Dr. Bloodmoney or: The Post-Apocalyptic Novel to Begin Your New Year With

Hailed as “The Godfather of Science Fiction”, Phillip Kindred Dick was born prematurely on December 16th, 1928. His twin sister, Jane Charlotte, would die 6 weeks later and leave a profound impact on Philip’s life. Suffering from hallucinations and a slippery grip on reality, he would also be forever haunted by the absence of a sibling. The concept of a “phantom twin” and estranged siblings would surface throughout his critically acclaimed writing career. Most notable being Dr. Bloodmoney or: How We Learned to Get Along After the Bomb. In a letter written to Sandra Miesel in 1970, Dick admitted that he liked this novel more than anything else he had ever written.

The Bomb Will Bring Us Together

Composed on the heels of the Cuban missile crisis, Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney imagines the early 80’s in California’s Bay Area as an age of fear. A paranoia of atomic weapons and fallout after a failed nuclear defense experiment. The Bluthgeld Disaster of ’72, so named after the overseeing physicist that had made a miscalculation. Resulting in mass destruction and radiation poisoning. In his signature style of a disjointed narrative, Dick’s novel begins by introducing multiple characters on the last known day of civilized society. 

Beginning with Mr. Jack Tree, the assumed name of Dr. Bruno Bluthgeld. The infamous radiation expert that had made the grave error. Having gone into hiding after the catastrophe, he now suffered from severe paranoia. Guilt and isolation eroding his mind to fabricate delusions of grandeur. Believing he can speak with God and that others read his thoughts. At the suggestion of his friend, Bonnie Keller, he seeks psychiatric help from Dr. Stockstill. Unfortunately, Stockstill disgusted with the incognito scientist, knowing who he really is. Trying to mask his hatred of the patient, he distracts himself by thinking about the NASA Mars launch. 

The lone friend of Bruno Bluthgeld is a bored housewife, Bonny Keller. Depressed and repressed, she fears stagnation. Burning through hobbies and meddling in the lives of others to stay busy. With little regard for her husband, Bonny is quite fond of Bruno. Having served as a mentor, she hopes her psychiatrist can help with his mental state. Anxiously she waits by the phone to hear about Bluthgeld and Stockstill’s session. Fantasizing about having affairs or China declaring war. To ease the restlessness, Bonny watches the Mars launch live on television.

Hoppy Harrington suffers from phocomelia, born without arms and legs. He gets around on a government issued cart with extensors. But Hoppy has a powerful mind and is full of ambition. Determined to make a living doing manual labor, he’s hired as a repairman at Modern TV. Quickly he wins over his coworkers with his talents. Concentrating on a broken electronic, he almost seems to heal the device rather than repair it. 

Emergency Day 

Since the radiation fallout from 1972, mankind has been seeking to thrive beyond Earth. Russia had failed to colonize the moon and the cosmonauts either starved or suffocated. NASA had decided to send a couple into orbit in hopes of colonizing Mars. Walter Dangerfield was selected, an earnest-hearted Regular Joe with his wry and mordant wit. He and his wife Lydia were being sent to pioneer a “Nova Terra”, armed with good breeding genes and a wealth of knowledge. The Dangerfields are a beacon of hope for Earthlings suffering the long-term effects of the Bluthgeld Disaster. Making the opportunity of a fresh beginning more available to everyone tuning in. Until all the screens suddenly go blank, and the signal is lost.

“Walter, we are under attack down here.”

Static begins erasing voices from mission control to the Regular Joe. Helplessly looking down at the blue marble to see matches being lit. Little puffs and flares burning up life. 

The only warnings that came were a split-second Red Alert on FM radio. Moments passed before skies darkened and filled with soot. The very ground would jump again and again. Bombs rained upon cities and countryside alike from unknown enemies. People ran wild in the streets, seeking shelter in community cellars. Buildings crumbled and all of Berkley seemed to be sinking on one side, tilting sidewalks, and toppling structures. The survivors would one day reminisce about the event lacking hostility and purpose. As if it was another mistake made in Washington. Militant amateurs and the greedy in their highly scientific circles. Just like in ‘72, when the deranged are in charge it makes the concept of “enemy” unbelievable. Other survivors will recall the relief and excitement felt when the bombs started dropping. If not seen as a second chance to do things over, it was regarded as the will of God. Cleansing away all the undesirable traits of mankind. 

