In his fantastic new book on the British band The KLF, KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money (available from Amazon US, and Amazon UK), J.M.R. Higgs notes that "synchronicities seem to prefer some stories more than others, and this is one that they flock to." As if to emphasise the point, I asked Higgs earlier this week if I could reprint (on the Friday release date) some of the material from the book about coincidences involving The KLF and the legendary British sci-fi series Doctor Who, as I thought readers would enjoy it. I didn't realise when I asked this that Friday was the 49th anniversary of the first airing of Doctor Who…
I should have been aware of this though, because in the book Higgs mentions that November 22-23 is somewhat of a temporal confluence for a number of the historical tributaries that his book explores in mapping the career of the KLF. Not only the Doctor Who anniversary, but also November 23rd is a 'holy day' for Discordians, being the birthday of Harpo Marx, and the 22nd was the day that JFK was assassinated (an event whose coincidental links to Discordianism are worthy of a complete book themselves).
The KLF's main link to Doctor Who is a fairly obvious one: they had their first hit single (selling a million plus copies) under the name 'The Timelords', with the novelty single "Doctorin' The Tardis" (video above). But the story begins much earlier, with the respective encounters the two members of The KLF, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, had with Robert Anton Wilson's Discordian classic, Illuminatus!, in particular a certain stage version. In 1976 the British actor/director Ken Campbell adapted Illuminatus! after coming across the book in an esoteric bookshop in Camden. He cast Bill Nighy in the play after bumping into the well-known actor in a pub, as Nighy was toting a copy of the book himself, as well as other (now) big-name actors such as Jim Broadbent.
Bill Drummond himself was intimately involved in the production, being hired to produce the sets for the show. This was no easy task, because Campbell was asking for something off the chart. But, in the words of Bill Nighy, "f**k me, did he deliver!". Higgs explains:
Drummond's solution was to build the sets in strange scales, utilising tricks such as foreshortening and strange angles, all of which perfectly suited the disorienting style of the play. Tables or beds were stood upwards and stuck to the rear wall, giving the audience the impression that they were looking down on the action from the ceiling. Given the seemingly contradictory scales of the story and the cafe stage, Drummond took Campbell's advice, assumed that the impossible would be possible, and just knuckled down and did it.
The success of Campbell's play led to a sold-out run at the National Theatre in London, though Drummond was no longer a part of the show. After completing the construction of his 'impossible' sets, shortly before the premiere he announced that he was popping out to get some glue, and never returned. But among the audience watching the show in London was a young Jimmy Cauty, the other half of the (future) KLF.
These earlier chance encounters came together a decade later, when actors were being short-listed to replace the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker in a time of crisis for Doctor Who:
It is here that our Discordian threads return to the show. A number of actors were auditioned to replace Baker, but it very quickly came down to a choice between two: our good friend Ken Campbell, and Sylvester McCoy (whose first job in showbiz involved sticking ferrets down his trousers as part of the Ken Campbell Road Show.) Campbell auditioned by performing a speech about the nature of time modelled on Alan Moore's Dr. Manhattan character, wearing a long coat, sleeveless cartoon t-shirt and wide-brimmed hat. The producer thought that he was too weird, an opinion probably enforced by the strange message that had been left on the answer phone the previous day and which he suspected was from Campbell. The message was actually a quote from Charles Fort's book Lo!, and begins 'A naked man in a city street – the track of a horse in volcanic mud – the mystery of the reindeer's ears – a huge, black form, like a whale, in the sky, and it drips red drops as if attacked by celestial swordfishes – an appalling cherub appears in the sea – Confusions.'
The production team were unaware that this quote was Campbell's personal mantra, which he would recite in the wings before any performance as a centring exercise, and finding it on the answering machine was deeply unsettling.
As McCoy remembers, "the executive producer of the BBC Series and Serials wanted Ken, but the producer of Doctor Who wanted me, and his argument was that he thought Ken would frighten the children, and I think he was right. The producer in fact threatened to resign if Ken got the job. So I got it."
