The Horror of Fun If

The Horror of Fun

If you've seen stickers and T-shirts sporting a menacing white alien head, then you've been exposed to Schwa, a project launched by artist Bill Barker nearly a decade ago. Composed of a series of picture books, bumper stickers, and inscrutable trinkets, Schwa employs an invaders-from-space motif to instill a feeling of ominous isolation and psychological totalitarinism. Barker's latest twist on the project, a Web site called the Schwatown Midway is his most effective piece yet.

Part of the fun of any carnival is its creepiness. At any time, you expect an insane clown to jump out and knock you across the forehead with an oversized hammer. Here, on the Schawtown midway, you're placed at the beginning of a narrow walkway flanked with games and attractions, rendered in stark 3D. The looped sample of spooky calliope music adds to the feeling of a solipsistic nightmare. Like in a real carnival, most of the games here seem simple on the surface but are maddeningly difficult to win. The "junk puzzle" -- in which you try to slide a few rusty nuts and sections of re-bar to maneuver a ball bearing from one side to the other -- kept me up well past my bedtime. After I'd become burned out from getting suckered at the game booths, I sneaked into various mazelike buildings on the midway and got myself into trouble by operating mysterious pieces of equipment.

Even though I never figured out what was really going on in the midway, it's the first Web site I've come across that transported me into another world. The fact that my questions about the place were never really answered is a deliberate element of the piece. Schwa doesn't explain how the world works; it creates a complex unshakable mood, one that has kept me coming back to the world of Schwa, year-after-year.

I can't remember how I

I can't remember how I came across the site for Prospect, a UK magazine with a wide range of articles. Some of my favorites are about Gamma ray bursts (which can wipe out every star systems within a hundred light year radius), and the final diary entry from a guy who has spent the last 13 years in prison for armed robbery.

I was happy to discover

I was happy to discover that my friend, Jim Leftwich, has made his neat little macintosh game available. It's based on some characters I created a number of years ago for a comic that came with a Hypercard stack called Beyond Cyberpunk! There's also a Web-version of Beyond Cyberpunk!

I was listed as the

I was listed as the featured publisher on Clip2.com today. There are so many customization tools out there! I wonder if there's a way to integrate Clip2 with Blogger?

Back when I was a

Back when I was a book editor at Wired books (the defunct book publishing division of Wired magazine), I asked my favorite science fiction writer, Rudy Rucker, to write a book about wonderful technologies from the future. Wired Books folded before we had a chance to publish it, but Rudy found another publisher. Here's Rudy's account of the story behind Saucer Wisdom.

According to this article in

According to this article in The Industry Standard, Lycos and Advance (the company that owns Conde Nast) have funded a "group of cultural Web sites including Suck, Feed and alt.culture... The idea behind the group, these sources say, is to link the sites into an alternative-media network, and drive readers to them via Lycos' formidable search engine traffic. Each participating site will have equity in the company as a whole."