The city had become a sieve, leaking endless streams of people wanting to get out. Bruno Bluthgeld wandered the demolished streets of Berkeley, in the midst of chaos. Unable to understand what was happening, just like everyone else. Cars and crowds pushed past him as he slowly recognized this as the end. Surmising that there is no war to speak of other than inside of himself, the responsible party. Bluthgeld believes he brought about this ending with his mind alone. Possessing psychic abilities that cause destruction, just as he had done in ‘72 with the experiment failure. Desperate to make amends, Bluthgeld attempts to will civilization to heal itself from this tragedy. 

Crawl Out From the Fallout 

When the bombs cease and the smoke clears, society slowly reestablishes itself in smaller colonies. Connecting with a barter system of skills and resources. Slowly they rebuild with primitive methods and little to no machinery. Outside of Berkeley, in West Marin, there are communal gatherings to listen to a lone working radio and the last broadcasts of mankind. Walter Dangerfield, trapped in the Dutchman IV space capsule for the last 7 years, has become an international disc jockey. Endlessly orbiting Earth, entertaining anyone that can pick up his signal. Transmissions of book readings and songs from his music archive. Equipped with the resources to sustain a decade of life for 2, he currently feels unwell. Noticing a sudden appearance of chest pains. Cheerfully, he asks his audience for advice and wonders how much time he has left, as do his listeners. Unable to imagine going on without Dangerfield. 

Hoppy Harrington defied all odds and survived Emergency Day. Settling in West Marin, he serves as the capable handy-man and entertains with imitations and juggling. Always seeming to know more than he lets on, Hoppy makes people uncomfortable. Yet the residents were grateful to have him part of the community for his talents. Mechanically inclined and strengthened mental abilities, Hoppy can now move objects with his thoughts. Using these assets to protect residents from thieving outsiders. Psychically lashing out at anyone who underestimates him. Hoppy’s funny impressions can become cruel mocking if his telekinetic gifts aren’t respected. 

Bonny Keller defeated stagnation after Emergency Day with her beauty alone. Rising to an unofficial position of power by influence and her many secret affairs. This dangerous hold over her peers has led to the execution of anyone who displeases her. In a spontaneous comfort tryst with a traveling salesman after the bombs fell, Bonny conceived a child. Now 7 years old is the dark eyed little girl named Edie. Unbeknownst to all is her parasitic twin that she calls “Bill”. When she speaks to her brother, it is written off as merely an imaginary friend. But Bill has special abilities too, being stuck between worlds. He speaks with the dead and wants to try and swap consciousness with another creature. 

Mr. Jack Tree, formerly known as Bruno Bluthgeld, lives on the outskirts of West Marin as a sheep herder. Twisted with age and more mentally unstable than ever before, protected by Bonny Keller. Once suspecting his cover has been blown, he decides to eradicate all of humanity for good using only his mind. Envisioning black skies and bright flashes in the distance with the smell of smoke on the wind. Hoppy Harrington decides to intervene with his own mental abilities and psychically disposes of the physicist. Indebting West Marin and the rest of the Bay Area to him for sparing all another Emergency Day. But the resident’s gratitude isn’t enough for the telekinetic handy. He wants to be admired like Walt Dangerfield and uses his mind to slowly replace him. Only the little Bill Keller inside of his sister’s abdomen is willing to take on Hoppy Harrington and stop him from hurting people anymore. 