Campbell may have been too weird for Doctor Who, but that didn't mean our Discordian synchronicities would leave the show behind. With the money they made from their Doctor Who record Drummond and Cauty made a film called The White Room, as will be discussed later. There was one major role in the film that required a 'name' actor, and for this role they cast Paul McGann, then well known for his roles in the The Monocled Mutineer and Withnail and I. A few years after this McGann took over from Sylvester McCoy and became the eighth Doctor Who. There was only one person in the entire world who would be cast as the next Doctor Who, and for Drummond and Cauty to select that very same man for their Doctor Who-funded film is…well, the odds are pretty high. Clearly this is a story that the synchronicities can't get enough of.
But beyond exploring the many funny coincidences that occur throughout the story of The KLF (such as Drummond and Robert Anton Wilson both having 'encounters' with a giant invisible rabbit spirit, as well as a link to the movie about a giant rabbit spirit, Donnie Darko), Higgs also has some wonderful discussion of Alan Moore's notion of 'Ideaspace', and the evolution of Doctor Who as the product of many creative minds. ... Read More »
"THE NUMINOUS PLACE" is the first in a quadrilogy of books which utilizes all storytelling techniques to generate its authentic and experiential storyworld. Audio, video, a 26 page color comic, documents, Lucid Dreaming instruction, and interactive content are employed to create a chillingly realistic account of the scientific discovery of the afterlife.
Hold onto your seat and open your mind — the book just evolved.
If that doesn't get you excited for Mark Staufer's The Numinous Place, then hand in your Grail badge and go sit in the naughty corner.
Here's a necessity for any Grailer's bookshelf, if they don't have it already: an omnibus of all 3 volumes of Grant Morrison's seminal comic book series, The Invisibles, released in the next seven days and available for pre-order now from Amazon US and Amazon UK. Comprising some 59 issues in total, it's a bargain. For those who aren't familiar with the series:
The plot follows (more or less) a single cell of The Invisible College, a secret organization battling against physical and psychic oppression using time travel, magic, meditation, and physical violence.
For most of the series, the team includes leader King Mob; Lord Fanny, a Brazilian shaman; Boy, a former member of the NYPD; Ragged Robin, a telepath with a mysterious past; and Jack Frost, a young hooligan from Liverpool who may be the next Buddha. Their enemies are the Archons of Outer Church, interdimensional alien gods who have already enslaved most of the human race without their knowledge.
There's no shortage of references in the comics to topics that TDG readers will find familiar. Good fun! Though remember, not particularly suitable for children.
Last week I linked to the Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for The Silver Cord, a comic book seemingly made for Grailers with its fusion of spirituality and technology.* This week I've come across another Kickstarter campaign right up the Grail alley, so to speak: The Numinous Place, a futuristic book project combining topics from lucid dreaming to Da Vinci Code-like puzzle sleuthing:
THE NUMINOUS PLACE is not just the world's most technologically advanced book... It's a totally new way of storytelling... A chillingly realistic adventure that takes you to the afterlife and back.
THE NUMINOUS PLACE has the visual impact of a Hollywood blockbuster, and the pace, depth and intrigue of an irresistible work of fiction.
We use video, audio, images and text to tell the story of the greatest conspiracy of all time...
It's like if THE DA VINCI CODE came to life in your hands showing you actual video footage of the clues and interviews with suspects, presented the real life historical documents and artifacts, and played you recordings of crucial pieces of evidence.
THE NUMINOUS PLACE does all this in such an authentic way, you'll be swept along in the cosmic detective story like never before, as we show you the evidence that proves you are not who or where you think you are.
As is usual with Kickstarter campaigns, there are various pledge-level packages available for The Numinous Place - check out the TNP Kickstarter page for full details and more information about the project.
And for those that enjoy synchronicities: a few days after creator Mark Staufer emailed me about The Numinous Place, I received a few news links from Grailers regarding a green-lit feature film about the life of comedian Bill Hicks, to be directed by Russell Crowe. The script-writer? Mark Staufer. Down the rabbit hole we go...
