Future Life magazine

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One thing I never expected about the future was that so many of my youthful enthusiasms would keep rising from the past, but here’s another, stumbling into the room reeking of cemetery earth and old newsprint. Future Life was a spinoff from Starlog magazine, and where the parent title concerned itself with science fiction and fantasy in film and television, the focus of Future Life was technology, popular science, scientific speculation, and written science fiction (all from an American perspective, of course); film and TV productions were there to attract general readers but never dominated the proceedings. Future Life ran for 31 issues from 1978 to 1981, and in many ways the magazine was a kind of OMNI-lite: not as lavish as its rival but not as expensive either. For a while this was a magazine I always looked out for (together with Heavy Metal, with whom it shared a music writer, Lou Stathis) but I missed the first nine issues, and many of the later ones before it vanished altogether, so it’s gratifying to find the complete run available as a job lot at the Internet Archive.

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It’s become commonplace today to regard Generation X as the first generation with no optimistic future to look forward to, but Future Life shows how much optimism there was at the beginning of the 1980s. The mood darkened just as the magazine expired, with genuine fears of a nuclear war persisting through much of the decade, and the Challenger disaster reminding everyone that leaving the planet was still a hazardous business. Future Life wasn’t blind to the problems posed by technology—there were features about the dangers posed by nuclear power and climate change—but it remained upbeat about the potentials, especially where space colonies were concerned. Most issues carried an art feature although these were generally about realistic space artists or spaceship painters, with none of the eye-popping weirdness favoured by OMNI. But this magazine was my first introduction to the work of Syd Mead, a few years before Blade Runner made him deservedly famous. On the writing side, many of the articles were by popular science fiction writers—Roger Zelazny on computer crime, Norman Spinrad on a pet theme, the future of drug-taking—which you can now read with the full benefit of hindsight. In later issues there was Harlan Ellison filing a succession of lengthy and inimitable film essays; several pieces by Robert Anton Wilson; and some good music articles with features on Larry Fast (issue 12) and Robert Fripp (issue 14), while Lou Stathis profiled and interviewed Bernie Krause (issue 18), The Residents (issue 19), Patrick Gleeson (issue 22), Jon Hassell (issue 24), Captain Beefheart (issue 25), and everyone’s favourite robots, Kraftwerk (issue 31).

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The Internet Archive currently has all the files stuck on a single page so most people will either have to download everything at once (I’d advise using the torrent file) or sample issues at random. Fortunately there’s a very thorough breakdown of the entire run of magazines here for those who prefer to pick through the detail. In the universe next door we’re reading these back issues while floating above the earth in our L5 space colonies.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Science Fiction Monthly

Weekend links 269

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Grosses Wasser (1979) by Cluster. Cover art by Dieter Moebius.

• RIP Dieter Moebius: one half of Cluster (with Hans-Joachim Roedelius), one third of Harmonia (with Roedelius and Michael Rother), and collaborator with many other musicians, including Brian Eno and Conny Plank. Geeta Dayal, who interviewed Moebius for Frieze in 2012, chose five favourite recordings. From 2008: Cosmic Outriders: the music of Cluster and Harmonia by Mark Pilkington. At the Free Music Archive: Harmonia playing at ATP, New York in 2008. Live recordings of Cluster in the 1970s have always been scarce but in 1977 they played a droning set at the Metz Science-Fiction Festival, a performance that was broadcast on FM radio (the Eno credit there seems to be an error).

• “I’ve since had the feeling that, if the attacks against The Satanic Verses had taken place today, these people would not have defended me, and would have used the same arguments against me, accusing me of insulting an ethnic and cultural minority.” Salman Rushdie on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo killings.

• “The effect of these memories is to make you think you know the film better than you do, and wonder what it’s like actually to sit down and watch it.” Michael Wood on rewatching Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). Related: Tipping My Fedora on the film’s source novel, Badge of Evil (1956).

“To me, it’s simple,” he says. “Fantasy became as bland as everything else in entertainment. To be a bestseller, you’ve got to rub the corners off. The more you can predict the emotional arc of a book, the more successful it will become.

“I do understand that Game of Thrones is different. It has its political dimensions; I’m very fond of the dwarf and I’m very pleased that George [R R Martin], who’s a good friend, has had such a huge success. But ultimately it’s a soap opera. In order to have success on that scale, you have to obey certain rules. I’ve had conversations with fantasy writers who are ambitious for bestseller status and I’ve had to ask them, ‘Yes, but do you want to have to write those sorts of books in order to get there?’”

