The Cultural Gutter

dumpster diving of the brain

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

The Challenge of the Challenge from Beyond


Every October (well, since last October) Science Fiction editor Keith Allison turns his telescope toward the cosmic horror of weird fiction’s most illustrious Woodrow Wilson look-alike, HP Lovecraft, and the many ways in which people re-interpreted and mis-interpreted his work, in a series called “Punching Cthulhu in the Face.” Even though it has never produced […]

Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?


I was fifteen, pulling the ol’ “spending the night at a friend’s house” scam so I could sneak off and indulge in the sundry sins the big city offers to a country boy with a twinkle in his eye and about nine dollars in his pocket. I bummed a ride into town with my friend, Christie. Our […]

That’s What She Said


One of the (many) challenges of science fiction, both for readers and creators, is conceiving of things for which humans have no frame of reference. HP Lovecraft used to confront us with such intellectual challenges in rather a simple but effective method. In The Color Out of Space, the narrator is forced to grapple with […]

Beneath the Mysterian Dome


In the latter half of the 1950s, it seemed like every alien race with a saucer was high-tailing it to Earth with dreams of conquest, colonization, and a little lovin’ with the locals. The invaders of the 1950s came in many shapes and sizes. Some were blobs. Others were giant insects. A few were house […]

Understanding the Aliens


I’ve read plenty of good “first contact” stories, and a few great ones. A personal favorite, The Mote in God’s Eye, goes some distance to portraying the tragically insurmountable gulf that might appear when two very different species encounter one another. But no one has realized that gulf better than Octavia Butler. From the very […]

A Relative Dystopia


Not so very long ago, I was talking with a friend about science fiction’s infatuation with two things: empire and dystopia. Space opera and military science fiction has a fetish for empire, but we’ll deal with that some other time. Dystopian science fiction, those stories of humanity’s struggle to survive in a bleak (but not […]

Keep Searching


Every April at the Gutter we mix things up with the editors writing something outside their usual domain. This week SF/F Editor Keith writes about movies. In the early spring of 2002, a trip out west to meet some friends resulted in a weekend that involved everything from drinking in Juarez to being hired to do […]

Yesterday’s Tomorrow: A Visit to Tativille


Against my better judgement, the lights in my apartment are connected to a wireless network controlled via an app. There are physical buttons, but they are located near the plugs, at ground level and often behind obstructions. When I leave, turning off the light requires digging my phone out of my pocket, typing in the unlock code, […]

Vaudeville on Mars


In my interpretation of The War of the Worlds, the Martians attack hapless planet Earth not because they need water or are merely imperialistic, but in retaliation for us having sent El Brendel to their planet.Armed with the knowledge of the shtick El Brendel will force upon both his Martian and human viewers, when the 1930 science […]

…In a Galaxy Far, Far Away


Lando Calrissian enters an underground cathedral, one constructed to force a feeling of awe in a person, one with polished floors meant to force a person to take small steps, precariously balanced, with no choice but to contemplate the power of gods and subservience of man. Lando reacts by taking a running start and sliding […]

A Long Time Ago…


At the beginning of Han Solo’s Revenge, Han and his loyal friend Chewbacca are running a drive-in movie theater out of the back of their spaceship, the Millenium Falcon. Later, Han is irritated by a musical bottle of wine while Chewie chugs beer with gusto. Later still, Chewie fashions a hang glider out of a […]

Return of the Tripods


I read, not so very long ago, an article intent on wringing its hands over just how dark and bleak and apocalypse-obsessed modern young adult fiction tends to be. It’s all full of kids getting oppressed, leading uprisings, getting hunted down for sport, surviving the destruction of the earth and trying to make a new […]

Something Kinda Funky


It is common for a television series to run a particularly spooky episode around Halloween. Even horror or supernatural themed shows put a little extra effort into things when October 31st stalks toward us. And while it may have been a wisecracking space adventure clad entirely in billowing blouses (for the men) and skintight shiny […]

Punching Cthulhu in the Face


Although his prose and his politics can be problematic for some readers, the influence of weird fiction writer HP Lovecraft is substantial and reaches out from beyond the grave like one of his indescribable elder gods. Although not particularly successful financially — which is really just another way of calling him a writer — Lovecraft […]

The Gentleman Adventurer


I don’t remember how it was I first came across Adam Adamant Lives!, though I suspect it was the culmination of a plot put into motion the day I was born, my sole purpose for existing being so that I might one day discover a British television show about a swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman adventurer who […]

