Is Change Good? An Interview with Former Wired Magazine Publisher Louis Rossetto

 

The change has become so complex that it can only be perceived incompletely and then only fleetingly in the quicksilver shimmering pulse of electrons across the consciousness of the hive mind.

 

Louis Rossetto, former Publisher of Wired magazine, and Erik Spiekermann have a successful Kickstarter project — a novel and “a revolution in book printing” titled Change Is Good. According to their Kickstarter site, “Every generation has its creation myth. This is the creation myth of the Digital Generation. A novel about the Digital Revolution, written by Louis Rossetto, co-founder of Wired.” It also promises “A masterpiece of the printer’s art —published by design legend Erik Spiekermann and printed on his own classic Heidelberg letterpress… The proof of concept for a revolution in letterpress printing: Post Digital Printing.” And the thing that really caught my eye (thanks to Eve) is the claim of Post Digital Printing that marries the advances of modern typography & design with the quality & artisanship of letterpress. I liked that they were marrying this artisanal approach to the “edgy” Wired mythology. Erik is even making a customized ink from scratch. 

“What,” you ask? Louis Rossetto, father of Wired, on the MONDO website? Sure. I’ve had my criticisms of Wired over the years, but Louis and his partner Jane Metcalfe (who has her own new project, Neo.Life) have remained friends and they’ve always got some cool stuff going on. Hell, even their chocolates are good.

Kickstarter page

Read On!

 

Why a novel?

LR: With fiction, you can often tell more truth than non-fiction.

When you say change is good, some change isn’t good… or hasn’t been good in the past. What change are you talking about and why is it good?

LR: “Change is good” is what we used to say all the time in the face of the resistance all of us used to get from the status quo. We joked that the only story the New York Times would write about the Digital Revolution was “Internet, Threat or Menace.” It was also a way to keep the disruption moving. If you overthought it, you might falter, or you might miss it. It was a big wave. Had to stay on top. Or if you don’t like that metaphor, there was always Stewart’s: You were either part of the steamroller, or you were part of the road.” But whether change is really good — that’s a question the book tries to address.

I’m intrigued by the classical craftsperson-like choice to use specialized ink and letterpress. Please ell us more about what you guys are doing with that. Is this a mix of the archaic and the novel? 

LR: Erik, I’m sure would have his own — and better — answers.

As for me, my father was a mechanical engineer, worked at Merghenthaler Linotype making hot metal machines — the first breakthrough in letterpress back in the late nineteenth century. Even though he ended his career building computers into his heavy machinery, he was really an atoms guy. How I grew up. Then I became a writer, editor, media guy, web adventurer — my life became increasingly ephemeral, from atoms to bits (pace Nicholas). And then after Wired, I helped start a chocolate company, and suddenly I was confronted with the hard world of atoms again. Chocolate may be based on formulas and scientific abstractions, but when you’re making it, it’s nothing but big machinery, bags of beans, supply chains based on fucking steamships that straddle the globe, and ultimately farmers who are planting, harvesting, and fermenting beans. All to make a slab of atoms that you can only really experience by putting on your tongue.

In other words, I was again immersed in sensuality. And ultimately, that’s what print and paper are about. Screens might have resolution higher than paper at this point, but the experience of using them is not the same. Screens emit, paper reflects — catches the light, which changes as you hold it, changes color depending on the time of day, the source of light. Paper engages more senses — touch, it’s smooth or rough or slick, it’s thin or thick. It smells — the inks, the paper, the glue all have their own subtle yet distinctive odors. Print has a visible past and future, not just a present like the screen; with paper, you can see and feel what you’ve read, what’s to come. I guess you can also hear paper. It rustles or rips. Probably the only thing you don’t do is taste it.

One of the reasons I loved Wired, the magazine, was we tried to push what we could do with print. The press we printed on, we were lucky, was a brand spanking new, state-of-the-art Heidelberg six color press. We were literally the first clients to print on it. Offset is normally four color, CMYK. Six colors means you have two more ink towers you can play with. That’s partially why Wired looked the way it did — we put fluorescents or metallics or double hits of blacks on those extra two towers, and the mag would have colors literally no other magazine was using. We were also on the leading edge of digital production. We used a $100K Kodak proofer at the printer that could not only show us what our pages would look like, but actually replicate the dot gain we would get from the screens we were using on press. So we really knew what a page would look like as we were designing it. We were among the first to go direct-to-plate.

Letterpress has made an artisan revival, because it delivers on the premise of print and paper… the letters being pressed ever so slightly into the paper, creating a well which catches the light, making the page subliminally alive as you move it.

Read more “Is Change Good? An Interview with Former Wired Magazine Publisher Louis Rossetto”

The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)

Something was starting to surface. Several small subcultures were drifting together, and some of these esoteric groupings included those who were creating the next economy. Clearly, we were positioned to become the magazine of a slow baking gestalt.

 

From Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in Late 20th Century Tech Culture

by R.U. Sirius

Some time in 1988, we made a rash decision. Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 18,000 in sales was solid), we decided to change the name of the magazine itself to Reality Hackers.

It was my idea.

We’d been hipped to cyberpunk SF and I’d read Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sterling’s Mirrorshades collection. Sterling’s famous introduction for that book, describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about. Here are some parts of it:

“The term, (cyberpunk) captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade as a whole: a new kind of integration. The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.

“This integration has become our decade’s crucial source of cultural energy. The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout the Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo. This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation…

An unholy alliance of the technical world and the world of organized dissent — the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy…

For the cyberpunks… technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds.

Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry — techniques radically redefining — the nature of humanity, the nature of the self. Read more “The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)”

Mathemagician Ralph Abraham: We Need Another Miracle

A little wind here, and the atmosphere interacts with the geosphere interacts with the biosphere interacts with the noosphere interacts with culture politics and society, and eventually back into the atmosphere. Huge nonlinear feedback loops. You, Ralph and I are part of a whole system that can’t be reduced to separate parts but must be understood as a whole.

by Giulio Prisco

I missed Mondo 2000. The internet wasn’t a thing in the late eighties, and I lived in Europe (still do). I didn’t miss Wired — I immediately subscribed after stumbling upon the first printed issue — but I didn’t realize that it was a watered-down commercial version of something more interesting.

Now our esteemed host is bringing Mondo back, and I hope this new online magazine will be as epoch-making as the original printed Mondo. In the meantime, we can find PDFs of some old Mondo issue collected in the Mondo 2000 History Project and other archives.

Had I been a Mondo reader in the late eighties and early nineties, I would have loved finding chaos and complexity prophet Ralph Abraham there as a frequent contributor.

I knew of Ralph as the mathematician who wrote “Foundations of Mechanics,” which I loved to read instead of my boring college textbooks to try and understand some of the magic of differential geometry and its applications to Einstein’s cosmology. I understood maybe ten percent, but that ten percent was useful.

Ralph seems to consider his life as a square university professor as a boring prelude to his real and very unsquare life as a cyberculture icon and explorer of the wildest fringes of mathematics, physics, history, society, life, the universe and everything. Read more “Mathemagician Ralph Abraham: We Need Another Miracle”

From “Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture”

From the MONDO 2000 history book/memoir Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture, yes, still in progress

by R.U. Sirius

Definition Of Vital Terms & Concepts (As Used In The Book)

DMT

The extremely powerful psychedelic drug DMT – Dimethyltryptamine — was a big part of the MONDO weltanschauung, subject to quite a bit of use and even more discussion. DMT is smoked and its effects last about 5-10 minutes. It is arguably the most powerful psychedelic experience, although that is not to be confused with deleriants. Deleriants such as Belladonna (Scopolamine) can take you even further from ordinary reality but the experience generally can’t be remembered and offers no insights or alterations to the imbiber. Read more “From “Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture””

William S. Burroughs in High Frontiers 1987 About Mind Technologies

In 1987, Faustin Bray conducted an interview with William S. Burroughs by phone, mostly using questions suggested by Terence McKenna and R.U. Sirius. Below is the opening exchange, about mind technologies. Read more “William S. Burroughs in High Frontiers 1987 About Mind Technologies”

First MONDO 2000 Editorial (1989) Annotated (2017)


cover photo by Morgan Russell

MONDO 2000 is here to cover the leading edge in hyperculture. We’ll bring you the latest in human/technological interactive mutational forms as they happen. (COULD PROBABLY RERUN SOME TECH ARTICLES FROM MONDO 2000 MAGAZINE HERE SINCE MOST OF THE THINGS THAT WERE GONNA HAPPEN IN FIVE YEARS ARE STILL GONNA HAPPEN… IN 5 YEARS)

We’re talking Cyber-Chautauqua: bringing cyberculture to the people! Artificial awareness modules. (THE GREAT THING ABOUT 1989 IS THAT YOU COULD JUST SAY STUFF THAT SOUNDS COOL… BECAUSE NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS SORT OF SHIT)  Visual music. Vidscan Magazines. (SOME PROJECT OF ALLAN LUNDELL & TAYLOR BARCROFT ANNOUNCED IN THIS FIRST MONDO ISSUE… IT DIDN’T MAKE IT TO ISSUE #2 … IT’S MEMORIALIZED IN DEAD MEDIA NOW  Brain-boosting technologies. (WELL, HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL FOR THINGS LIKE TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION … I’D LIKE TO TRY IT!)…    William Gibson’s Cyberspace Matrix — fully realized! (SPEAKING OF BILL GIBSON, HIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS INTELLIGENCE INCREASE THROUGH DRUGS AND TECHNOLOGY IS THAT (PARAPHRASING) UNTIL HE SEES SOME IDIOT SUDDENLY WALKING AROUND BEING A GENIUS, HE’S NOT TOO INTERESTED… WHICH REMINDS ME OF LAWNMOWER MAN) Read more “First MONDO 2000 Editorial (1989) Annotated (2017)”

William Gibson & Timothy Leary Discuss Neuromancer Game That Never Was (Audio)

 

cover photo by Morgan Russell

We were working on our first Mondo 2000 issue. It was going to be the cyberpunk theme issue and we’d gotten interviews with the major cyberpunk SF writers, except William Gibson. Gibson’s management wouldn’t put us in touch with him. And then we heard that he was coming to the Bay Area and we turned up the heat, but his press agent had him set up for interviews with major outlets only and we were nobody and it was just a brick wall. So somehow, publisher Queen Mu wound up on the phone with Timothy Leary complaining about this and Leary offered to let us transcribe a tape of him and Gibson in conversation about ideas for the game spinoff that would accompany the release of the film of Neuromancer all of this being planned then — back in 1989 (actually, plans began in ’86). Leary was going to lead the development of the game… at least conceptually. (Well, it was all conceptual, ultimately.) Read more “William Gibson & Timothy Leary Discuss Neuromancer Game That Never Was (Audio)”