Sci-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Dominated by Horny Bro Wizards
In a genre where supposedly Anything Goes, where the boundaries of narrative and potential reality are not only immaterial, but also intended to be shattered with pure acts of what-the-fuck, I’ve always been baffled by how 90 percent of science fiction works seem exactly the same—a glorified romance novel, unnecessarily set in a world where, like, computers can erase minds.
A LIST OF THINGS I NEVER UNDERSTOOD OR LIKED ABOUT SCIENCE FICTION
Why so much goddamn talking? The Earth is being pressed upon by black magnets piloted by a race of people made of lasers from the eyes of God, and here’s a four-page scene featuring two dudes having a conversation about who stole who’s Space Lamborghini. Dialogue is fucking stupid 90 percent of the time in the first place, but when written by someone with Asperger’s it becomes instant skimming material. Please stop.
Having a Premise
The worst thing about most science fiction is how the author gets an idea they like, and then that’s the book. Like, there’s an underwater city ruled by a blue cube that holds its citizens in eternal fear threatening to explode the glass walls that contain them if they don’t work tirelessly on building a machine gun powerful enough to kill the moon, but then people just run around trying to figure out a way to stop the cube’s cruel reign, and nothing interesting happens besides the idea on the back of the book. Call me a dick, but I don’t want one fun idea, I want 500.
Generally Shitty Writing
I imagine the thinking behind a lot of science fiction is that the ideas and conceits are so fantastic that it doesn’t matter how plain the writing is. I guess the crudity is supposed to be part of the appeal, but sometimes it’s nice to not feel like I could read one out of every 18 sentences and still get the same feel out of the book. Why can’t the language be as weird as the ideas?
Anonymous Failed to Bring Down the British Government with Fireworks
Last night was fireworks night, which meant that members of Anonymous descended upon London once again to take part in their global Million Mask March. The event invited everyone to a “tea party,” the purpose of which was “to remind this world what it has forgotten, that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than just words.” Other Anonymous bugbears included the mainstreammediablackout and the whitewashing of world issues—legitimate, if fairly nebulous, concerns.
I didn’t know of any other tea parties where everyone wears masks and remains nameless, unless it’s the kind where you end up covered in a bunch of semen, so I decided to go and check it out.
According to the plan, Trafalgar Square was the launchpad for a march bound for Westminster, where everyone would shout at Parliament. Rather than going home when they got cold, the idea was that everyone would stay for an entire day. At least, that seemed to be the idea from the Facebook call out, which said, “NOTE: This will be a 24 hour event, please be prepared to peacefully assemble for up to 24hrs.” (Spoiler: This didn’t happen.)
Amid the throng, I was a little disappointed when I asked Jerry here what he hoped the march would achieve. “Nothing,” he replied. “It needs a lot more people. That’s why I go around with the billboard. Most people don’t understand what’s going on in the world.” His friend Mindy butted in. “We want to make a loud noise,” she said. “We want change—genuine change!”
Already it seemed clear that the marchers were operating at cross-purposes.
When nerds aren’t fighting each other on the battle lines for the glory of being the “ultimate fan,” they relax within safe havens like the “Harry Potter Store,” in Los Angeles, CA. Whimsic Alley, as it’s officially called, has been haunting the streets of Wilshire Blvd for longer than you’re guessing. Hidden between a sports/karaoke bar and a deserted Blockbuster Video, it’s just like the real Wizarding World, if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a codename for the Great Recession.
Despite it being years since the last book hit shelves, or the last movie hit theaters, its frequently unshowered followers still pack the halls. Just recently they showed off their yarn-soft sides in the Etsy-be-damned Harry Potter Store Craft Faire.
For a brief period of time I sold wands at this store. I was in between adult jobs and thought I’d add a dose of whimsy to my life. The turnover rate for employees has been so high however, that I walked in undetected by any of the wand-wielding staff, a truth I found equal-parts relieving and disappointing.
