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At the bottom of the masthead was this somber warning: "Mondo 2000 has monthly bonfires at the full moon of all unsolicited manuscripts."
"It had arrived at a particular moment where there was at least a subculture of people in the computer community that were ready for it," remembers Sirius. And after some money from Kennedy's family became available, it was full steam ahead. "At the time there was no competition at all. There was absolutely nothing to compare it to. It talked about how technology was important in our lives at a time when people were in denial about it."
There was no denial about the importance of technology from the publishing industry. This same time saw the launch of several local magazines, taking advantage of the burgeoning desktop opportunities, including Frisko, SF, SF Moda, FAD, The Nose, Harpoon, and Just Go!. But Mondo 2000 took the technology to the outer limits, thanks to Bart Nagel's art direction.
A photographer and custom guitar maker in Phoenix, Nagel had followed his friend Fred Dodsworth to San Francisco. Dodsworth, who had started a new publication called The City, introduced Nagel to Queen Mu, who was in the market for a magazine redesign and in an interview asked Nagel his astrological sign.
"I'm a Pisces," said Nagel.
"Well, I think this will work out very well," answered Mu, and though Nagel had never designed a magazine before and had lived in California for just a month, he was appointed Mondo's art director.
"Being in Mondo is like being in a rock band," explains R.U. Sirius. "You have to bring your own equipment."
"I didn't think this was going to go anywhere," Nagel says, remembering that he would arrive each week at the Mondo House to pick up editorial copy -- and learn that none was finished.
Besides a lack of copy, the photographer-turned-graphic designer faced an intimidating work environment -- an editorial staff of the brightest, most eclectic bunch of misfits in the Bay Area. Queen Mu, the mad miscellaneous-trivia bank; Jas. Morgan, the subscriber from Georgia who came to visit and ended up as music editor; St. Jude the computer anarchist, a self-described polygamist and ex-physician's assistant with legitimate hacker connections; and R.U. Sirius, a walking Bonneville Salt Flats of pharmacology. Loitering around the perimeter were Michael Synergy, Queen Mu's former boyfriend Morgan Russell, and Gracie and Zarkov, the investment bankers who enjoyed drugs, heavy metal, and polyfidelity, and who took credit for starting the first sex club in Chicago.
As many news hacks would later trumpet, it was Revenge of the Nerds.
"We were all freaks in our high schools," says St. Jude. "They all hated us."
Nagel felt like he was trapped in another universe.
"In my circle of friends back in Phoenix, I always felt fairly bright. I had bright friends. And then I come into this world, and I'm starting to feel like an idiot. They just know too much about too many things. The editorial was beyond me. What the hell is an Extropian? Tell me what DMT was again?"
Nagel set about redesigning the book from top to bottom. He commissioned unknown artists like Eric White to do full-page illustrations for cheap, and discovered that collage artist John Borruso's sensibility would fit perfectly on the spine. And photographs were no problem -- Nagel took most of them himself.
"What the fuck is this?" thought the 24-year-old Harvard graduate, fresh from a year as managing editor of the Zyzzyva literary journal. He thumbed through the issue, which boasted peculiar articles on producing your own growth hormones, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, cybernetic fashion, and psychotic illustrations by Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes.
"They were intelligent, obviously," says Hultkrans. "Part of the thing that seemed intelligent about it was that I couldn't understand half of it. A little bit might have been that I was just baffled, and therefore assumed it was deep."
Sheer curiosity drove him to send in a rŽsumŽ, which earned him an interview at the Mondo House -- scheduled on a Saturday morning.
Hultkrans showed up looking professional -- pulled-back ponytail, blazer and button-down vest -- and knocked on the door for several minutes before a nonplussed Morgan let him in without introduction, ushered him into the kitchen of this antique-crammed home, and left him to wait. Queen Mu eventually entered, but instead of asking questions, she kept a steady stream of words going all by herself.
"Five minutes later [R.U.] appears in a bathrobe, looking totally awful and pale and fucked up," says Hultkrans. "R.U., in the morning after a big night, is pretty much of a sight. Alfred E. Neuman with long hair. He mumbled something and then left."
To his astonishment, Hultkrans was hired, first in ad sales, but he quickly was moved to working with text, and Nagel christened him "The Tall Editor" on the masthead.