This essay discusses “Forms of Life” in two senses: first, infrastructure as a social process that fosters particular forms of collective life and second, the agency/vitality imputed to infrastructure. The essay considers an unremarked ambivalence in energy humanities about infrastructure: the extant infrastructure of fossil fuels poses an obstacle to energy transition, while the act of making infrastructure visible and “following the pipeline” is regarded by incisive petrocritics as necessary but insufficient. What do cooling towers, electric pylons, or railways make happen (or keep from happening), socially and narratively, when they “work” or when they're hacked? In other words, is there a narrative grammar of infrastructure? How much has to happen for nothing to happen? And how do cultural texts differ from built environments in thinking infrastructure as a form of life? China Miéville's story “Covehithe” mobilizes the literary imagination to depict sunken oil platforms as revenant and reproductive organisms that pose new questions about relationships among humans, nature, and technology, and about the care, responsibility, and politics such forms of life demand. This weird tale doubles as documentation of dead infrastructure: its platform characters are actual rigs that litter sea beds around the world. What imaginative or conceptual forms, then, can help us grasp infrastructure's forms of life? This question is particularly urgent with regard to fossil infrastructure, which here names not only infrastructure that processes, circulates, or depends on fossil fuels but also infrastructure that is archaic, obsolete, and otherwise tethered to the past, standing as an obstacle to transition.

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