Michael Moorcock talking to Andrew Harrison about fantasy, science fiction, the past and the present.

• “Architects love Blade Runner, they just go bonkers. When I was working on the film, it was all about, let’s jam together Byzantine and Mayan and Post-Modern and even a little bit of Memphis, just mash it all together.” Designer and visual futurist Syd Mead talking to Patrick Sisson.

• “Lucian of Samosata’s True History reads like a doomed acid trip,” says Cecilia D’Anastasio, who wonders whether or not the book can be regarded as the earliest work of science fiction.

• Mixes of the week: A Tribute to Dieter Moebius by Vegan Logic, and another by Totallyradio.

• The Phantasmagoria of the First Hand-Painted Films by Joshua Yumibe.

Islamic Geometric: calligraphic tessellations by Shakil Akram Khan.

Michael Prodger on The Dangerous Mind of Richard Dadd.

A chronological list of synth scores and soundtracks.

Touch Of Evil (Main Theme) (1958) by Henry Mancini | Badge Of Evil (1982) by Cabaret Voltaire | Touch Of Evil (2009) by Jaga Jazzist

Weekend links 228

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White, Red and Black (1949) by Marlow Moss.

• British television’s greatest director, Alan Clarke, rates on the cult scale here for his work on Penda’s Fen but his career was long, uncompromising and still hasn’t received the full appraisal it deserves. His more violent dramas—Scum, Made in Britain, The Firm, etc—have all appeared on DVD but many of his less notorious films can be hard to find. Paul Duane looks back at the remarkable Contact (1985), an hour-long study of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and a better film about soldiering than any number of big-budget features.

• I’ve wondered for years why one of the Daft Punk helmets seemed so familiar. It’s because they swiped the design from industrial designer and visual futurist, Syd Mead. Mark Wilson talked to Mead about wearable technology; Mr Mead, it seems, isn’t impressed by the French popsters. Related: paintings from Mead’s Sentinel (1979), and Syd Mead designs at Pinterest.

• Remembering that time in 1982 when Alan Moore interviewed Hawkwind. More interviews: Adam Bychawski talks to Jenny Hval about “sonic extremity, the violence of voyeurism and inhabiting bodies”, and Laurent Fintoni talks to (that man again) Bernard Szajner about Visions Of Dune, laser shows, and finding his way back to music.

Our attitudes towards work are extremely schizophrenic: we secretly aspire to sloth, while we loudly praise work. There isn’t an election poster that doesn’t promise more jobs. The call for more work is similar to the Stockholm syndrome, in which the victims of hostage-taking eventually develop a positive relationship with their captors.

Patrick Spaet on the universal employment fetish

• “Marlow Moss was one of Britain’s most important Constructivist artists…a radical lesbian and Drag King,” says Dal Chodha. An exhibition of Moss’s work has just opened at Tate Britain. Related: Marlow Moss: forgotten art maverick.

Yuki Koshimoto plays the Hang, aka the Spacedrum. Via Metafilter where there are more Hang links. The instrument was prominently featured in the score Cliff Martinez wrote for Solaris (2002).

• Broadcast’s Trish Keenan would have been 46 last week. James Cargill posted two demo songs for her birthday.

• At the BFI: Exclusive materials from the making of Powell and Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann.

• Of Tutus and Tortures: Thoughts on the Decadent and the Weird by Christopher Burke.

Faber has launched a Modern Classics imprint with some smart cover designs.

• At Dangerous Minds: Good to see big scans of the Surrealists’ playing cards.

• Mix of the week: Afrofuturist Flowering by Nigel Rampant.

• Writer and editor Russ Kick has a new website.

Infographic: Why Readers Still Prefer Paper.

Superficial Music 1–3 (1981) by Bernard Szajner | Fahrenheit 451 (1982) by Hawkwind | Black Lake (2014) by Jenny Hval & Susanna

Weekend links 40

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Manchester, August, 1819: yeomanry on horseback charge a crowd of demonstrators; London, November, 2010: Mounted police charge demonstrators; London, December, 2010: “…police horses have charged the crowd once and appear to be about to do so again.”

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable NUMBER!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fall’n on you:
YE ARE MANY–THEY ARE FEW.

Percy Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy (1819).