Postmodern Pandemic 

Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney is considered to be one of the defining science fiction novels of the ‘60s. Originally under the working titles “In Earth’s Diurnal Course” and “A Terran Odyssey”, editor Donald Wollheim suggested something different. A reference to the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Published by Ace Books in 1965, it was nominated for a Nebula Award for ‘best novel’ but lost to Frank Herbert’s Dune

Reading Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney in the beginning of 2022, is remarkably chilling. Offering ideas of how people come together or move further apart after a major disaster. He blurs the lines of time by referencing actual government officials, like Richard Nixon. Other times he gives only vague descriptions that allude to other political figures. While the book is a product of its times, it’s uncomfortable in moments that highlight the unnecessary divisions of humanity. Many of which are still rampant, 57 years later. Dick noted the desperation of neglected veterans, mental capacities of leaders, and long-term effects of chemical testing. Even giving an uncanny projection of the Challenger tragedy with a simple line of alternate history. 

The arrangement of characters and their struggle for a basic understanding echoes current uncertainties of the future. From the horrible realization that everything will change. To the feelings of hopelessness in the face of domestic error and miscalculated response. All putting the reader in an uneasy state of familiarity, as we enter a 3rd year after Covid’s debut. Once considered tropes of science fiction and horror are now staples of our modern-day reality. It wouldn’t feel too far-fetched if the next challenges our society faces align with other themes in Philip K. Dick’s existential treatises. Such as government conspiracies, evil corporations, or the entity formerly known as God appearing as A.I. or a cosmic structure. The futures he contributed to the sci-fi genre beg us to never stop questioning reality and what does it mean to be human? The answers to which are forever evolving in what feels like the beginning of the end.

Bugger Banksy

When Exit Through The Gift Shop premiered at Chicago’s Landmark Theater, the city’s hipsterati were pissed into a frenzy when Banksy’s graffiti was discovered in quiet folds of the city. What followed in the summer of 2010 was the stress and congestion from gawkers trying to snap photos for social media. Debates of mural preservation or vandalism came into play. Chicago’s Graffiti Busters turned a blind eye and real estate developers raced to catch a ride on the coattails of street art popularity. But this all consuming crazy train of Banksy hype is to be expected in a major city. What if the eccentric artist paid a visit to an unlikely rural community with simple folks leading quiet lives? Small ponds ripple high and wide just the same.

In the South Wales Valleys are the deep scars of collieries closed in the 80s and the blue-collar communities that suffered as a direct result. Through struggle and adaptation, their economy crawled forward with fringes of tourism and unusual imports. What is a working-class lad without a side hustle? This is where we meet Glyn and his best mate, Kev. Childhood pals you likely remember from your own school days of smoking and goofing off.

Glyn enjoys a self-sufficient existence far from most people on the family farm. He maintains the front of tending to sheep while moonlighting as a profitable bud tender. Comfortably playing his part in a local black market that serves its community well enough. So when Banksy arrives with a thoughtless gift for the side of Glyn’s barn, the hot take attracts the wrong kind of attention. Suddenly the reclusive luxuries enjoyed by the hapless skunk growers are gone as social media lights up. Between thirsty journalists, locals trying to cash in, and art-scene charlatans, Glyn and Kev are left to sort out the chaos and protect their business.

Author Roy D Hacksaw was inspired by his own experiences with the 3-ring circus on the heels of Banksy’s Barton Hill installation on Valentine’s day of 2020. He completed the novel in 16 days while on lockdown. Quick read and a cheeky laugh, Bugger Banksy examines both sides of the coin on guerrilla-graffiti’s much larger impact.

The Scene That Would Not Die: 20 Years of Post-Millennial Punk in the UK

Punks of a certain age are nostalgia junkies in spite of what they may tell you. Fond of orating personal experiences of formative years regardless of creative inclinations. Others are record keepers, documenting their scene through a camera lens, fuzzy tape recorder, or Xeroxed fanzine. At the turn of the millennium, the manner of capturing these moments was transformed seemingly overnight as the internet became more common. The DIY community had to evolve with the rise of social media, YouTube, and Bandcamp. 4-track recorders were replaced with laptops, cut n’paste became photoshop, and Facebook invites were favored over street teams posting show fliers. Even though punk remains a highly debated Schrodinger’s Cat, the scene continues to thrive through adaptation.