When I first heard about this thing called “Comic-Con” many years ago, I was told that it wasn’t just a great place to get back issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. It was also a nexus for the entire sci-fi/fantasy nerd culture. San Diego was one of the few places where a nerd could comfortably walk around town dressed like Mr. Spock without someone asking you where your spaceship was parked. Fuck those people, because you don’t park spaceships. Everyone knows that! Duh.
You can still dress up, but Comic-Con isn’t as much about that misfit community as much as it’s a five-day costumed orgy, sort of like Eyes Wide Shut, but with everyone dressed like Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, or the legendary character, Mexican Goth Batman.
People are constantly feeding me drinks, trying to get me to take mystery pills, and pitching me their screenplay ideas. It’s like Los Angeles got in the car with me and came to San Diego. Unfortunately, Los Angeles never pays for gas and is always making me pull over for snacks like I’m made of money or something.
Comic-Con parties have hot go-go dancers, open bars, and the faint, pungent scent of sexual despertation; an odor I know too well. Actually, the name of the cologne I was wearing last night is “Sexual Desperation.” It’s a combination of fish oil and vanilla extract, which is just the kind of signature scent I’m looking for.
About a year ago I wrote a thing about how Johnny Depp just might be the lamest guy on Earth.
For some reason, a lot of people remember that post, and it’s frequently brought up to me by fucking geniuses who say things like “Uhhhh, so you think Johnny Depp is the lamest guy on Earth? What about Kim Jong-un? What about the Dark Knight shooter?”
OBVIOUSLY, I did not mean Johnny Depp is LITERALLY the worst person on Earth. Just because he wears dumb hats and is in shitty movies and is, generally, just an all-around unbearably smug turd, I know that doesn’t mean he is worse than a dictator or mass murderer. I am not retarded. CLEARLY, if we’re looking at and considering every single person in the entire world and being completely and totally literal, Steven Seagal comes out the worst.
Here are the most terrible things I can think of about him.
HE MAKES INSANE MUSIC
I often worry, when I embed videos on this site, that people reading it might not watch them because they’re at work or deaf or whatever, so just in case: this video is a dancehall song that Steven Seagal made, and it contains the following lyrics:
"Me want tha poonani"
"Nice itel breeze, we jammin’"
"That would be phat"
Also, his last album was called “Songs From the Crystal Cave,” which sounds like something they would play in Urban Outfitters.
HE’S A COMPULSIVE LIAR
Over the years, Steven has claimed that he:
- Helped train CIA operatives and did “special favors” for them (his ex wife says, “Not at all. He was never in the CIA.”)
- Is called in to help authenticate antique swords by auction houses as he is one of the world’s “foremost experts on swords” (again, lol)
- Was a student of the founder of Akido, Morihei Ueshiba (who died in 1968, meaning Steven would have had to have been a teenager living alone in Japan for that to have happened)
- Speaks four languages fluently (I’m unable to find any evidence of him speaking anything other than English made entirely of lies)
HE POOPED HIMSELF
In a 2002 profile in Vanity Fair, martial artist Gene LeBell claimed he choked out Steven during an Aikido exhibition, causing Seagal to poop in his pants. Steven denies it ever happened. But he also said he was a multilingual, Yakuza fighting, CIA assassin. So, ya know…
THESE ARE THINGS HE’S ACTUALLY SAID
- “I’m a very funny guy, if you’ll forgive me for saying so. When I did The Glimmer Man with Keenan Ivory Wayans, he and I were talking about who was funniest, and… I kicked his ass every day.” (source)
- “I was born very different, clairvoyant and a healer.” (source)
A while ago, I wrote a thing about how I don’t “get” art. In the piece, I dared to suggest that maybe it was silly that a neon sign that says “my cunt is wet with fear” is worth $100,000. It got read by a lot of people, many of whom disagreed with me and got very very angry. After reading people’s feedback, I thought maybe I had been a little harsh, and decided to give art ONE MORE CHANCE.
