Tagcyberpunk

Technoccult Interivew: King City Artist/Writer Brandon Graham

King City cover by Brandon Graham

King City by Brandon Graham is a comic book about a guy named Joe and his cat Earthling in a far future metropolis run by spy gangs and evil sorcerers. It’s full of weird drugs, black magic, luchador masks and oddball humor.

This month Image Comics published a collection of all 12 issues of King City, which was originally serialized from 2007 to 2010. After a battle with testicular caner Graham literally gave his left nut to finish the book. He’s now working on Prophet for Image and Multiple Warheads for Oni Press. I caught-up with him to talk about Moebius, graffiti, technology in science fiction and more.

Brandon Graham

How many details about the city were conceived in advance? Did you create maps, or list of facts and details about the world the book takes place in, or did you just make it up as you went along?

I had some rough ideas about the characters but I pretty much made up the city as I went along. I was always trying to base places off of somewhere I’d been. I think of Joe and Pete’s place in the 2nd half of KC as being in Seattle’s China town. The diner where Pete meets Exiekiel to get information about the alien lady was me trying to draw a diner in Queens.

King City Board Game

King City, to me anyway, has a very spontaneous feel. I imagine you just making up each page as you went along, packing them with as much detail as possible. Or did you have a more structured plan for each issue?

I had a real rough structure for everything but I try to allow for a lot of drawing what I’m in the mood to draw. And I usually lay out the book in 4 or 5 page chunks as I go along.

It’s nice to just follow your mood with a page and try to find new ways to stay interested in what you’re doing. I like to think about what’ll be fun to draw on the next page forcing me to speed up on what I’m doing because I’m so excited about what’s next. And then there’s days where I’m just not thinking about what comes next and I’m just having fun making lines on paper.

King City appears to take place in the far future, and there are references to certain technological advances like nanotechnology. But in some ways it seems really low tech – I’m not sure we ever see anyone use a cell phone or the Internet. For example, Anna seems to have no way of reaching Joe or Pete remotely, she has to walk to their apartment to find Joe. Did you consciously decide to avoid having the characters use certain technologies or was this  just the way the story worked out?

Yeah, it was on purpose. I avoid certain things like cell phones or the Internet or anything too modern that would seem dated really soon. I was trying to make it feel like it was happening now but with all the sci-fi fantasy elements I felt like throwing in. Excluding all the crazy sci-fi-ery, the technology is probably at the technological level of the early 1990’s because that’s about what I can wrap my head around.

I think a lot about different eras of science fiction and how they portrayed the future. The sci-fi that reflects modern technology seems sleeker and smaller, and it makes sense but it doesn’t look as cool to me. I’m a big fan of the look of big clunky utilitarian 70’s sci-fi. But maybe KC is “20 minutes in the future” of 1992.

Brandon Graham "The Long Goodbye"
Graham’s tribute to Moebius

King City actually reminds me a lot L’Incal by Jodorowsky and Moebius and other old European sci-fi/fantasy comics. Moebius recently passed away, can you talk about his influence?

Yeah, Moebius is probably the artist whose work has influenced me the most. Him and Howarth, Shirow and Barlow. I like the Incal all right, but I’m really obsessed with the work he did alone.

I feel like he took a lot of the freedoms American underground comics were doing in the 60s and pushed them to a whole new level adding all kinds of elements from science fiction novels and really creating something new.

I’ve always been so impressed by the joy he seemed to put into everything he did. His comics read like he’s having a great time working on them and the nerve in some of the stuff he pulled off is fantastic. How he’d allow himself to change a character’s look so dramatically in the middle of a story or jump from something completely serious to the ridiculous. I could go on forever about all the elements of his work and his life that have impressed me.

I know you haven’t done graffiti in a long time, but did being involved in the graffiti scene in Seattle as a kid affect the way you perceive the urban environment? Do you think you’d draw cities the same way if you hadn’t been a part of that?

Yeah, I think it definitely affected how I think about cities, certainly the way you interact with your environment when you’re running around drawing on it. It’s nice to be able to fuck with the world around you – changing signs or just writing a response to an ad directly on the ad or having to draw something to fit on the surface you’re drawing on.

