Mark Dery  

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"I'm as weary of the politicization of aesthetics as I'm wary of the aestheticization of politics. The Walter Benjamin in me is trying to make peace with my inner Georges Bataille. ... Aesthetically, however, I'm interested in the unlit, unfrequented corners of society, the nethermost regions of the self: freaks, forensic pathology, true crime, conspiracy theory, cannibalism, madness, medical museums, Art Brut, weird science, sexual deviance, soft tissue modification (by tribal peoples and postmodern primitives), creature features, alien abductions, insects, Situationism, Surrealism, science fiction, the gothic, the grotesque, the carnivalesque -- in short, extremes and excess of every sort. I want to induce, in my reader, the vertigo that comes from leaning too far over the edge of the cultural abyss." -- Mark Dery [1], 1999

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Mark Dery (born December 24, 1959) is an American author, lecturer and cultural critic. He writes about "media, the visual landscape, fringe trends, and unpopular culture." From 2001 to 2009, he taught media criticism, literary journalism, and the essay in the Department of Journalism at New York University. In January 2000, he was appointed Chancellor's Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. In summer 2009, he was awarded a scholar-in-residence position at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

Early life and education

Dery was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned a B.A. from Occidental College in 1982.


He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, Lingua Franca, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Spin, Wired,, "", and Cabinet, among other publications. He has been a featured guestblogger on the pop-tech website Boing Boing. Much of his work has dealt with cyberculture and the cultural effects of the Digital Age.

Dery’s books include The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, which has been translated into eight languages. He edited the anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture and wrote the monograph Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. His essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays on American Dread, American Dreams was published in Brazil, in Portuguese, in 2011 and in the United States, by the University of Minnesota Press, in 2012.

An early writer on technoculture, Dery helped inaugurate cyberstudies as a field of serious inquiry with the anthology "Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture" (1994), which he edited. Flame Wars kick-started the academic interest in cyberfeminism and Afrofuturism, a term Dery coined in his 1993 essay "Black to the Future" (included in Flame Wars) and a key theoretical concept driving the now-established study of black technoculture. In it, he interviews three African-American thinkers—science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, writer and musician Greg Tate, and cultural critic Tricia Rose—about different critical dimensions of Afrofuturism in an attempt to define the aesthetic. The essay is in part based on Henry Louis Gates's assertion that "[t]he Afro-American tradition has been figurative from its beginnings. How could it have survived otherwise?"

Dery's essay "Deconstructing Psycho Killer Clowns" is his close reading of the Evil Clown Meme.


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