So I headed to Art Basel in Miami. In case you don’t keep up with #art, Art Basel is the world’s largest art fair. A bunch of galleries from all around the world gather in a big exhibition center in Miami and show off their bestest bits of art (pictured above), and have some parties and stuff.
First thing I noticed while walking around the main exhibition was the INSANE amount of canvases-painted-one-color that were on display.
I mean, I get it. It’s “making us question what art REALLY is” or some shit. Which I guess would have beenkinda interesting the first time someone did it 100 years ago. But do we really need to keep doing it? It’s been pretty well established what art is by now.
What I don’t get, is who the fuck is buying this stuff? Is this really worth $20,000? I know that nothing is worth what you pay for it, that’s just how the world works. Like, the computer I’m typing this on probably cost the manufacturer about 1/50th of what I paid for it. But come the fuck on, man. A black square? That costs as much as an entire third-world school?
I know the term “laughing all the way to the bank” is overused, but I find it hard you wouldn’t at least chuckle while driving to Chase if you were the guy who just made a year’s rent by painting a $30 canvas black.
And how does an artist even decide this is what they’re gonna do with their life? It’s like when people become an acoustic singer/songwriter. There is not one single thing that you can add to to that world, so why bother?
I guess it’s probably “Blair Witch syndrome”—where someone sees another person making a ton of money doing something that they themselves could have done and it makes them temporarily lose their mind.
Maybe that’s just what the entire art world is. Like how the tech world is made up almost completely of people who wish they could have been Mark Zuckerberg, the art world is people who are bummed they didn’t think of someone else’s obvious idea first.
Like how Tracey Emin made a bunch of money writing completely assinine statements in neon lighting, and now there’s an entire artistic movement of it. Like what you see above. Which are just four examples of about 1000000 I saw at Basel of people taking nominally profound statements and then turning them into art 3D objects to be sold for more than I make in a year.
Weirdly, Pharrell is taken seriously by people in Miami. I saw him at a bunch of shows, and he wasn’t laughed out of the building a single time. He even did a talk about design which, unfortunately, I missed, as I’m sure it would have been fucking GOLD. Apparently Kanye showed up and they had a debate about modern aesthetics, hahahahaha. This is the same guy who once asked everyone to start calling him “Skateboard P,” right? The one who was “rhymin’ on the top of a cop car”? I didn’t imagine that? And people are paying to hear him give his opinions on design now? Got it.
BARBARIAN, VOID OF REFINEMENT: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF GOTH
1) A: of music, in a style of guitar-based rock with some similarities to heavy metal and punk and usually characterized by depressing or mournful lyrics.
B: in fashion, characterized by black clothes and heavy make-up, often creating a ghostly appearance.
2) A barbarian, void of refinement.
What the fuck is Goth? Are we talking Bauhaus or Marilyn Manson? Siouxsie and the Banshees? The kids who buy their Jack Skellington socks at Hot Topic? As Supreme Court Justice Stewart said when asked on what would constitute ‘hardcore pornography,’ “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand … But I know it when I see it.” That’s basically where Goth Rock fits; difficult to explain, but there’s no denying it when it’s in front of your face. For me it’s a genre of music that gets lost in the shuffle, often confused with the slow drone of post-punk, or the horror-movie themes of ‘Death Rock.’ But to sit and listen to ‘Goth Rock,’ there’s no denying it deserves a bit of the spotlight. And if any time of year is the right time of year, it’s now, on Halloween.
The origins are murky. Legendary music critic John Stickney coined the term ‘Gothic Rock’ in 1967 when describing a meeting he had with Jim Morrison in a dimly lit wine-cellar as “the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors.” Make no mistake; the Doors were not a quintessential ‘Goth’ band, but much of Morrison’s poetic romanticism endured. Born from the political frustration of punk rock and the drug-fueled weirdness of post-punk, ‘Goth Rock’ is a jambalaya of minimalistic music, sparse arrangements, bass-driven sexiness, soaring keyboards, and pounding, droning drums. The vocals drive the song with dark lyrics, spinning tails of unrequited love, death, isolation, and loneliness. Though popular in America, the genre was firmly British, invoking images often associated with English poetry and literature; dark fields, fogged city streets, abandoned cemeteries.