Bigger than that, I think graffiti really influenced how I think about the scene I’m in.

Can you expand on that?

The graff writers I was around really pushed the idea that the culture has to be treated with a fair amount of respect. You’re expected to know the history and you have to earn your place in it.

I think the comic industry gets dirty because people make the excuse that it’s a job. For me it’s that if it’s where I’m going to spend my life then I want to make it a scene that I’m proud of.

The pillars of hip hop influenced you when you were younger – what, outside of comics, influences you now?

Still a lot of hip hop, I think in the last couple years the wordplay in rap has really driven a lot of what I put into my stuff.

I think I’ve been really influenced by some of the authors I’ve been reading. Robert Heinlein’s way of rethinking the way future relationships work and his whole out look on life being so different from mine. I’ve been influenced with how William Gibson structures his books and certainly the way Haruki Murakami writes about food and music.

My misses Marian has been a huge influence as well. She’s coming at art from a much more fine art/literary way of looking at it than I was used to. She’s really good at challenging my ideas and helping me think about what it means to be a life long artist and how I talk about art. A big thing I learned from her early on was the idea of talking about the quality of work not from a “this is the best” but rather “this is my favorite”.

Prophet cover by Marian Churchland
Prophet cover by Graham’s wife Marian Churchland

Given the amount of improvisation in your work on King City, how different is it to be a writer, instead of an artist, on Prophet?

The whole approach is pretty different. It puts a lot of the weight on the guy drawing it, plus we go back and forth on the layouts and script. I do the text after the art is done so there’s lots of room to improvise.

I think it uses the same skills that I use in my solo work but it feels like a different animal.

Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham

Other than Prophet what are you working on?

My main thing is Multiple Warheads that’ll be coming out later this year from Oni press. It’s a fantasy comic set in a fictional Russia. and I’m putting together an 80 page book of my sketches.

See Also

The Comics Journal’s interview with Graham

Inksuds’ video interview with Graham

Graham on what it’s like working with Liefeld, and the matter of how women are portrayed in comics

Inside the Secretive World of MegaUpload

wan chai hong kong

OWNI reports:

Last year, journalists from New Zealand’s Investigate Magazine looked into the identity of the mystery man at the centre of MegaUpload. Kim Schmitz is a former German computer hacker with something of a chequered past. He made a name for himself infiltrating some the best protected computer systems in the world (including NASA’s) and has been accused of getting rich on the back of fraudulent transactions and insider trading. In the early 2000’s, Kim Schmitz discovered Internet streaming. He created MegaUpload Limited in 2005 with a Finnish passport, presenting himself as Kim Tim Jim Vestor. Alternately using his German passport (where he is identified as Kim Schmitz) and his Finnish passport, he set up several companies – Kimpire and Kimvestor – in Asia following the Mega model. At the end of 2010 he relocated to New Zealand. […]

The management of the majority of Mega sites is carried out via the company MegaUpload Limited, located in the Won Chaï business district in Hong Kong. Founded in 2005, the company was likely set up there to capitalise on Hong Kong’s extremely flexible regulations for foreign companies, which include exemption from corporation and income taxes.

OWNI: Inside the Secretive World of MegaUpload

Fascinating stuff. Cyberpunk came true.

Neuromancer Casting? Cyberpunks Weigh In

Damage from Planet Damage asked his “22 major arcana of cyberpunk” who they thought should be cast in a Neuromancer movie. I was honored to be included.

 Joseph Gordon-Levitt

[CASE]

Klint: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Anabelle Cat: I love Cillian Murphy-superb choice and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Matt: An Unknown Rob: As for Case, the only person even slightly close to the target age that I feel could pull it off would be Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I think a lot of that has to do with his role in Brick, which was seriously perfect. M1k3y: Ryan Gosling as Case, if only to see him cyberpunk’d up. But mostly because he’s talented as shit.
Majority verdict? Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Planet Damage: (Warning: some of the sidebar images may be NSFW)

