Pulp Rev Your Life

12-06-2019 18:06

The past is never coming back, nor will the future ever look like the return to some idealized past. 

Nor should it.

It’s better to use the best of what was done and thought before us and graft it on to the best parts of modernity, particularly where we’ve pruned the sickened vines of their poisonous fruits. That’s the trouble with the past six decades: We’ve artificially and unnaturally ruptured our connection with the past. It’s taken a few generations to even begin reclaiming that, and it’ll take a few more to bridge that gap. 

I often wonder how different today would look had that rupture never occurred. Would we be nastier, meaner, less tolerant place with a lower level of technological and economic achievement? Or would we be richer in other ways even though our GDP might not be as stratospheric . . . but neither would our debt. And I think many of us would be quite happy with stronger communities, meaningful employment close to home, low to no debt, and a deeper connection to our past even if we no longer had access to easy credit, cheap shiny gadgets, and exotic restaurants. 

In the arts, this is why the Pulp Revolution appeals to me so much. The idea behind PulpRev isn’t to create weird, nostalgia-soaked pastiches of the past. It’s to look at an entire branch of science fiction and fantasy writing that has been deliberately memory-holed by forces with ulterior motives besides great storytelling and the transmission of cultural values, replaced with an alternative and often inverted sense of values. The pulp sensibilities can be integrated with a modern aesthetic to create something entirely new . . . but not divorced from what came before.

I’d like to see the same thing with rock music. Like it or not, rock n’ roll, created in America and given new life by the British, has black spiritual and blues roots and white hillbilly, country, and folk roots. Without that, it doesn’t really sound like rock. It can rock, sure–I’m as big a fan of prog as the next guy–but it won’t feel like rock and roll. I found this rupture in rock music didn’t really start with punk or metal–it picked up steam in the 1990s with alternative.

There were plenty of good alternative groups that still have bluesy elements: Soundgarden comes to mind, both in the notes played and Chris Cornell’s vocal inflections. Even Nirvana used bluesy scales, techniques, and guitar solos. Smashing Pumpkins were basically a grungified late 60s psych-rock band, at least at the beginning. Nowadays we have Jack White and his various bands (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, etc.), Queens of the Stone Age–and before them the excellent Kyuss–and The Black Keys: all super-popular rock bands, all maybe the ONLY remaining super-popular rock bands, all of whom are heavily indebted to folk and blues music. Yes, even Kyuss and QOTSA.

But a lot of groups and movements kind of came unmoored from these roots, and despite some hipster bands like the Strokes actually having bluesy elements and others like Interpol being really good, most of the current Pitchfork-approved rock sounds nothing like the kind of music that anyone would want to rock out to, or even could rock out too.

I actually rescind all of this, because it’s just much easier to blame Radiohead. Not only are they easy to hate on, they spawned legions of obnoxious imitators. So screw you, Thom Yorke and interchangeable dudes you replaced with a laptop!

That’s an aside to show that severing anything from its roots can lead to drastic confusion and a straying from what made the thing in question work. Look at art, for example. Representational art had to go. So did even abstract. Now we’ve got dissertations accompanying something that wouldn’t even be impressive had a chimpanzee made it . . . and the dissertation–sorry, theory–is the most important part.

How about your life

Ancient religion, wisdom, and philosophy is just as relevant today as it was hundreds or thousands of years ago. This is because human nature has never changed. I’m loving the trend of Internet skeptic YouTubers rediscovering their Christianity. As this fine Irish fellow Computing Forever said, Christianity provides an ORIGIN STORY. 

That’s powerful. But that’s not all. It also, like most religions, provides an explanation of WHERE WE ARE and WHAT COMES NEXT.

Clarity and order are not bad things. I fundamentally reject the idea that certainty and clarity are ills, and that we should embrace eternal ambiguity because “We just don’t know!” and “We could be wrong!” and “Who is to say? Who is to judge?” To hell with that noise. That is a direct inversion of what is True. Anything that cultivates confusion and disorder comes from one place, and that place has a definite sulphuric tang to it. 

You’re never going to recreate the 1950s. Or the 1850s. Or anything. Fine. Create something new, create something better, relearn some family lore–just create something that has a connection to what’s come before.

My novel A Traitor to Dreams leans heavily on old weird fiction aesthetics, swashbuckling tales, and Greek mythology grafted into a technological setting. Check it out!