The Cultural Gutter

beyond good and bad, there is awesome

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

Back to the World

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I once read an interview with a man who was involved in some of the bloodiest fighting during the Vietnam war. This particular battle he fought, watching friends and compatriots killed while he and they tried to kill in return, and then a day or two after it was over, so was his tour of […]

Retrospective: Vive Le Gutter!

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The Cultural Gutter turned ten in May, 2013 and we didn’t make much of a fuss about it. But ten years ago this week, Jim Munroe posted the manifesto that’s guided The Cultural Gutter, even as each subsequent editor has joined the Gutter and added their take on our mission. We thought this would be […]

Cyberpunk for a Cyberpunk World

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From time to time, old folks like myself ask themselves, “whatever became of cyberpunk?” It was a strange…subgenre? Literary style? Lifestyle? Some awkward combination of all those things that grew from a collection of writers who, working independently of one another and often with wildly different approaches, tapped into a zeitgeist that could have only […]

Death to Life Day

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A lot of people my age have vague memories of a Star Wars holiday special back from some time in the 1970s, but beyond that their memories go blurry. Maybe they recall it had something or other to do with wookies, but specifics are difficult to drag up from the recesses of the mind — […]

The Dandy Doctor

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You may have missed the news, but this is the 50th anniversary of a cheap, scrappy British science fiction series called Doctor Who. Like a fair number of folk my age, I first stumbled across Doctor Who one Saturday afternoon on PBS, back when PBS was able to air things like Doctor Who, The Avengers, […]

Hebrew Horrors

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To enumerate the number of horror films that draw from Christian folklore and mysticism would result in a list long enough to qualify as a tome. To do similarly with Buddhist and Taoist folklore would result in much the same, only with a lot more Lam Ching-ying doing backflips. But if you turn the horrific […]

The Stephen King Universe

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This week, Science Fiction Editor Emeritus James Schellenberg returns as a Guest Star. Screen Editor alex MacFadyen will return next month. You can easily glance off the top of any book by Stephen King–get a few frights and move on. But there’s a hidden world beneath almost all of his books, and not only is […]

Gothic Galactic

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It makes sense that so much of Mario Bava’s oeuvre would deal with situations and people that/who are not what they seem. His whole life was spent in the world of deception and illusion. His father was a sculptor who moonlighted as an effects man for Italy’s magnificent silent era spectacles. Bava himself studied to […]

The Sci-Fi Life

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My first memories are of Ultraman, the Adam West Batman show, and something about jumping into a dumpster — but let’s leave that one out for now. It was probably related to one of the first two anyway. I vividly remember being mesmerized by Ultraman. From there, raised by young parents in a college environment […]

At Play on the Planet of Men

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“His mother had often said, when you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.” — Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory There is an age-old fallacy […]

The Trouble with Endings, Part 2: The Re-conclusioning

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The trouble with endings, of course, is that they are really difficult to do well. I’ll try to take that warning to heart myself, since this piece will be my last for The Cultural Gutter. And what better way to wrap up a really fun time on a neat project than to look at endings!

The Dark Tower, Videogame Soundtrack Edition

Speaking from recent experience, I don’t recommend getting a cold/cough/(something virulent and archaic, like consumption?) that sticks around for 4-5 weeks. It kinda sucks. With reduced brainpower, I’ve been watching a lot of Rifftrax (“There can be only one?? You should have mentioned that earlier!”). Fun, but not much to say, except that, yup, Highlander […]

Riffing Zombies and Incredible Time Travellers

I’ve missed the spooky month of October by one day, and probably rotted my brain on too much Rifftrax. In lieu of coherent thoughts, here is a compilation of recent observations.

Rambles

In which I take a rambling walk through some recent semi-connected pop culture items, starting with a videogame reboot that’s actually worth playing, moving on to nostalgia for a nostalgia-based movie, and ending with a look at child actors, in reality and in novel form.

Vampires, War, and Some Good Old 24-Style Torturing

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was a gruesome historical tragedy; or, a colossal act of hubris that cost the lives of 400 000 soldiers. Sounds like the perfect milieu for a vampire feeding frenzy! Jasper Kent’s Twelve is an odd mix of historical novel, horror, and, of all things, a somewhat too close examination of torture.

Blindly Jumping In

I’ve been a bit out of steam on pop culture lately. On a whim, and maybe as a way to recapture how I used to discover books when I was a kid, I grabbed two books off the shelf at my local library, and jumped into them blind.

Working in the Groove

Among Others by Jo Walton just won the Nebula Award for best novel, and Seanan McGuire (in combination with her pseudonym Mira Grant) was just nominated for four Hugo awards in one year, a new record. I figured I should take a look at Walton’s book, along with something by Grant (I ended up reading […]

Opening the Lines of Communication

It’s a classic set-up: humans are exploring space and receive a mysterious signal. Time for first contact! A.C. Crispin takes this familiar idea and runs with it in StarBridge, a smart and fast-paced novel from a few years ago, now released as an ebook for the first time.

Author’s Cut, Courtesy of the Ebook Revolution

Recent fantasy novels seem to spend a lot of time describing their magic systems – who can use magic? how does it work? and at what cost to the magic user? C.J. Cherryh’s Rusalka is, in most senses, no exception to this, since these questions are answered quite clearly. That said, Cherryh’s answers have some […]

Revealed by the Twentieth Repetition

Or the thirtieth or the fortieth! What happens to your experience of a genre work, ordinarily somewhat disposable, when you read or watch or listen to it multiple times? Most of the time, your brain turns to mush, or you tune out altogether, or every little thing about it becomes an irritant. But what if […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Salon, Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll write about irony and cynicism, sincerity and honesty in art: “At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. The art of irony has turned into ironic art. Irony for irony’s sake. A smart aleck making bomb noises in front of a city in ruins. But irony without a purpose enables cynicism. It stops at disavowal and destruction, fearing strong conviction is a mark of simplicity and delusion.

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    Eastern Kicks has an interview–and a gallery of photos of–director Park Joon-hung.

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    Get ready for a new season of Mad Men with this collection of Absurdist Mad Men promotions, which the Cultural Gutter participates in and even encourages. Duck Phillips rules an undersea advertizing empire and “Pete feels slighted.”

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    Some interesting thoughts on South Korean cinema with “A Dish Best Served Bloody: Revenge In South Korean Cinema” and this Cannes program piece on Arirang (1926) and the history of Korean film.

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    Al-Jazeera America profiles John Pirozzi’s Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, a documentary about Cambodian rock’n'roll and musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge. “Until 1975, music thrived in Phnom Penh, with clubs full night after night, crowds gathering in the streets around transistor radios to hear the latest releases, and the biggest stars being feted by the king. Enter the Khmer Rouge, communism and the war on intellectuals. Between 1975 and 1979, about 2 million Cambodians, roughly a third of the population, were rounded up and either were killed or died of starvation. Artists were particularly disliked by the Khmer Rouge, which saw creativity as decadence: Almost all of the biggest names perished during that era.”

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    Architecture Daily has an excerpt from City of Darkness detailing the development of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City. “By the 1970s, the City had filled out to its maximised form, with buildings of up to 14 storeys in height, and virtually no ground level daylight penetration save at its centre. Its density was estimated to have reached a mere 7 square feet per person. The yamen area had somehow remained an exception to the vertical development, leased to a missionary society in 1949 for use as an almshouse and old people’s home. Eventually, it defined the sole substantial void within the Walled City, with visible sky above it.”

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