William Gibson on the Creation of Cyberspace

Apple ads

The Paris Review has an interview with Gibson in which he explains how her arrived upon the idea of cyberspace. I knew the famous story about seeing the Apple ad at the bus stop, but in this he puts the whole process together:

I was walking around Vancouver, aware of that need, and I remember walking past a video arcade, which was a new sort of business at that time, and seeing kids playing those old-fashioned console-style plywood video games. The games had a very primitive graphic representation of space and perspective. Some of them didn’t even have perspective but were yearning toward perspective and dimensionality. Even in this very primitive form, the kids who were playing them were so physically involved, it seemed to me that what they wanted was to be inside the games, within the notional space of the machine. The real world had disappeared for them—it had completely lost its importance. They were in that notional space, and the machine in front of them was the brave new world.

The only computers I’d ever seen in those days were things the size of the side of a barn. And then one day, I walked by a bus stop and there was an Apple poster. The poster was a photograph of a businessman’s jacketed, neatly cuffed arm holding a life-size representation of a real-life computer that was not much bigger than a laptop is today. Everyone is going to have one of these, I thought, and everyone is going to want to live inside them. And somehow I knew that the notional space behind all of the computer screens would be one single universe.

Paris Review: William Gibson, The Art of Fiction

Unfortunately, in order to read the whole interview you have to buy the entire issue in print. Update: The whole interview is now available.

10 Best Hard Sci-Fi Novels of All Time

The Shockwave Rider

MIT’s Technology Review published its list of all time greatest hard sci-fi novels:

  1. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
  2. The Time Machine
  3. I, Robot
  4. The Shockwave Rider
  5. The Fountains of Paradise
  6. Cyteen
  7. The Mars Trilogy
  8. The Diamond Age
  9. Rainbows End
  10. Incandescence

Technology Review: The Best Hard Science Fiction Books of all Time

(via The Daily Grail)

Many Former Cyberpunk Authors Now Write Fantasy

fantasy

Cyberpunk has fallen from its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, but the great cyberpunk authors are still writing. And many of them have turned to fantasy. Why is this?

What is it about fantasy that appeals to many of the greatest cyberpunk authors? We asked the authors themselves and also cooked up some theories of our own.

Consider:

Rudy Rucker, author of the Ware tetralogy and Postsingular, among many others, has described his new novel Jim and the Flims as being akin to fantasy. Also, Black Glass author John Shirley published the mystical Bleak History in 2009.

Metrophage author Richard Kadrey has gained a huge following for his Sandman Slim novels — the third one, Aloha from Hell, is coming October 18. Richard K. Morgan, author of the cyberpunk Takeshi Kovacs novels, has written a bloody fantasy, The Steel Remains, with the sequel, The Cold Commands (or The Dark Commands), coming October 11. Meanwhile, some of Synners author Pat Cadigan’s recent stories have seemed much more fantasy-oriented.

What’s going on here?

io9: Why do so many former cyberpunk authors now write dark fantasy?

I’m partial to the “Cyberpunk has come true” explanation.

I hadn’t even realized this was going on, but it makes sense. Fantasy hasn’t held my interest since adolescence (I’m sure there’s good stuff out there, I just haven’t seen enough of it). But I’ve been thinking about the idea of fantasy a lot lately. It sounds like an interesting genre to explore, but starting with Gilgamesh, it’s the oldest genre out there. Seems like it would be hard to get new ideas out of it.

(via Theoretick)

Cyberculture History: The High-Tech Pagan Origins of the .to Domain Names

Here’s a fun discovery: the founder of the company that commercialized the .to top level domain name is none other than Eric Gullichsen, co-author with Timothy Leary of Load and Run High-tech Paganism-Digital Polytheism. Here’s an article on Gullichsen from Time Magazine in 1999:

The two Erics decided the best way to beat the com system (and make some easy money in the process) was to circumvent it. There’s nothing magical about the letters com they reasoned; why not just use, say, .to for Tonga?
So in 1997, with the Crown Prince’s permission, Gullichsen and Lyons started Tonic Corp. and began selling Tonga domain names on a first-come, first-served basis. Bummed that the cool website name you thought of is already taken? Visit www.tonic.to with a valid credit card, and they’ll sell you the same name in the .to domain. Price: $100 for the first two years. You can still host your site from your PC in Topeka, Kans.; the name will just be registered by a company based on an island you probably can’t find on a map.

