For those who may not know, the late and great cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000 represented a media frontier of cultural experimentation, technological speculation, virtual hyperbole, and psychedelic weirdness, the memetic reverberations of which can still be felt to this day. Surfing a fine line between the emerging high-brow information culture of the digital literati, and the pranksterish and boisterous antinomianism of cyberpunk, Mondo 2000 came to occupy a unique cultural niche in the Bay Area of northern California in the late 80's and across a wider spectrum of readership over time, eventually reaching the cover of Time magazine in 1993.
Beginning as the publication High Frontiers in 1984, edited by R. U. Sirius (a pseudonym of Ken Goffman) and later Queen Mu (Alison Bailey Kennedy), the magazine then became Reality Hackers in 1988, and eventually morphed into the more long-lived and recognizable Mondo 2000. Stylistically, at the time, Mondo 2000 was in a class of its own. Taking advantage of the eminent era of graphic arts manipulation in media, the magazine showed readers a vision of the technological future through surrealistic and fantastic imagery as well as with words. Linguistically, Mondo read like a user's guide to a new reality: a map that was somewhat esoteric, scatterbrained, and mystifying, but equally provocative and entertaining. Tapping some of the most interesting literary and artistic figures of the day, including William Gibson, Terence McKenna, Timothy Leary, Bruce Sterling, John Perry Barlow, and many others, Mondo 2000 poised itself as a drug-fueled counter culture think-tank and experimental literary platform. The conspiracy theories, rants, pranks, manifestos, and wild speculations which spoke from its pages were influential to some, and incomprehensible to others.
Looking back, we can see that some aspects of the prophetic vision of Mondo 2000 have indeed come to pass. Today those born in the post-information age take for granted the fact that computerized machines and electronic lines of codes run many of the background processes of our lives—organizing, connecting, and facilitating human civilization across the world. Today you can follow the innermost thoughts of your favorite celebrities, sports stars, or authors on Twitter, or scan a village in Morocco via Google Earth. You can swap music, video, and document files with people you may never meet in person, and R.S.V.P. to a party on Facebook with your iPhone while playing electronic Scrabble with someone in Thailand. There is no question that technology has irrevocably altered the landscape of modern civilization, although not necessarily in the way that the rebellious prognosticators who ventured into the brave new electronic worlds of the early 90's may quite have imagined.
Now former editor R.U. Sirius has been working to put together a project that will provide an “open source history” of the magazine, its triumphs and tribulations, with commentary and interviews from people who were involved, as well as a digitalization of the print magazine, to formulate a collaborative narrative about the zeitgeist of the now infamous cyberpunk scene which Mondo helped create.
You can check out and contribute to the Mondo 2000 History Project here:
And here you can read some of R.U. Sirius' juicey memoirs of the time:
Tristan Gulliford is a writer, dreamer, and aspiring myth-keeper
who makes electronic music under the name "Dreamcode".