“Punk is never past tense,” writes British author and UK punk veteran, Ian Glasper. Sometimes known as “Slug”, Glasper has played bass for numerous bands such as Decadence Within, Stampin’ Ground, Human Error, A Flux of Pink Indians, and Suicide Watch– just to name a few. Glasper is also an ambitious historian of the UK punk scene, referring to himself as a “docu-mentalist”. Appropriately so as he started with Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984, published in 2003. Another 4 books followed to cover the mid 80s to present, ending the series with The Scene That Would Not Die: Twenty years of Post-Millennial Punk in the UK. Written factually as an encyclopedia but reading as comfortably as a fanzine, the book delivers 650 pages of 111 bands, 350 photos, and over 200 fliers. Glasper lets the personalities of the musicians he interviews shine through in a comfortable setting. The bands respond by sharing their stories of origin, the impact of social media, and classic drunk-punk anecdotes that come with the territory of playing gigs and touring. 

I was initially intimidated by the size of the book, right out the gate. Knowing nothing of the UK’s hardcore scene aside from a few classic staples. Yet I embraced my education and read The Scene That Would Not Die from cover to cover instead of picking and choosing. At the end of every chapter, Glasper provides a select discography of each band and even links where you can learn more and listen to the featured musicians. Perhaps it took me longer than it should have to finish, but I used these provided resources to properly familiarize myself with each group. Engineer Records and Earth Island Books just announced the release of a 56-track compilation album to accompany the second run of the book, which I snapped up pretty quickly.

Being in awe of his creative gumption, I reached out to Ian to pick his brain about his writing process and bookshelf. He welcomed the opportunity with incredible warmth, just like any old friend from your own local scene.

KR: Everybody sort of has a story of where their creativity first bloomed. How did you get started writing? How did that evolve into your start for Terrorizer back in 1993?

Ian: Well, I always liked reading, and writing seemed to come relatively easily (compared to maths, haha!) I used to love all the James Bond books when I was a pre-teen, and remember writing a story for English class which involved a quite gratuitous torture scene, that prompted questions to be asked about what I was being allowed to read at home. If only they knew… but more on my love for horror later!

Anyway, I got into punk, which was very empowering, and you were encouraged/inspired to pick up a guitar or a pen – or both, in my case – and create your own art. I started doing a xeroxed fanzine in about 1985, called Little Things Please Little Minds, writing off to bands with generic questionnaires and stuff. My friend’s mum would photocopy them where she worked when the boss was out for lunch! I did five issues, before I got too busy with the band and stuff, but it planted the seed, for sure.

Then I was ordering lots of records from Rob Clymo, who ran a CD distribution out of Cornwall in the early Nineties, and I was always asking him for obscure hardcore and metal imports, so he knew I was into the scene. When he started up Terrorizer magazine, he asked me if I wanted to do a hardcore column, and the first “Hardcore Holocaust” ran in # 3. I did my first full interview the following issue, and then contributed to every single issue until it folded a few years back.

KR: Your first book was published in 2003 and there have been 5 other titles that followed in the next 17 years. That’s no small feat, considering your music career and personal life. What kind of writing process or disciplines do you utilize? Do you have a strict writing schedule daily?

Ian: Well, they were all pretty big books, and each took about two years to write, and I had a year off here and there. But you’re right, I have a full-time job, and only write – and play music – in my spare time. As well as the six books since 2003, I’ve recorded six albums and six EPs… the number of the beast, right? On average I probably do two hours a day writing, or thereabouts. Although back in the Noughties, I would get insomnia quite frequently, so I’d be up really early and/or late, and did a lot more than that. But I don’t have a writing schedule as such, yet even when I don’t write anything, I always try to do something every day towards whatever I’m working on, even if it’s firing off emails, chasing up photos… it helps to know you’ve done something positive to progress your project every day.

KR: So what do you have sitting on your bookshelf? What do you like to read regularly or what are some of your influential favorite reads?

