Suicide girls and Generation Me 

The fashion of the 00’s has been one of extremes. There has been no one defining fashion, style or idea that has focused this decade – it was the decade that begged, stole and borrowed everything and everyone had the opportunity to become unique thanks mainly to the internet.

The past decades saw broadband in most homes, music going digital the move away from the High street and purchasing going online. The style copied the Matrix as everyone led virtual lives and the I-Mac and I-pod were introduced. Music was focused at the start of the decade on the ‘stormers’ with Nu-Metal Marilyn Manson

then took a detour via Gerard Way

Amy Lee

and finally ended up here

Web sensations like Suicide Girls and Tattoo and Piercing going mainstream. This however faded through the decade (to be replaced by emo) but overall the ability to go online and tap into any taste and create your own individuality led to eclectic musical and style with no real definition which led to many sub-groups fuelled by social networking, mobile devices and anytime and the anywhere media of generation me -all overshadowed by…

Lack of attention span

For the average fan of sci-fi television there has never been a better time to be passionate about the subject. The airwaves both here and in the US are crammed with superb shows and we know there is a tendency by studios and broadcasters to pull shows far too quickly if they are seen to be not hitting ‘the numbers’. But we are now a current multi-platform audience far too distracted by other things to do and as such indirectly killing off any new shows and ideas – something that only this generation has been able to do.

Shows and films need to make money more than every and the sword of Damocles is continually hanging over sci-fi with shows such as was Carnivale, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls all cancelled.

More prominently the ‘cannings’ of these heavy duty, well advertised and costly shows such as ‘Flashforward’, ‘Stargate: Universe’, ‘Dollhouse’ or for that matter the most loved but studio mauled ‘Firefly’ should not come as surprise and all could be down to the due to lack of viewers. Studios are in a catch 22 situation – a new show they are going to ‘invest’ time and money into but with trepidation as the spectre of cancellation is never too far away for either side due to the said audience not bothering to tune in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmyO2xuI1qI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY3u7bB7dZk

The question is – are we, as a jaded audience not buying into these new shows as much as we did? Admittedly when shows as shocking awful as the last season of Heroes or ‘The Cape’ was you understand but shows such as Caprica and V for that matter got ripped apart both online and review wise, especially by the people that these shows were supposed to sate, have we got to the point that we expect shows now to compete with shows from say ten or twenty years ago which sat in a very different viewing landscape.

Here in the UK we have had the privilege over the past decade to have shows such as Sherlock, Being Human, Torchwood and Dr Who all of which are some of the most intelligent and well written ‘genre’ shows ever to appear but instead of an all encompassing geek embracement we are all too keen to attack them as not being what we expect, they do not in many ways compare to our nostalgic view of ‘classic’ Who, Sapphire and Steel, Thunderbirds and Quatermass.

Shows need to be put in context, it was a whole different television landscape back as to when these shows were originally run, we had a lot less to do and a lot less in the while away our time and I wonder that the continual comparison to older shows ‘numbers’ viewer wise is wrong, as to be frank Warcraft and blu-ray did not exist then.

The growth of quality kids TV

The millennials are also the generation who has have some of the best animation and genre shows to pick from.

top five kids cartoons from the past decade

Powerpuff girls

Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles ..they are the Powerpuff girls! – yup I know this is supposedly aimed for girls but its just too much fun to be lost on the Brats set. This trio of neon do gooders have been around Cartoon Network for a fare while now bit still continue to entertain week in, week out to destroy the evil forces of (no not the Decepticons) but rather Mojo JoJo, Mr Him and a mix of other cutie based bad guys. Clever, witty and cute with an insanely catchy theme tune that has even had the remix treatment thanks to Rob Zombie the Powerpuff Girls cartoon is just pure candyfloss fun.

Spongebob Squarepants

Ohhhh… who lives in a Pineapple under the sea… why its our number 8 of course. For those thinking that the yellow square of cute-ness should have been higher in the list… tough my list and really even though Spongebob is good, its not that good and has been dominating lists like this for years which are done by people who haven’t don’t THAT much watching of kids telly. Insane, fun and completely bonkers Spongebob has an entire cult fan base and whether you are a fan of Mr Crabbs, Patrick or Plankton there is something for everyone to love in one of the most fun packed and inoffensive cartoons ever.

