March 17, 2013

Shannon Larratt, 1973-2013

Shannon Larratt died this past Friday of a rare genetic myopathy. You've probably never heard of Shannon, but he was a big deal in the radical body modification community — a community that is absolutely reeling right now. He was their advocate, role model, and hero.

I first met Shannon at TransVision 2004, a futurist conference I organized in Toronto. Shannon showed up, along with an entourage of fellow body modders, to hear what we all had to say about transhumanism and the future of radical body modification. A fan of science and science fiction, he was curious to hear about the potential for cybernetics, genetics and other biotechnologies as they pertained to altering human function and form. It also didn't hurt that Australian performance artist Stelarc was also at the conference, another hero of the body modders on account of his cyborg sensibilities and suspension performances. You can watch Shannon's interview of Stelarc here. His write-up of the TransVision conference is here.

He was the founder and former editor and publisher of BMEzine (in 1994), the oldest and largest body modification website on the Internet. He also wrote the book, ModCon: The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification. He was also an outspoken critic of censorship, and, in the late stages of his life, an advocate for right-to-die legislation.

Shannon, who was born in Victoria, British Columbia, will be remembered for his ceaseless advocacy of body modification and the right to alter our own bodies in any way we see fit -- even if it might seem extreme, dangerous, or offensive to some.

I interviewed Shannon for an io9 article several months ago called "What Does The Future Have In Store For Radical Body Modification." He was frustrated that I had to cut and trim the article (he wrote a very lengthy and detailed response). So, he decided to publish his entire response at his blog, and I suggest you check it out.

You can read Shannon's final words here. An excerpt:
Thank you to everyone who made my life wonderful. I love you all. I wish there had been more of it, and I wish I had more to give. I’m sorry there is so much unfinished, so much left to do, but I am glad to know many wonderful people who will complete it. Last minute reflections and bits of advice… seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be proud of. And of course love and treat each other well.

As much as these last years have been the most difficult I can imagine, and there are still many deeds to be done, please know that I have had a wonderful adventure and enjoyed it immensely on the whole.

Live Long and Prosper!

Love always,

Shannon Larratt

This is a pic of me and Shannon back in 2004:

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