Friday, August 20, 2004


Many thanks to Dom for the cultural equivalent of a Red Cross parcel following his second-hand book rampage across South Devon. A cool Fritz Leiber early sixties anthology ("Six tales of crawling horror")...and a 'various artists' comp. that includes M'man Clark Aston Smith and a host of other stuff from 30's pulp mag Weird Tales incl. Conan author Robert E. Howard...I'm not a fan of Sword 'n' Sorcery as such, in fact, I hate all that elvin Lord of the Rings fantasy Bollocks (I mean, it's just not manly, izzit?), but I love the dense otherworldly prose that the Pulp/Weird-fantasy writers spat out for a cent a page, or's frantic and overwrought, but it's so full of ideas and atmosphere. Remember: this stuff predates the Atom bomb and real Space Travel, so the writers' imaginations hadn't yet been set in cement by the arrival of the real thing. Their mental maps were still open-ended and multi-dimensional, untainted by Postmodernist design conceits and self-referentiality. This was the Second Wave of Drug Literature.

Most modern SF is so hollowed out and flat by comparison..sure, it's far better written but it's so, I dunno, unstrange; it's like the The Rough Guide to Barcelona or a copy of Wired magazine, but with a plot. It doesn't transport me. If contemporary SF is, uh, Starbucks, then this stuff is a crumbling backstreet Cafe run by a Greek family that still sells chicken omlettes and a milky cuppa char. It may be rich and fatty, and it probably isn't good for you, but, boy, does it ever taste good.

Hey, and thanks for the postcard too, Dom. Lesbian Jungle: how great is that? Even the colours are lurid and wrong. This isn't (just) about titilation; it's about the return of Imagination...the reintroduction of colour (however badly printed) to our increasingly greyed-out existence on Planet Microsoft. Sometimes, I feel we've all been cheated; edited out of our own Future. Over the last few years, a vast array of alternatives have been slowly eroded from our cultural palette...and we actually saw it happening, but did nothing to stop it. Still...

It's nice to see that Dom still isn't intimidated by this stagnant, Post-PC Nannystate world that's been inflicted on us. There's more TV stations, but less choice. Comedy that isn't funny. An HMV in every High Street. MES was right: They're waging a War against Intelligence. The bastards'll ban smoking next.

Everywhere...on the TV, in the papers, it's just Celebrities Vs. 'Civilians'... They're trying to scare us into thinking we're missing something, and then panic us into buying it. They're narrowing our options; herding us into a we'll carry on buying into the lazy, Life-Style Choices that they want to inflict on us. Yeah, we're missing something, alright. And it ain't the Maroon 5 LP...

Dom and myself have been charting the closure of independently-owned, small town bookshops throughout the West Country, and it's getting High Street rates go up, there's less and less second-hand shops, junk & Bric-a-brac emporiums, indoor markets...there's more Ottakars, and Waterstones, more pressure to be tasteful...

Because, well, we're all Middle-Class now, aren't we?

Dom, can't wait for you to retire to the West Country, mate, and set up a scabby little bookshop in a dingy back-alley somewhere in Dawlish. Somewhere that sells copies of Lesbian Jungle and ESP Orgy and Panther editions of E E 'Doc' Smith Lensmen books with Chris Foss covers to unsuspecting tourists and wide-eyed 8 year-olds looking for brain-food and a B-road out of the Here & Now.

These crappy little shops are special; they're magical, multidimensional gateways into Someplace Else, and we need them now, more than ever before. It's time we stopped the fucking rot.