Samurai Jack

Smooth, cool and much too fun for kids, Jack takes everything that is great about cartoons ( such as Samurais, Ninjas, monsters and erm..futuristic time travel caused by evil warlocks) and adds a good dollop of super coolness. A Emmy award winner the show ran from 2001 to 2004 but is still on nearly every night on Cartoon Network. Even though Jack says very little his actions speak louder than words as week in week out he hacks, smashes and destroys his way through the armies and monsters of Aku, all superbly designed by Genndy Tartakovsky and filmed in such a way that Michael Bay, Tarantino and co all look on with action sequence directorial envy. A pre-cursor to Clone Wars that has let Tartakovsky and his company go onto become one of the biggest up and coming design and production companies in Hollywood (they are supposedly doing Dark Crystal 2) Jack is a superb show that shows that with a little style great stories and a cool concept that you don’t need millions of animators working 24/7 to produce a world class cartoon

Dexters Lab

Another classic from Cartoon Network Dexter as been a staple for the channel for many many year, and there is a reason for this.. its just plain fantastic. Whether its chasing Dee-Dee around to stop her from damaging his lab to trying to defeat his evil nemesis Mandark to starring in parodies of Tron and erm…Primal Rage Dexters Lab is choc full of fun moments and written by a team that seem to have a mixed love of old cartoons, sci-fi and obscure TV with cameos by Blue Falcon, robots that resemble the Phoenix from G-Force and voice actors that include Macho Man Randy Savage the show is a geeks dream.

Invader Zim

Doom to you.. you dirty earth monkeys!. Zim, the evil Irken invaders show is just an insane mix of madness, monkeys and dancing robots. Created by comic artist Jhonen Vasquez for Nick the show was first shown in 2000 bit has reappeared on our screen at various times over the past year or so ( and on dvd too!). Aimed at a older(ish) audience the cartoon appeals to kids, geeks and goths and is crammed full of madness, from Zim creating a Godzilla sized monster out of the schools guinea pig to hypnotic zits to bad bad rubber piggies to Gir the best robot ever to grace a cartoon, the adventures of Zim, Dib, Gaz, mini moose and the rest of the cast is like watching a Tim Burton film mixed with the x-files on a overdose of ki-ora and Chewits.

And finally number 1 – (ok i cheated this is top six!)

Ben 10

Take a bit of X-Men, Men in Black and some Kirby character designs and you get Ben 10, a cartoon about a young boy who finds an alien watch/matrix thingy called the Omnitrix that allows him to turn into ten different superheroes, in a similar vein to the DC comics Dial H For Hero. A great concept that seems to be a perfect vehicle for line upon line of action figures the show is actually really rather good with the writers of the show tapping into monsters, aliens and mythology to bring a great mix of action and adventure for Ben, his cousin Gwen and his grandfather who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Kirby himself and happens to be a former MIB style secret agent. Ben’s transformation into the likes of the super-strong Fourarms, to the fire based Heatblast to the slobbering Wildmutt (all of which are designed by comic creators Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle) is such a great idea with each alien being unique, imaginative and useful in perilous situations. Not only are the good guys great but the baddies are equally imaginative, from the alien dictator Vilgax to Kevin 11 to Ghost Freak the bad guys, plotting and situations for the show are really well done with each story working as a single episode but with subtle over arcing stories running through the series. With a potential film adaptation on the way this certainly is a cartoon worth checking out for comic and superhero fans.

You could be anyone you wanted to be – both in real life and in a virtual space

Films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Tron showed that VR, 3D and hyperreality were commonplace – you could use your own personal avatars to become anyone. So you could be a dwarf in Warcraft, a warrior in Skyrim or a alien in the Sims or a de-fanged vampire all the time keeping the world updated on your mobile device.

Over the past 100 years we have indeed come pretty far and the ‘future’ of 2010 looks (apart from all the spying) to be pretty good. And while, as I mentioned back at the beginning of this article, we still haven’t got the flying cars of the Jetsons, or the rocket-ships of Flash Gordon, some predictions have come to pass.

Computers and virtual worlds have become commonplace, proving William Gibson right. We have sent probes to Mars, which shows that Arthur C. Clarke and company were on the right lines, and the design of the sleek, pocket-sized gadgets we now use were anticipated, in part, by the designers and pulp writers of the 1920s and 30s.

While it may be argued that we as a generation have cherry-picked the best elements of sci-fi and future predictions on which to build our current aesthetic, and that the shape and design of phones, mobile devices, cars and clothing has borrowed heavily from what has come before, on reflection we have at least managed to circumnavigate some of the worst predictions sci-fi had to offer.

