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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

Page 5 of 7

"Half the time we were trying to baffle people into thinking we were deep," says Hultkrans, "and having it be a pop fluff rag at the same time. It was paradise."

"You picked up Mondo and it became aflame in your hands," remembers high-tech publisher Randy Stickrod, who acted as business consultant for the early Mondo. "It was like computers as drugs. This very cool but somehow almost impenetrable intellectual content underneath it, and yet with this edge of New Wave paranoia. It was outrageous! It was like discovering sex for the first time!"

There was little division between Mondo House living, Mondo House parties, and Mondo the magazine. Mondo partied with the people it wanted to write about and have write for the magazine: the cyberpunk novelists (of course), Spalding Gray, Timothy Leary, and John Perry Barlow, to name a few.

"Ideas for articles appeared at parties, parties happened as a result of articles, parties happened as a result of interviews, interviews happened as a result of parties," recalls Zarkov. "It was a very integral part of how Mondo proceeded. Ken and Alison knew a lot of people that they wanted to have over, to build the scene. The scene built the magazine, and the magazine built the scene."

A Mondo party might find a time-travel expert being interviewed in one room, people playing word-association games in another, others experimenting with weird mental mind-stimulation glasses, groups quietly chatting in conspiratorial whispers, or Bart Nagel and virtual reality theorist Brenda Laurel leaping in the air to see if they could do a complete 360-degree turn without falling down. Rude pornography or Japanese animation videos flickered on monitors, figures performed frottage on antique sofas. A journalist from GQ might have been taking a piss on the front lawn. One creature would trap people for entire evenings in conversations about how Sir Francis Bacon was actually William Shakespeare.

"It's very strategically positioned," says Timothy Leary of Mondo House, speaking between bites of crackers. "You're almost in the country, and yet you're three minutes away from the country's top university. Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone -- you can't go over to Jann's pad in the penthouse on Park Avenue and hang out."

Mondo also partied with people whose money it coveted, throwing one affair for Joichi Ito, its Tokyo correspondent whose parents had been targeted as potential investors because they came from a wealthy big-business family in Japan. During the course of conversation, the topic turned to the Japanese language.

"You know, there are 12 ways of saying 'thank you' in Japanese," said Ito.
"And every one of them insincere," replied novelist John Shirley.
I recall one evening drinking and arguing in the Mondo House kitchen with an accordion player named Miss Murgatroid, and thinking that not only our conversation was passŽ, but our substance of abuse. Beer was a quaint, retro, Bill-Haley-and-the-Comets vice compared to the choline cooler smart drinks people were sipping or the experimental mail-order neural inhibitors whose molecular structure was still a mystery to the FDA.

Having defined the nascent cybersexcomputerdrug culture, Mondo assumed the role of oracle for the rest of the media struggling to comprehend the trend. Sirius appeared on Donahue and Ron Reagan's show. Reporters descended upon the Mondo House from all parts of the globe -- Newsweek, Details, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and bureaus from Europe -- as well as all the local dailies.

What is cyberpunk? they begged. Tell us why cyberpunks wear mirror shades and drink Jolt cola. What is virtual sex like?

Mondo obliged with catchy slogans for the journalistic pack. "We're a pirate mind station," Queen Mu told them. "The New Edge ... the alpha and omega of cyberzines." Rudy Rucker supplied the accusatory, "How fast are you? How dense?"

" 'The convergence of technology and culture' would be the straight rap," says Sirius. "But it got mistaken for total advocacy. These magazine people would come around, writing an article about VR. I'd be really cynical for a half-hour. I'd say maybe one positive statement, and that's what they'd put in the article, because that's what they were looking for."

The magazine found itself described as "Berkeley-based and cyber-spaced." R.U. Sirius became everything from "Gomez Addams" to a "balding entrepreneur" to a "long-haired leprechaun who sports some truly humongous brain banks." Queen Mu was described as "hyper-cerebral," "techno-yogic," and "not a witch but may be a pixie." Together they were "digital Druids," working against a "pre-Raphaelite backdrop" out of a "techno-Gothic citadel."

Mondo staffers were articulate and erudite in interviews -- so articulate and erudite that reporters were too intimidated to ask for clarifications and instead ran the staff's soundbites in their goofy entirety.

"We talk a lot about the 'rupture before the rapture,' " Sirius once told an Examiner reporter. "It's going to be interesting to see how the really advanced super-high-tekkies are going to function and evolve amidst this coming economic chaos. It just might be the garage-tech cyberpunk brigade that can carry the ball through it."

Queen Mu added, "We're no longer knuckling under to a priest-physician class that demands belief in a model that has totally failed -- a highly puritanical society where both pleasure and intelligence are suspect."

When the Washington Post asked Sirius what he looked forward to most
in the future, he responded gleefully: "The cure of venereal diseases and the free passage of RU 486 and the orgiastic end of the 20th century!"

Eventually, being covered by the media became as intoxicating as making media. One day, Hultkrans entered the Wednesday editorial meeting to announce that Mondo was the subject of the lead editorial in the new issue of Artforum. The staff cheered, then somebody asked:

About The Author

Jack Boulware


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