Time: He’s the Master Of His Domain Name

What did Gullichsen decide to do with his earnings?

And with the cash these virtual companies siphon out of the old world order, Gullichsen plans to build a new one. The crown prince has given him the run of a tiny Tongan outrider island, which Gullichsen hopes to turn into a prototype sustainable environment. “I’m setting up an ecologically closed community,” he says. “I’ll have a wind generator, solar panels, a geodesic dome and hydroponics. I want to live off the grid but still be online–be connected to the global fabric but from a venue that is free from regulation and in harmony with the environment.”

I wonder what ever happened to him.

For more on the intersection between occulture and the high-tech world, check out Erik Davis’s classic article or his book Techgnosis.

Network Realism: William Gibson and New Forms of Fiction

network realism

Gibson’s been talking a lot lately about atemporality, this idea that we live in a sort of endless digital now. In “Zero History” we have an echo of “No Future”: everything compressed into the present. This idea is what Zero History is really about. (This is the Order Flow: the future is defined by the present; who pinpoints the present controls the future.)

While not one to contradict Gibson himself, I’m not sure I buy this exactly: indeed, the wikihistoriography project was, in part, a refutation of this view. But it’s undeniable that something is happening, a network effect produced by the sudden visibility of just how unevenly distributed those futures are.

I want to give it a name, and at this point I’m calling it Network Realism.

Network Realism is writing that is of and about the network. It’s realism because it’s so close to our present reality. A realism that posits an increasingly 1:1 relationship between Fiction and the World. A realtime link. And it’s networked because it lives in a place that’s that’s enabled by, and only recently made possible by, our technological connectedness.

Zero History is Network Realism because of the way that it talks about the world, and the way its knowledge of the world is gathered and disseminated. Gibson seems to be navigating the spider graph of current reality as wikiracing does human knowledge.

booktwo.org: Network Realism: William Gibson and new forms of Fiction

(via Justin Pickard)

William Gibson Interview on Dangerous Minds

A Discussion with William Gibson from DANGEROUS MINDS on Vimeo.

The other night in Portland, Gibson said Twitter was the equivalent of only $300 worth of imported magazines – guess the value has already inflated.

I thought Richard’s comment about how there may never be another LOST was interesting.

See also:

i09’s interview with Gibson

My interview with Richard at Mediapunk.

William Gibson Interview on Zero History in Vice

William Gibson

In your last three books, you’ve developed this world where marketing is treated like espionage. There are agents and double agents and intrigue upon intrigue, but it will be in the service of something like a new denim line. Is this approach intended to be satire? Or is it closer to the truth as you see it?

If something really is satire, I don’t enjoy it. It can’t be satire and be that good. What I like is something that’s closer to a useful, anthropological description that has a really, really sharp satirical edge. Satire, traditionally in our culture, pushes the exaggeration past where the edge really hurts, and you sort of just goof on it. But other cultures, like the British, totally get it. Where you want to be with satire is right on the razor’s edge, where it really hurts and you can’t tell whether you’re being put on or not.

One of the easiest illustrations of the differences between their satire and ours would be the two versions of The Office. The British Office had a genuine humanity to it. It could be totally moving. The American take on it is far more buffoonish, and the attempts at humanity in it are maudlin.

Yeah, absolutely. The original Office is heartbreaking, it’s totally heartbreaking. And it’s not that we can’t do it, but that sort of work doesn’t have the prominent foregrounding in American culture that it does in British culture. And it’s something that can often scare Americans the first time they discover it.

Maybe it’s that most people prefer to know what they’re getting beforehand. They don’t like to feel confused about genre or intent.

I think that I am kind of functionally incapable of staying absolutely true to genre or form. Sometimes I feel sorry for somebody in the Atlanta airport who’s just bought one of my books when what they really want is Ludlum or Clancy. They get on the plane to the other side of the world and all they’ve got to read is this screwy shit about designer blue jeans.

Vice: William Gibson

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