Saturday, April 12, 2008

Writing in the Ousands

I never liked "The Oughts" as a name for the current decade. Sounds like a bad indie band with a reedy female lead and not enough percussion. Of course my replacement isn't much better.

It just occurred to me a few days ago that my comic, Broken Space, is being written in the 2000s, which immediately dates it. When I was younger I'd get neurotic about writing science fiction because it'd look dated after a few years, especially when compared to fantasy. What got me was the extrasolar planets and new theories of planetary formation: those damn real scientists were taking away one of the SF writer's last vestiges of totally-made-up-bullshit, weird alien planets, and replacing them with actual data! So now I hide safely in the world of fantasy and space opera.

But that's started to change now that I've begun to appreciate eras and decades as artistic movements, rather than merely statements about what science doesn't know yet. And it's left me wondering what sort of cultural crest I'm riding here in 2008. While Broken Space isn't big, webcomics sure are; they're a phenomenon right now, and I find myself trying to figure out how people are going to look back at the current crop. It seems strange to think of my comic as a product of the 21st century, especially in light of the fact that the two biggest influences on the comic (and, I sometimes worry, on everything I write) are two products of the 90s: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Babylon 5. I like to think of myself as on the "cutting edge of retro"--I like that term more than "out-of-date and uncool" for some reason--because everyone else is obsessed with the 80s nowadays, just like everyone in the 80s was obsessed with the 50s. (Seriously, go back and watch those old 80s music videos; they're ga-ga for that vintage look. Hell, look at Back to the Future.)

Of course, I have no answers. I keep trying to get a perspective on the current movement in webcomics, not least because I'd like to be able to predict and exploit trends, but it's like trying to get a glimpse of the back of your head. I'll have to wait for VH1's Behind the Webcomics some time around 2020.

"And then began the long, slow decline into drugs and Naruto, on VH1."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

AV Geeks Everywhere

In my neverending quest to improve my knowledge of inane culture, I've found myself watching the MTV Yearbook, starting with 1981. And one of the things that most impressed me is that almost everyone making music videos in 1981 is a huge dork. I mean, wow, these guys aren't cool.

Don't get me wrong: I like The Buggles and Elvis Costello and Talking Heads and Devo--who doesn't like Devo?--but they're not what we, or anyone, would call "cool." It surprised me, though in retrospect it makes sense: who else is making music videos in 1981 except for the geeks? But it came as a shock to realize that these guys are basically Revenge of the Nerds-style AV Dorks (you know the type: tediously lampooned in every TV show's "college" episode, as if society hasn't changed since 1975 or whenever the writers were in school).

Also, since it's the 80s, no one knows that half of these musicians are gay. It boggles the mind; I mean, it's not like they're hiding it. It's like gay people in the 80s are having fun seeing how obvious they can be to a bunch of square homophobes. I wonder what will be screamingly obvious in 2018 that we just don't notice today. "What do you mean you didn't know they were cannibals, Dad? It's so obvious! I mean, just look at him! The way he minces around that guy's thighs!" "I thought he was gay, son! I thought he was a nice, normal gay guy! Not some cannibal freak!"

We end today's essay with an observation: what is it about white guys in the 80s and trying to kick really high? The band members in Van Halen are of course, the worst offenders, as they are the worst offenders in many things, but the phenomenon is...endemic. Every one of these videos has white guys showing off how they can kick kinda high. Was that a thing in the 80s that I don't remember? Were girls all like, "Ooh, you know what I want? I want a guy who can kick kinda high"? And so the guys are showing off how they can all kick kinda high? Because I don't remember that fad.