Ian: I’ve always read horror fiction, since as long as I can remember, and a lot of my favourite books are from that genre – but I’ll save that for the next question, haha! I’ve kind of grown up with Stephen King though, and his books have evolved away from straight horror, and I’ve followed him on that journey. I pretty much pick his stuff up as and when it’s released and devour that; I love his work because it’s really easy to read – he doesn’t make everything convoluted for the sake of it – and he fleshes out such believable characters. But right now, I’m reading a non-fiction book, Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, which I like to do now and again, just to feed my head a bit, and after that I’ve got NOS4A2 to read, by Joe Hill, who is of course Stephen King’s son. I also really love to read musical biographies/autobiographies, and have recently finished books on Sick Of It All and Therapy?

KR: I had read that you were a big fan of horror and sci-fi comics as a kid, do you still partake in the genre? Care to name some favorites that stick out in memory?

Ian: Yes! This is pure escapism for me. I love horror films, and I love horror books. I got into horror fiction when I was a kid, devouring all the works by pulp novelist Guy N. Smith, who sadly died very recently. From there, I moved to James Herbert and Shaun Hutson… I was reading a couple of books a week all through my teens, probably hooked in as much by the graphic sex as the gore and violence, truth be told. A few times I would stay up all night reading if I was really engrossed in a book. I’ve already mentioned Stephen King, who is a master story-teller, but some of my other favourites were Graham Masterton, whose early books especially were wildly imaginative, Robert McCammon, H.P. Lovecraft, Brian Lumley, Whitley Streiber, Clive Barker… the list is endless. As far as sci-fi comics go, well, I’m not a massive comic fan, truth be told, but as a kid I consumed 2000AD and Action… gratuitous violence and escapism was my calling, I think.

KR: Considering that 2020 was a lost year for many around the globe, it did provide ample time to reflect and freedom to create. How did you keep yourself occupied during quarantine? Did you work on any new projects, writing or musical?

Ian: Well, the new book, The Scene That Would Not Die: Twenty Years of Post-Millennial Punk In The UK, really came together after COVID kicked in. It gave me something to focus on, and seemed a great way of reminding people why we love underground music so much when there were no gigs… I say that as if it’s past tense, but at the time of writing, there are still no gigs, and I just hope we get back to interacting in that way soon. But needless to say, I had a bit of extra time for editing and proofing and everything, and I got it over the line just the right side of the deadline (I wanted it out before the end of 2020 – so the title actually made sense, haha!)
I also kept myself sane by writing lots of music and lyrics, and a lot of that ended up being used by Zero Again, the new band I’m in, that basically coalesced during lockdown. We bounced ideas back and forth and we were chomping at the bit as soon as the rehearsal studios opened to play together. We did two months of hard jamming and then recorded a dozen songs just before they shut everything back down again. Which was great timing really, because we’ve since released all those songs, as two EPs and a track for a compilation, whilst we’ve been unable to get back together to play. Having that material recorded has helped keep the band ‘active’ whilst we’ve been unavoidably inactive.

KR: The past 20 years saw rapidly advancing technology, forcing DIY scenes to adapt and evolve. What do you think the face of punk is going to look like post-pandemic?

Ian: Hopefully much like it was before, but we’ll cherish local gigs and bands just a little bit more. The thing that’s really in question is whether we’ll be able to gig internationally the way we used to… and that’s partly due to the pandemic, and partly due to Brexit, I suppose. But mainly the pandemic. We’ll have to wait and see, but I hope that upcoming young musicians are still going to be able to drag themselves around the world on a wing and a prayer like we’ve enjoyed doing these last three or four decades.

KR: What advice would you give to novice writers out there looking to evolve their craft?

Ian: I would just say: be yourself, and let your personality shine through, because a few honest words are worth a thousand that are less so. And keep chipping away at it – if you’ve got a book in you, don’t stop until you’ve got it out, because if the last year has shown us anything, it’s to make your own ‘luck’, because you can’t take anything for granted, and you certainly can’t sit back and wait for opportunity to knock. As Nasty Ronnie from Nasty Savage once said, “Life is short at its longest…”

You can get your own copy of Ian Glasper’s latest book at Earth Island Books.