Deepness of Earth made half a million dollars within its first day when it became available to buy as an NFT late last year. Of course, he charged a super high amount for each book – of which there are only 250 available.
The main point of that line was to stress the fact that original talent (however you’d like to define that) used to sought out by legacy media outlets (film studios, publishers, etc.); getting rich off writing wasn’t my focus. That being said, if someone can make that kind of money outside the purview of established channels, more power to them in my opinion.
And obviously no one should have exclusive rights to any genre of writing. I did not see the running commentary on the “pod stories” thing you mentioned.
I wonder how real these purchases are. Easy to buy expensive NFTs from a proxies in order to build brand esteem. Maybe you pay a 1% transaction fee.
I’ll be honest, though I’m too young to be a dinosaur, the NFT thing has blown right past me for the most part.
Hello Mr. Anthony Bavaria. Thank you for writing this quality article from an interesting and thoughtful perspective. Sorry for sounding digressed or unduly persistent, but on your previous remarkable article on Dr. Seuss that was both informative and insightful and has drawn many comments from Counter Currents readers, in its comment section, you responded to a comment of mine in which you expressed your interest and further curiosity in the dynamism of China’s two warring camps i.e. the nationalist force and the communist force before 1949, especially on their different roles during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945.
After seeing your short message, I mustered some painstaking effort to give you a long and comprehensive reply elaborating on the said topic and other relevant factors which I humbly believe have presented a pretty complete picture of the matter and would satisfy your pronounced curiosity in the field by providing a large amount of helpful and exciting historical knowledge. I believe you could have at least briefly responded to my long and exhaustive message and acknowledged my sincere and earnest effort, even just for the sake of politeness if nothing more. I have since been anxiously waiting for your feedback for about two weeks until finally I gave up the futile waiting in deep disappointment as you have never written back again. Of course there is no point blaming you for I understand you must have got a busy schedule and you had no obligation to write back. I just wish you could know this whole fact and want to kindly call your attention to the existence of my long message in response to your inquiries. Thank you.
Sorry I missed it… I’ll take a look this week and get back to you.
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