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Mondo 1995 

Mondo 2000 nailed the emerging cybersexcomputerdrug Zeitgeist with its first issue in 1989, making media mavens out of its founders, Queen Mu and R.U. Sirius. But the trippy, fractious family that was Mondo began to implode in 1993, torn asunder by inter

Wednesday, Oct 11 1995
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Vowing to make the magazine a moneymaker, the pair wrote a business plan, but their meetings with potential investors ended in frustration.

"There was definitely no advertising," says Sirius. "Acid dealers don't advertise."

"It's just that if your lead story is 'How to Party on Ecstasy,' it's really hard to go to IBM or Macintosh and say, 'Hey, would you like to take out a full-page ad?' " echoes Latimer.

Although Reality Hackers appeared more frequently than High Frontiers, Sirius and Mu could only afford to publish biannually. Sirius says he made the sacrifice of cutting back on psychedelic use to get more work done. Unix champ Jude Milhon signed on after meeting Sirius at a party, mutating into the sharp-tongued St. Jude. The staff bumped into Michael Synergy, who was working for AutoDesk down in Silicon Valley, and he agreed to write up some subversive articles about cyberpunks overthrowing the government. After a serious bicycle accident left Synergy temporarily laid up, Mu and St. Jude rescued him from the hospital and moved him into the house in the hills.

Reality Hackers offered the most diverse and interesting mix yet, with articles on computer viruses, virtual reality, psychoactive designer foods, high-tech paganism, alleged AIDS biological warfare experiments, Brian Eno, chaos theory, Hakim Bey, and a lengthy exploration by banker acidheads Gracie and Zarkov on Blue …yster Cult. In addition to Leary, Herbert, and McKenna, new contributors included isolation tank expert Michael Hutchison, drug authors Peter Stafford and Bruce Eisner, drug architect Alexander Shulgin, smart-drug pioneers Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, and computer whiz Eric Gullichsen, one of the original VR developers. To corral the whole concept, a new subhead was composed: "Information Technologies & Entertainment for Those on the Brink."

But the name Reality Hackers remained a problem. Reports came in from national distributors: Retailers don't know whether to stock it next to Guns and Ammo or D-Cup Beauties.

"One distributor told them that everybody east of the Rockies thought it was about hacking people up, and that it was a Mansonite cult magazine," cackles Sirius.

Kevin Kelly, then editor of Whole Earth Review, wanted to hire Sirius as a writer to help him produce a new magazine called Signal, which would cover digital technology and the cultural impact of computers. Sirius said no, that he had an idea of his own.

With the next issue containing a big scoop on the heretofore ignored subject of cyberpunk, R.U. Sirius and Queen Mu wanted to change the magazine's image and make a big splash. Sirius flicked on the television.

"There were all these commercials for this-2000 and that-2000. Furnishings 2000. All this really banal stuff with the name 2000 after it. Finally this show came on, which was like Future 2000. It was like an Omni magazine kind of pop-science show. I stumbled into Alison's room and said, 'We've got to come up with a name with the name 2000 on it, because everybody's using it to sell shit.' "

"Mondo," replied Queen Mu, explaining that the lettering would look great on the masthead, and that it had a delightfully fashionable yet decadent sound. The name was changed.

Mondo 2000 reached newsstands in 1989 with a unique new logo designed by German graphic artist Brummbär, each letter of "Mondo" containing its own separate personality. Todd Rundgren was the cover boy, the only male to grace its cover in masculine clothing (drag queen Jade made an appearance years later). Readers were treated to articles by Gibson, Shirley, and Sterling, as well as several pieces on hackers and crackers, Internet viruses, conspiracy theories, cyberspace, and cutting-edge technology nobody had heard of.

The inclusion of Gibson in particular struck a chord with readers. In many circles his seminal 1984 book Neuromancer was referred to in hushed tones, like a sacred scripture containing secrets of the future. "He was writing about us," says St. Jude. "Drug-taking, intellectual scum."

At the bottom of the masthead was this somber warning: "Mondo 2000 has monthly bonfires at the full moon of all unsolicited manuscripts."

"It had arrived at a particular moment where there was at least a subculture of people in the computer community that were ready for it," remembers Sirius. And after some money from Kennedy's family became available, it was full steam ahead. "At the time there was no competition at all. There was absolutely nothing to compare it to. It talked about how technology was important in our lives at a time when people were in denial about it."

There was no denial about the importance of technology from the publishing industry. This same time saw the launch of several local magazines, taking advantage of the burgeoning desktop opportunities, including Frisko, SF, SF Moda, FAD, The Nose, Harpoon, and Just Go!. But Mondo 2000 took the technology to the outer limits, thanks to Bart Nagel's art direction.

A photographer and custom guitar maker in Phoenix, Nagel had followed his friend Fred Dodsworth to San Francisco. Dodsworth, who had started a new publication called The City, introduced Nagel to Queen Mu, who was in the market for a magazine redesign and in an interview asked Nagel his astrological sign.

"I'm a Pisces," said Nagel.
"Well, I think this will work out very well," answered Mu, and though Nagel had never designed a magazine before and had lived in California for just a month, he was appointed Mondo's art director.

"Being in Mondo is like being in a rock band," explains R.U. Sirius. "You have to bring your own equipment."

"I didn't think this was going to go anywhere," Nagel says, remembering that he would arrive each week at the Mondo House to pick up editorial copy -- and learn that none was finished.

About The Author

Jack Boulware

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