John Carpenter was planning to remake The Creature From the Black Lagoon after his contractual obligation with another remake, Village of the Damned. But he also had another project brewing: a sequel to his 1981 hit Escape From New York. The new adventures of a now bi-coastal Snake Plissken was in development for a decade, but might never have happened if not for Kurt Russell’s love for the character. Carpenter rejoined with producer Debra Hill, whom he hadn’t worked with since Escape From New York, and somehow managed to convince Paramount Pictures to give him $50 million — the heftiest budget of his career — so Kurt Russell could slip on the eyepatch, zipper vest, and simmering surliness for another go at dystopian action satire.
Every now and then, fandom needs to take a good, hard look at itself. Considering the recent Hugo kerfuffle, I thought it a fine time to read Norman Spinrad’s famous skewering of fan culture, The Iron Dream.
First published in 1972, this is a masterpiece of metafiction. It is a book within a book, containing the 1955 Hugo Award winner Lord of the Swastika, written by none other than that famous science fiction writer, Adolph Hitler. We are informed that after dabbling in radical politics in Germany, Hitler moved to New York in 1919. In the 1930s he became a sought-after illustrator for pulp magazines and started writing fiction. He was popular in fannish circles for his fanzine work and for his witty banter at conventions.
His best-known work is Lord of the Swastika, a post-apocalyptic tale where the world has been ravaged by nuclear war and most people have become foul mutants. Luckily there is one nation, Heldon, where the Truemen struggle to preserve humanity’s genetic purity.
Enter Feric Jaggar, a Trueman whose family was exiled due to political machinations and forced to live among the mongrel horde. Lord of the Swastika is the tale of Jagger’s triumphant return to Heldon, where he unmasks a plot by the mutants to take over the country and sully the genetic purity of the last real humans. Jagger’s political star rises, the masses rallying around him as he first faces off against a corrupt government, then unites the nation around him in order to start a massive war to wipe the Earth clean of genetic inferiors once and for all.
The recent attack by a white supremacist on a black church in Charleston reminded everyone that radical Muslims aren’t the only terrorists out there. In fact, an FBI report studying terrorism in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 shows there were more attacks by far-right groups than Muslim groups, even in the most recent years of that period. A study of terror attacks in the European Union reveals that less than two percent were religiously motivated. Most were either by separatist or far-right organizations.
So what motivates radical right-wing terror groups? What’s their equivalent of ISIS beheading videos? While there is a large body of white supremacist videos and literature, the undisputed classic is The Turner Diaries.
This novel, written in 1978 by white supremacist activist William Luther Pierce under the pen name Andrew MacDonald, tells of a race war in the 1990s in which a group of whites called The Order overthrow the Zionist-controlled U.S. government and kill all Jews and racial minorities. The book became famous because a scene depicting the blowing up of an FBI building was eerily similar to the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. Later investigation showed he had been inspired by the book, as had a short-lived racist group called The Order that committed a string of robberies and killed a Jewish radio personality. Several other white supremacist criminals have also been inspired by the novel.
While it’s not proven that the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, had read the book, it’s so well-known in the circles in which he circulated he surely must have heard of it. Curious, I decided to track it down.
What struck me the most when I visited Iraq as a journalist in 2012 was how many people smiled at me. On the street, in mosques, in museums, people came up to welcome me to their country. There was a lull in the fighting and the Iraqis were beginning to allow themselves hope. Nothing brought that home to me like the first time I heard gunshots in Baghdad. Early in the trip I was in my hotel room when that distinctive popping noise came from outside. Peeking from my window, I saw a wedding in progress in front of the hotel. Some of the men were firing into the air to celebrate, oblivious to the sensitivities of hotel guests or the consequences of gravity.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie. Starring Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Helen Buday, Frank Thring, Bruce Spence, Robert Grubb, Angelo Rossitto, Angry Anderson, George Spartels, Edwin Hodgeman.
“This you knows. The posts on Black Gate travel fast, and time after time I’ve done the tell. But this ain’t one body’s tell. This is the tell of us all who love the Mad Max franchise. And you gotta listen to it and remember. ‘Cause what you hear today, you gotta tell the newborn tomorrow. I’s looking behind us now, into history-back. I sees those of us who got the luck and started the haul for hi-def. And I remember how it led us here and we were heartful ‘cause we saw the pan-and-scan VHS of what was. And we knewed we got it straight.”
If it weren’t for my aversion to camping and having to use porta-potties, I would attend Wasteland Weekend every year, a “360° post-apocalypse environment” held each September in the Southern California desert for other Mad Maxians. I’m that much of a fan. I prefer an air-conditioned theater and a marathon of the three films (to which a fourth will be added next year) over risking a Gila monster bite, however.
Now I can hold the movie marathon in my less-well air-conditioned apartment — with indoor plumbing and absolutely no Gila monsters! — because Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome made its debut on Blu-ray last week, completing the trilogy in hi-def.
For both fans and the general public, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome generally ranks below the other two movies, Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior/Mad Max 2 (1981). The third film plays a lot nicer with other children than its predecessors: the low-budget exploitation biker/revenge flick of Mad Max and the violent action spectacle of The Road Warrior took a Spielbergian mid-‘80s shift that’s positively heartwarming. This was when the series went from an earned “R” rating to a family-friendly PG-13, and its rough wasteland-traversing hero came to the rescue of a clan of K-through-12s.