Archive for September, 2013

Guerilla, Grunge and Greys

Thankfully, the visions of a 1980s future didn’t come to pass. For one thing, we are all still here, and nobody is having to wander the outback of Australia having to fight a large man in a thunderdome.

No, at the moment we are all too busy being spied on and wondering if there is indeed a spoon (see The Matrix). The 1980s gave way 1990s, and instead of having to chase ‘skinjobs’ while wearing trenchcoats, we were informed instead that the future would have us running around warehouses looking for aliens… while indeed still wearing trenchcoats.

Enter Sandman

One of the best and most imaginative comics ever published appeared in the 1990s – Neil Gaimans Sandman stories helped kick off DCs Vertigo line and redefined comics forever. Influencing everything from art to fashion the Sandman took the evolving ‘goth’ style and wrapped it all up in a female personification of death – a gothic lolita with frilly umbrella, Egyptian styled make-up, Doc Marten books, long skirts and the manic pixie dream girl ideal
Gaimans Sandman work is one of the best loved, creative and imaginative comic books that inspired an entire generation of artists and writers


Fashion wise if you were a comic hero (apart from Sandman) in the 90s it was obligatory for you to have either a mullet, ponytail and or facial hair. This coupled with a leather jacket and an attitude summed up the majority of the styles most comic characters wore. There was of course another train of thought that if you cannot pull off a crow-like trench-coat and sisters of mercy smile then the way to go was pockets, pouches and more pockets. The propagator of pockets was of course Rob Liefeld whose comic artwork has become synonymous with the time (as too has his inability to draw feet, proportionate anatomy and indeed backgrounds to his comic panels) – with characters such as Deadpool and Cable he revolutionized (or is that devolved) comic style so that every character had more buckles, braclets, bangles and additional add-ons to their costumes that it would be near impossible to walk let alone fight and trying to find house-keys would be a nightmare. With Blood-Strike, Blood-Pool, Blood-Wulf and numerous other blood based derivative characters the mid-90s was a bad time sci-fi fashion wise and showed that brooding was not always better.

New Directors

The 90s saw a change in cinematic style with a new wave of innovative new directors and new genres of filmmaking. The likes of Robert Roderiguiez, Tarantino et al …Smith assisted in creating a new brand of ‘guerilla’ filmmaking with much enthusiasm, no-budget and a thought that any aspiring film maker could make it in Hollywood and this was a very good thing. It bought the fun, innovation and creativity back to films and allowed people with talent and a video camera to play in the big league with million dollar budgeted films which captured the ‘fee’ of America at the time – Mallrats for example is a great snapshot of the Doc Marten, check shirted wearing grunge-ness of that time.


The theory was, a decade or so ago, that the reason why there were so many sci-fi shows on television was that it was a secret conspiracy by the government to get us used to the notion of aliens. The continued presence of ‘Greys’ was a way of softening the blow when the big reveal occurred, and David Icke was right all along.

Again, this didn’t happen, and the closest we came to alien contact was seeing the White House being blown up at the cinemas. Now the 2010 we live in is not dominated by a global-cover up, but by a ‘war on terror’ where secret bad-guys lurk in the shadows ready to pounce, and the best way to stop them is through Team America. George Orwell’s vision of the future also appears to have come to pass, with surveillance now a huge part of all our lives.



Spares (Michael Marshall Smith)
Sandman (Neil Gaiman)
Good Omens (Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett)
Moving Mars (Greg Bear)
Voyage (Stephen Baxter)
Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)


Dark City (Alex Proyas)
Jurassic Park (Stephen Spielberg)
Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven)
The Matrix (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)
Event Horizon (Paul W.S. Anderson)


Star Trek: The Next Generation
The X-Files
Wild Palms


1980s: Cyberpunk and the post apocalyptic threat


It rains a lot in 1980s sci-fi. If you don’t believe me, then check out Back To The Future Part II, Max Headroom or more importantly the iconic Blade Runner. The aesthetic theme of 1980s sci-fi was ‘gomi’ – junk, rubbish and post apocalyptic versions of the run down and decaying estates that were built just twenty year before.

Happiness Patrols ran towering city blocks, lone gunmen roamed deserts to confront mutated frogs or Tina Turner in a wig, mega-cites were built and protected by judges and the strikes. Unrest, social decay and the end to once-great manufacturing businesses permeated sci-fi like the rain and pollution that slowly began to rot around the country.

1980s sci-fi wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t idealised. The future according to the 1980s was going to be bleak, with either the chance of being invaded by lizard aliens posing as visitors, or our mutually-assured destruction from either side of the Iron Curtain.


The sci-fi aesthetic was one of misery, of dank and dark corners, or lawlessness. The technology that was creeping into our homes and becoming commonplace was not going to help.

If you wanted to ‘jack-in’ or become a Neuromancer, then life online was only just slightly better than the one outside, and filled with betrayal and strange goings-on that only Joanna Lumley could only solve. No, it’s a good job the style and prediction of the 1980s future didn’t come to pass, and that we are not now living in some ‘futuristic, ‘industrial’, ‘medieval’ or indeed ‘Aztec’ zones.




The Sprawl trilogy (William Gibson)
The Difference Engine (William Gibson and Bruce Sterling)
Headcrash (Bruce Bethke)
Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson)


Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
Robocop (Paul Verhoeven)
Mad Max Trilogy (George Miller)
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)
The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser)


Star Trek: The Next Generation
Max Headroom
Sapphire & Steel
Red Dwarf