Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac hang out with New York's beats, 1959

Bruce Sterling: *THEY DON’T LOOK countercultural cliche-dramatic, they don’t have beatnik berets or bongos. You wouldn’t look at them twice in New York City, but there’s still something subtly off about them. I think it’s that plethora of pens in Ginsberg’s untucked shirt."



I spent last week teaching the Clarion science fiction workshop at UCSD and a recurring discussion there was how to depict transgressive, bohemian subcultures of the future. The moms and dads on my suburban school run have old stretched piercings, tattoos and rock pink hair. Punk is 40 years old. It has a show at the Victoria and Albert. Its major designer was given a Damehood.

Punk was co-opted in a year. Grunge took months. New subcultures are born as businesses with complete brand identities ready for Hot Topic.

Even the harder-to-co-opt subcultures find their way into a mall -- you can buy a red MAGA hat or a Black Lives Matter tee just about anywhere (but there are still signs and signifiers that don't go mainstream, like call-out culture or racist Pepe memes).

Scott Westerfeld thinks that maybe future subculturals will opt to have acne after it's been cured for everyone else. I wondered about permanent, full-head depilation, on the grounds that it's highly visible, transgressive and permanent, like a facial tattoo.

Loading...