Text by 21•C editor Ashley Crawford, from 21C website
There is probably a book in itself to be written about the strange history of 21•C magazine. It began life as a print magazine created by the Australian Commission For The Future (a comparatively short-lived governmental entity). Its editorial brief was to tackle technology, science and social issues that would affect the near future. At times it was a somewhat parochial publication and I held the position as editor initially from 1990-1993 before brokering a deal to take over as publisher of the magazine (alongside its ‘sister’ publication World Art) from 1994-1999 under the auspices of the international publishing house Gordon & Breach who allowed a truly remarkable amount of freedom.
It was during that latter phase that 21•C established an international body of contributors and a reputation as a less (apologies to R.U. Sirius) wacky Mondo 2000 and a less conservative Wired. We did share with those magazines a number of interests and a number of contributors. But 21•C was, without doubt different. Assisted by a remarkably generous budget the magazine was glossy, extraordinarily well designed and pulsing with new-media illustration. Amongst its numerous brilliant contributors we became particularly close to the likes of Bruce Sterling (Schizmatrix), R.U. Sirius (How to Mutate and Take over the World), McKenzie Wark (Virtual Geography), Darren Tofts (Memory Trade), Kathy Acker (Blood & Guts In High School), Mark Dery (Flame Wars) and many others.
Sadly, in 1999, the company went bust, somewhat ironic given that 21•C in that form never made it into the Century after which it was named – the 21st. 21•C stalwart Mark Dery and I made some attempt to resuscitate the title early in the new millennium to no avail. Soon after Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky made some attempt to put the magazine on-line, but due to his other commitments that, too, floundered.
Yet many of the ideas and issues raised in the original magazine continued to arise, and with them perpetual queries as to how to get copies of the original articles, a nigh impossible task. With the prompting of two other 21•C stalwarts, Darren Tofts and Murray McKeich, it was decided to resurrect a core selection of articles in an archival on-line format. With Mick Stylianou’s wizard like help this was fairly painless. It didn’t take long to decide to add new material and it is hoped that new issues will be posted at semi-regular intervals.
This inaugural on-line issue takes as its theme Apocalypse Noir – the trend toward the apocalyptic, or at the least extremely dark – in contemporary writing. If earlier 21•C’s tended toward the darker aspects of cyberpunk, then the newer crop of writers have given up any pretense of a happy ending. Good luck!