Monday, June 22, 2015

Forward [Rewind]

Where were you in '95? How did you discover things that were new, weird and wonderful? As the Royal Pingdom blog notes, the internet was "petite" at 23,500 websites, Internet Explorer version 1 came out with the brand new Windows 95. Compare that to today's stats, with 960 MILLION websites and counting, Internet Explorer is up to version 11 (which is nothing compared to Firefox's rapid release schedule, similar to Google Chrome, with new versions every month and a half), while desktop and computers have been overtaken by a myriad of smart devices as the majority source of internet usage, often used while doing something else, like watching TV.

In short, the internet is a huge, ever-present source of information and distractions now, drastically different from two decades ago. In a Harvard Business Review article on disruptive technologies from 1995, the bulk of the article focuses on hard drive sizes decreasing, and there's a brief discussion of personal computers and Apple's generally ill-fated Newton.

Copyright 1995; cover design by Chip Wass (scanned)
This is all to say, in 1995 it made sense for Bruce Sterling, a notable sci-fi author who helped define the cyberpunk genre, to rant and rave about "The World's Greatest Neurozine" called bOING bOING makes sense, like it makes sense to subscribe to dozens of such niche publications.

Now, it's all1 online! A book of archaic London street slang (also gathered in a quick list)! A digitized catalog of dental instruments (probably not pig iron, though)! Gay Catholic psychics from New Jersey who levitated tables and blew spirit trumpets at the court of Emperor Napoleon? Well, maybe not that one, because I think he made it up from a few different real things (St. Joseph of Cupertino, the Flying Friar, spirit trumpets, and Napoleon's controversial psychic abilities). You can even find archives of zines online, if you want to get back into the zine scene of the past.

So why revisit this document from days of yore? Why even take the time to scan and correct the colors on your old book2? Nostalgia, mostly, and to fulfill an old dream of my high school self. Back then, I thought "why isn't there a website for the Happy Mutant Handbook?" I even wrote notes in the margins, had ideas of what to add. So I wrote to Will Kreth, who is credited in the front as "Online Editor." He asked for an example of what kind of website stuff I could do, and back in 1998, I might have been able to cobble something together. But I didn't, so my idea ended there, mostly.

But nostalgia holds on. Now I want to see how everything has aged, and what the happy mutants behind this are up to now, 20 years later. Are they still "serving up a highly personal melange of well-forged irony and profoundly healthy cynicism, reaffirms your faith in the future"? How does this future-now look? Join me, Mr. EveryGoon Esquire, as I look back and look beyond.

1. Well, not all online. It takes a while to digitize all of human history. Anyway, there are also shadowy corners of the internet, the areas not reached by usual search methods, and dig even deeper and you can find various sorts of darknets.

2. I'm also something of casual archivist, so when the best image was this cover, I wanted to start expanding the online presence of the HMHB by adding a decent cover scan, while keeping some of the worn appearance of my personal copy.

Thanks to Karl Winegardner's code for footnotes. One note: if you're using that code in Blogger, you might find that Blogger tries to make the page-independent IDs tie back to a specific Blogger draft page every time you edit the page in Compose view, so beware of weird "fixes" that Blogger might automatically introduce to this nice bit of code. My suggestion is to udate your post while in HTML mode, after making sure there's no extra URL junk in those floating references.