A Halting Fire


In the season one finale of AMC’s new series Halt and Catch Fire, the builders of the Cardiff Electric portable Giant computer gather around a conference table to read an unenthusiastically positive review of their new product. It is an unwittingly apt reflection of my reaction to the show in general. What was touted, or […]

Einstein and the Bearded Lady


The Czech science fiction comedy I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen (Zabil jsem Einsteina, panove) starts off with a fairly shocking scene, even by the standards of today: two bearded men locked in the throes of a passionate kiss. It’s a fake-out, we soon learn, a way to introduce both the central premise of the plot — […]

You Can’t Make a Masterpiece Without Madness


There are a number of books and films I’ve classified as “having seen,” because I have. But, upon reflection about these titles, I realize I remember nothing about them, usually because I experienced them decades ago and as a young lad. Neuromancer by William Gibson was a big one. It hit me a few years […]

Where Is All You Angels?


The summer of 1993 is one I will never forget and can barely remember. It is a sultry, humid swamp haze of hundred degree days spent with no air conditioning in a run-down neighborhood draped in Spanish moss and populated almost entirely by burn-outs, freaks, and students ages 19-25 living in ramshackle, rotting houses and […]

The Worst Dressed Man in the Room


Diving into the fashion of Mad Men may seem a tired topic at this point, as the show rumbles into its final season. We’ve seen analysis of the clothing from stylistic, historical, and philosophical angles, and it would seem there’d be little left to say. Even the “Don is not a style icon; he’s a […]

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    There’s a free audio book adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke & Key at


    At Actionland, Heroic Sister Achillesgirl writes about subtitling the 1964 wuxia film, Buddha Palm. And she provides you with the subtitles and a link to the film!


    At Bleeding Cool, Cap Blackard writes about the contested homeworld of Howard the Duck. “If you’ve seen the much maligned Howard the Duck film or read any Howard the Duck stories published since 1979, you’re probably familiar with the concept of Duckworld. You know, an alternate Earth where everyone is ducks and everything is duck-themed: Ducktor Strange, Bloomingducks, etc, etc. Sounds like a recipe for a finite barrel of bad jokes, right? It is, and it’s also not Howard’s real point of origin. During his landmark initial run, Howard’s creator Steve Gerber had the down-and-out duck hailing from a world of talking animals, but all that changed when Gerber was kicked off the book and Disney flashed a lawsuit. Now, after decades of backstory fumbling, Mark Waid has reinstated Howard’s point of origin in a one-shot issue of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (Thanks, Mark!)


    At The Village Voice, Jackson Connor writes about the making of The Warriors. Amid the refurbished boardwalk and laughter of children, it’s easy to forget that Coney Island was once a place where tourists did not venture. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, street gangs dominated this neighborhood. They ran rampant through the area’s neglected housing projects, tearing along Surf and Neptune avenues toward West 8th Street. Those gangs, or gangs like them, and that incarnation of Coney Island would form the backbone of author Sol Yurick’s 1965 debut novel, The Warriors, about the young members of a street gang. More than a decade after the novel’s publication it would be optioned and, eventually, turned into a major motion picture of the same name.” (via @pulpcurry)


    Edith Garrud taught Suffragettes jiu-jitsu and formed Emmeline Pankhurst’s Bodyguard. “The first connection between the suffragettes and jiu-jitsu was made at a WSPU meeting. Garrud and her husband William, who ran a martial arts school in London’s Golden Square together, had been booked to attend. But William was ill, so she went alone. ‘Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking,’ says Tony Wolf, writer of Suffrajitsu, a trilogy of graphic novels about this aspect of the suffragette movement. ‘But the story goes that the WSPU’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, encouraged Edith to do the talking for once, which she did.'”


    At Playboy, Jake Rossen writes about the story behind the filming and the restoration of Manos: The Hands of Fate. “For a long time no one wanted to see it unless it was accompanied by MST3K’s taunts. Then, in 2011, a collector of film prints uncovered the original negative of Manos and embarked on an inexplicable project to restore the film with all the white-glove attention archivists give to Hollywood classics. His efforts would incur the wrath of a mysterious man with a fake New Zealand accent named Rupert, as well as Joe Warren, Hal Warren’s embittered son, who intends to preserve the Manos legacy at all costs.” (Thanks, Ed!)


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