The Cultural Gutter

going through pop culture's trash since 2003

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

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 […]

Watership Vortex

Some books just grab a hold of you and never let go. The subject matter could be almost anything, from a big fat fantasy to, say, building a cathedral. Or rabbits! On the short list of absolute classics, Watership Down by Richard Adams, a story of rabbit life in pastoral England, takes pride of place […]

Infectious Enthusiasm

Sci-fi author Rudy Rucker has been busy, with four books that have come out in the last year or so. I’ve just finished reading his autobiography, Nested Scrolls, and it’s hilarious, insightful, and just about as science-fictional as his novels. You really can’t go wrong with Rucker’s books.

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    The New Yorker has a profile of author Gene Wolfe. “His narrators may be prophets, or liars, or merely crazy, but somewhere in their stories they help to reveal what Wolfe most wants his readers to know: that compassion can withstand the most brutal of futures and exist on the most distant planets, and it has been part of us since ages long past.”

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    Remezcla has a gallery of Lourdes Grobet’s portraits of luchadores with their families and a bit of an interview with her. (Yes, the luchadores are in their masks and often wearing suits or casual wear, which is the best thing). (Thanks, Matt!) “Father and warrior, the masked wrestler is the perfect metaphor for the duality that Grobet’s photography wants to depict. Her work is resonant because she doesn’t try to demolish the myths that envelop lucha libre – she simply nurtures and expands them in an offbeat way.”

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    At Autostraddle, Heather Hogan has “a Recap of Jem and the Holograms’ Truly Outrageous Lesbianism.” (Thanks, Sara Century!) “If you are a woman over the age of 30, I have some information that is going to send you cartwheeling back to 1987 to high five your young self and shout “We knew it! We knew it!” right in your own tiny gay face: Stormer and Kimber from Jem are truly, outrageously, canonically queer….This is good news. Great news. But it’s not really news news. Of course Stormer and Kimber are gay. They’ve been in love since 1987!”

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    “Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been binge-watching one of the most innovative series on television. Like many of the gems of the current TV renaissance, it features extended narratives with complex plots, intricate backstories, and layered characters. Its approach to storytelling is remarkably adventurous, shattering television, and even cinematic conventions.

     I’m speaking, of course, of General Hospital.” Noah Berlatsky writes about the influence of soap operas on “prestige television” at Quartz. (And make sure to click through to Akash Nikolas’ “Yes, Mad Men is a Soap Opera and that Shouldn’t be an Insult”).
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    Here’s the first Gutterthon 2015 Geektastic Song–“Fortune Cookie” by Chica Non Grata. Chica Non Grata kindly offered to write 3 songs based on topics offered by 3 lucky backers. So listen up and get down. “A song about pop-up ads and how creepy they are and how they seem to be reading your mind and maybe there is actually an artificial intelligence who is stalking you.”

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    Friend of the Gutter, Nitrate Diva writes about 13 women who helped shape cinema. “Hollywood is, in many ways, a more male-dominated environment today than it was 90 or so years ago. Scary, huh?

    In order to perpetuate a culture where more women make movies now, we need to recognize the women who made movies in the medium’s formative years. Let’s take our editing shears and snip the ‘boys only’ myth right out. It belongs on the cutting room floor.”

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