‘Goth Rock’ makes no excuses and proudly carries the banner of its predecessors; combining the sexiness of Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop, the vocal delivery of Leonard Cohen, the drone-rock of the Velvet Underground, the eclectic movements of David Bowie, and the theatrics of Marc Bolan from T. Rex. Taking these elements then fusing them together with modern technology, ‘Goth’ has championed the use of modern effects in songwriting, incorporating digital synthesizers, keyboards, drums, and programming.
"What I realized during our brief encounter was that pick up artists ask you shitloads of questions purely because they know that if they stop talking you might mistake them for an ugly coat rack. Here’s a tip for everyone everywhere: forcing people to have stilted and awkward conversations with you is annoying, not sexy.
The Power Big Meet is the biggest American car show in the world—and it takes place in Västerås, a small town in central Sweden. This year, 17,000 car owners from all over the world gathered at the three-day event in early July to do what car enthusiasts love to do—stand around, look at each others’ cars, rev their engines, and just generally shoot the shit.
The event comes out of Sweden’s “raggar” subculture, which emerged in 1950s and was inspired by American greasers. Raggare are mostly from small towns and are known for their love of rockabilly music, leather vests, pomade, and, of course, cars—the raggare’s mode of transport, sleeping place, chick magnet, and party venue.
Thanks to the raggar culture, Sweden is a hub for restored 1950s American cars. By some accounts there are now more of them in Sweden than in the entire US. At Power Big Meet you’ll find Street Rods, Customs, 50s cruisers, 60s muscle cars, Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros—you name it. I went there to photograph the raggare and see what they had to say for themselves.
The American flag and 50s pop culture symbols are everywhere at the Power Big Meet. Rockabilly music blares out from car speakers. Hamburgers and hotdogs are dished out at makeshift stands. It’s about the only place in the world where fuzzy dice are still cool.
I’m not sure that parrots are part of the raggar culture, but this guy had one anyway.
Bertil Johansson, 67, makes 50s-inspired birdhouses. The car-shaped ones were snapped up on the first day of Power Big Meet, but on the third and final day, Bertil still had these Elvis-themed ones left. They’re 800 Swedish kronor (or $115), if you’re curious. “I’ve been interested in cars since I was born,” said Bertil. “But today all the cars look the same. They’re all plastic and awful. And you have to take your car to the shop for every little thing. You can’t even change the sparkplug on your own these days.”
Sebastian Stridh, 24, comes from Årjäng in Värmland County, Sweden. Årjäng has a population of nearly 10,000 people. His dad is a raggare too, but he was too old to make the trip. For Sebastian and his friends the car is a symbol of freedom. “The car is central. It’s very important when you’re young and living in such a small place as Årjäng. It gives you a feeling that you can get out. Me and my friends ride around and drink in our cars.”
Last weekend, I went to the 12th annual “Bats Day in the Fun Park.” Though you would never guess it from the name, it’s a day where hundreds of goths head to Disneyland California for a day of image-subverting fun. (Seriously, who the fuck decided to call it that? What does that mean?)
The main event of the day is a group photo taken outside Cinderella’s castle. This is everyone hustling into position for it. The guy in the purple didn’t look like he was giving up his spot for anybody.
And this is the photo being taken. Say an edgy alternative to “cheeeeese!”—like “bloooooody!”, or maybe “I always identified with Ursula more than Arieeeeeel!”
I couldn’t get far back enough to get a shot of everyone, but this should give you an idea of how many people were there. I’d estimate the number of goths present to be: a shitload.
These aren’t sold on-site, you have to order them online, so here’s a thing I’ve learned: Goths are very organized.
This girl can have no idea what is going on. Do you think she looks at Donald and Micky and thinks they’ve just dressed up for Disneyland as well?