(* Subsequent to our linkage, The Silver Cord - which had been struggling to make its target - got a rush of pledges and made its target! Not sure how much of a role we played in that, but we did at least get a thank you from the TSC team.)
There are few titles in the world of comics bigger than The Sandman. Neil Gaiman's chronicle of the adventures of 'Dream'/Morpheus, published from 1988 through to 1996, has become a modern fantasy classic, even making the New York Times bestseller list. Since then, Gaiman has continued his writing career with a string of other notable successes, such as his acclaimed American Gods. But today, [not] at SDCC, Gaiman made the announcement (via video) that he would be returning to series in order to explore some of the backstory that was neglected during the original series:
The new instalments are due to begin publication in November 2013, exactly 25 years after the initial release of the Sandman series.
While I'm eagerly looking forward to these upcoming releases, this latest announcement certainly puts an exclamation mark on the criticism, from some, that production companies in film and publishing are sticking to tried and tested formulas rather than trying new things. This Sandman reboot comes on the heels of the controversial Before Watchmen series, and the recent release of the Alien 'prequel' Prometheus. Hey, hang on a second - looking at Dream's iconic mask, I think I know the storyline of the new Sandman Series already. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...Promorpheus!
If I really wanted to start connecting dots, I might point out that J. H. Williams - the artist who will be working with Gaiman on the new series - is well-known for his work on Alan Moore's Promethea series. But I wouldn't do that...
Sci-fi novelist David Brin has a new book out titled Existence (Amazon US and UK) which touches on a number of topics we enjoy discussing here, perhaps most prominently the possibility of alien contact. Here's the trailer and short summary for those interested, following which I have a question for you all, and would love to hear your answers:
Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artifact.”
Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.
This io9 write-up mentions some of the setting of Brin's future world of the 2050s, including "the mesh, a virtual reality that exists on top of the real world and is viewable through glasses, contacts and eye implants collectively". Reading about such ideas, and agreeing completely with things such as 'the mesh', prompted me to wonder what you all think we will be seeing in four decades (if we're still alive)? Where will we be at technologically, spiritually, and politically? Tell me how *your* Earth of 2050 looks.
Acclaimed Science-Fiction legend Ray Bradbury has departed our world. The writer of classics like The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 & Something Wicked This Way Comes passed away last night at the age of 91.
Forever a Luddite, it seems the Red Planet's visionary opted for Venus as a much suitable transport than an airplane for his next destination.
"In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury has inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create," the statement said. "A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time."
Feel free to share your admiration for his work, and how it influenced your life's journey.
Rest in Peace.
When does a machine stop being a machine?
When does it become a person?
Kara, a impressively-moving short video intended to portray the power of the Playstation's graphic engine, makes a clever use of the limitations in accurately rendering a human character --the famous Uncanny Valley-- as a powerful narrative element that adds depth to the story of a self-aware android.
[H/T Boing Boing]
For the post-apocalyptic sci-fi lovers: check out Rosa, an epic sci-fi short film set in a future where all natural life has disappeared (warning - violence):
From the destruction awakes Rosa, a cyborg deployed from the Kernel project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem. Rosa will soon learn that she is not the only entity that has awakened and must fight for her survival.
Unbelievably, Rosa was created entirely by young comic-artist Jesús Orellana over the course of a year with no budget. Happily, after the feature won prizes at a number of festivals, Hollywood got interested and Rosa is now in development to be a feature film. Certainly, a number of aspects of the short film hint at a much larger storyline and already-constructed fictional world...so I'm looking forward to seeing the full deal.
A quick heads-up for any Grailers who are interested: Comic Cavalcade have just put on sale a signed, limited edition (200 copies) hardcover of Alan Moore's Lovecraftian-themed Neonomicon (illustrations and wonderful cover by Jacen Burrows). If interested, I'd get in very quickly (I did!):
A warning note for the uninitiated (pun unintended): Neonomicon certainly puts the graphic into 'graphic novel' - it is full-on, adults-only, murder and (beast-)sex fare. Consider yourself warned...