We’ve built on the innovative, creative and fascinating ideas of those who dared to dream that the future would be a brighter and much more exciting place to live. We haven’t yet gone to Mars, created machines that can think for themselves, or even managed to produce hoverboards, but the innovators, future thinkers and creative brains of today have done a pretty decent job of laying out the future.

Recommendations

Books:

The Ocean at the end of the lane (Neil Gaiman)
The Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson)
Crooked Little Vein (Warren Ellis)

Films:

Dark Knight
Avengers
Saw

TV:

Fringe
Firefly
The Fades
Sherlock

We have iPods which contain all our music, videos and data like the PADDs in, have unlocked parts of the human genome, cloned livestock and created primitive artificial life. And while we don’t have jet-packs, teleporters or the ability to travel to Mars, current technology hasn’t don’t too badly on the whole.

But what if.

What did previous eras envision what the future would look like?

Most cultures have looked to the future – to try and predict what is to come and how to better society. There has always been forward thinkers and innovators, people and concepts that seem to defy the time they are in, bringing ideas to the fore that seem impossible to believe. From Da Vinci to Japanese automatons serving them tea over 300 years ago advanced concepts have played a huge part in various cultures. constructions such as the Mechanical Turk, a fake chess-playing machine was constructed by Wolfgang von Kempelen (Kempelen Farkas) in 1770 to impress the Empress Maria Theresia of Austria (which was recently copied in Dr Who) still hold wonder and innovation even now –

But there was one set of future pioneers that shaped the foundations of what we now call Sci-Fi

The Victorians

Steam-powered trips to the moon –

100 + years in the past – the beginning of the 20th century – pioneers included HG WellsJules Verne and Charles Babbage. Maybe we could still have iPods, but chances are they would be made from iron and powered by water.

However the The retro-futuristic blend of Victoriana and sci-fi fashion has had a resurgence in recent times with the style, ideas and concepts making a high street comeback. Shows events, fashion, and societies across are celebrating this style and adding modern twists to it

From the late Victorian age to the end of the First World War, the first thirty years of the 20th century moved us forward like no other. We learnt to fly, learnt how to transfer information via radio waves, to put moving images onto celluloid and, unfortunately, to kill each other in the most unspeakable ways on the battlefields of Europe. Now, this turn of the century’s decades could have gone two ways into the predictions of the future.

Decline of the British Empire

Firstly we could have carried on with the wrought iron intricacy of the Victorian era, which we have seen many times in books and movies. Today we could have been living in a Steampunk world envisaged by the likes of Bruce Sterling and based on HG Wells, Jules Verne and Charles Babbage. Maybe we could still have iPods, but chances are they would be made from iron and powered by water.

Computer Context

Maybe if we looked at the beginning of the 20th century and asked the pioneers of sci-fi what the world would look like in 100 years’ time the answers would be very interesting. This, of course, is the biggest age of change we have ever had technology-wise.

The beginnings of First World War, maybe the sci-fi thinkers of the time saw the aesthetic of the future becoming militaristic. Taking the notion that World War I had continued, would we now be living in a future where war was the main focus? Would technology and medicine have moved forward at a quicker rate, as suggested at the time by the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in Warren Ellis’s Ministry of Space  or the third volume of Alan Moore’s The where we still have cars and motorways, but also space-ports and a lot more smoking of pipes?

Next time

1920s-1940s

As we move into the next few decades of the 20th century, the style changes once again, with the notion of the metropolis and the daring heroes of pulp. Would the technology of the future according to 1920s and 30s mentality lead us into a Flash Gordon-like style of art-deco space-ships with sparklers at the back? – Come back next week to have a look

Recommendations

Books

The First Men In The Moon (HG Wells)

The Shape Of Things To Come

The Time Machine (HG Wells)

The War Of The World (HG Wells)

Heart Of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

Films/Serials:

Le Voyage Dans La Lune, aka A Trip To The Moon  (Georges Méliès)

Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

Lost Horizon (Frank Capra)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Stuart Paton)

Island Of Lost Souls Erle C. Kenton)

Also see:

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Alan Moore)

Ministry Of Space (Warren Ellis)

<strong>Podcasts and other sources</strong>

http://steampunk.wonderhowto.com/

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/astronomy/

http://steampunkzen.blogspot.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/therobertrankin

https://twitter.com/search?q=steampunk&src=typd

https://twitter.com/SteampunkNews