• Amid the rest of the week’s tumult, discussion and activity around the censoring of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly film at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, continues to rumble on. I’d missed this appraisal of the exhibition at The Smart Set. Hide/Seek: Too shocking for America features an interview with Jonathan Katz, co-creator of the exhibition in the eye of the storm:

“When,” Katz asks, “will the decent majority of Americans stand against a fringe that sees censorship as a replacement for debate?” Hide/Seek sought to conquer what Katz calls “the last acceptable prejudice in American political life” – but the conservative right, rampant after last month’s midterm elections, won’t relinquish their prejudices without a fight. And so, “an exhibition explicitly intended to break a 21-year blacklist against the representation of same-sex desire,” says a dispirited Katz, “now finds itself in the same boat.”

Related: Q&A with Hide/Seek curators Jonathan Katz and David C. Ward. The Smithsonian Institution issued a fatuous statement saying they stand by the exhibition despite having forced the removal of one of its works. One of the NPG commissioners resigned in protest at the gallery’s capitulation to political pressure. Other protestors were banned from the Smithsonian after playing a video of the work on an iPad. There’s video of the iPad protest here and the protestors have their own blog. In my earlier post on the subject I noted that the actions of censorious Catholics have given Wojnarowicz’s work far more public exposure than it would otherwise receive. The LATimes has details of some of the galleries throughout the US showing the video as a result of its removal in Washington.

• Related to the above, Bruce Sargeant and His Circle: Figure and Form, a book by artist Mark Beard about the work of his “Bruce Sargeant” alter ego. Homotography has a preview.

• “We focus most strongly at the margins, on the music that others may be blind to. We don’t care whether it is electronic, metal, jazz, folk, classical, noise, world music or whatever. We are as excited by the experimental, as we are exhausted by the ephemeral. We listen. We mosh. We think. We dance. We write words. We capture images. We hope to do justice to the art which inspires us. We are The Liminal”.

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Rotary Signal Emitter, a vinyl zoetrope by audiovisual duo Sculpture.

Rest Easy Sleazy, a small mix dedicated to Peter Christopherson. Related: A Peter Christopherson tribute mix. Another mix: Mixhead was a 1997 promo CD by Portishead.

• Related to the above: What if we could touch our music again? (Hello? Some of us still play—and create—CDs and vinyl…) Is the mix tape as object-of-seduction a dead concept in a virtual world? “We traded connection for convenience,” says I Miss My Pencil. Their proposed solution, C60 Redux, is an RFID reader plus speakers, packaged in a smart 12-inch case.

• Iannis Xenakis: How an architect took music back to mathematical roots. Related: the Xenakis exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles.

The Body Electric at Ikon, Birmingham, is the first retrospective exhibition in the UK of work by New Zealand artist Len Lye.

Hayley Campbell has a blog. This week you can read about her contribution to Jamie McCartney‘s Great Wall of Vagina.

More David Lynch: he really does love cherry pie but isn’t 100% sure how magnets work. I sympathise on both counts.

2019: A Future Imagined. Visual Futurist Syd Mead reflects on the nature of creativity and how it drives the future.

Quashed Quotatoes by Michael Wood, reviewing a new edition of Finnegans Wake.

New Weird Australia.

• Portishead’s 2008 performance for the Canal+ show Concert Privé is one of their best filmed concerts. YouTube has the whole thing.

Weekend links 34

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Halloween in Austin, Texas this year will look and sound like this.

• “Blade Runner will prove invincible“: Philip K Dick’s letter of praise to the film’s producers. Related: one of the Blade Runner designers, Syd Mead, has recently styled New York’s Bar Basque and Foodparc.

• “I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated…I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.” RIP Benoît Mandelbrot.

Science and poetry: “a richly vexed topic badly in need of rethinking”. Related: Why the Singularity isn’t going to happen.

• In case you missed this week’s earlier announcement, a reminder that I was interviewed at Coilhouse. My vanity: it knows no bounds.

• Franklin Booth’s illustrations for The Flying Islands of the Night (1913) by James Whitcomb Riley.

On the Verge (1950) by Maurice Sandoz, illustrated by Salvador Dalí. Also this and this.

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Bowie Sphinx, 1969. Photo by Brian Ward.

The Laughing Gnostic: David Bowie and the Occult.

• “Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals“: Isaac Newton’s alchemical interests.

• “A sense of otherness that goes right back“: Alan Garner at Alderley Edge.

Jimmy’s End—Alan Moore’s new feature film and spin-off TV series.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain by Owen Hatherley.

• The It Gets Better Project now has a dedicated website.

Quicksand (1971) by David Bowie.