He was that kid in the fourth grade and you could always get the answers from him on a test; he knew what made the mood ring work (“Thermochromism,” of course: “They use it in baby bottles, so your little brother doesn’t scald his lips if yer Mom loads it too hot…y’know, just because she’s yer Mom doesn’t mean she knows everything…”).  By high school, he’d be able to give advice to the cheerleaders as regards relative efficacy (and side effects) of IUDs vs. The Pill: Just because he read a lot.

You’d see him from time-to-time—on a lacrosse field, where he was probably team captain (and you were only sitting nearby, killing off a beer and getting a tan); or after graduating…he’d be cutting up ClipArt for a ‘zine he was making in a tony loft high above the stank of Skid Row, and you’d bump into him on the way to score acid from another flat-mate in the next room.  He’d always smile.

You knew he’d hit it big—and he did, like when he got a gig writing for Playboy magazine…for five or six years; that he married the prettier sister of Christy Canyon was just to be expected.  He’d get you backstage passes to the O’Farrell Theater, too—but he couldn’t join in for that Board Meeting in Palo Alto or Menlo Park or wherever.  Something in his DNA, was what you had always suspected.  As drinks the Irishman, Mark Frauenfelder just always had it: The Algorithm of Geek.


Todd Brendan Fahey: You seem to be that kid who brought something new to school every week, and whom other kids grouped around to check out the New, Cool & Weird.  Am I off in my assessment?  If not, tell us about when you first began becoming aware of this aspect of your being; what “new shit” were you discovering before any of your other youthful peers were?  And how did this lead to the novelty bent that is bOING bOING/Boing Boing?

Mark Frauenfelder: Probably 1974, when my dad brought home an HP, I think it was an HP 65 program called “Calculator”—it was a calculator that used these magnetic cards to load programs into it, and I remember it came with a moon-landing program—a simulation—and you would enter the amount of fuel that you wanted to use up as you were trying to land a lunar lander on the moon without having it crash into the surface of the moon…in other words, to get a soft landing.  I was just fascinated by that.

I think around that same time was when the first issue of Kamandi, by Jack Kirby, came out, and that’s when I started falling in love with comics.  Before that, I was just reading things like Richie Rich and Archie and wasn’t really that interested in superhero comics, and then when Kamandi came out it changed my whole view of what comic books could be and what they could accomplish.  I really loved it.

And so those two things, I think—computers and comics—that kind of steered my life in that direction.  After that, I was really into things like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Frank Frizetta; uh, shortly after that I started working at a comic book store and discovered underground comics at a pretty early age, loved the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and everything that Robert Crumb did, and that was, ah, you know, that was the beginning of a long love of alternative media and technology and other geeky things.

The craze of “‘zines” [Definition: Largely pulp, but sometimes embedded on floppies, indie journals, which ran the gamut of interests and fetishes] was the rave amongst twentysomethings of the early- to mid-1990s.  One of the standouts, surely, was bOING bOING, which you created and which I was turned onto by a pal who was living in downtown Los Angeles at the time, while I was living in Santa Barbara.  What inspired you to “start your own magazine” and what differentiated bOING bOING from the dozens/hundreds of other ‘zines which became assembled in the seminal ‘zine-list magazine Factsheet Five?

I learned about zines from an article in a 1987 issue of The Whole Earth Review (http://www.wholeearth.com/issue-electronic-edition.php?iss=2057) This issue was themed “Signal” and it was edited by Kevin Kelly. It was basically the prototype for Wired magazine, which Kevin co-founded in 1993. I was a mechanical engineer in San Jose at the time, not really liking my job, and this issue blew my mind. One of the articles was about zines written by Jeanne Carstensen. I was astonished by how many zines were out there. from the article I learned about Factsheet Five, a directory of zines. I ordered a copy and when through it was a highlighter, ordering dozens of zines by mail directly from the publisher. When I got them I was hooked. They were funky, and eclectic, and loaded with crazy outsider information. It inspired me to start self publishing. I made one issue of a zine called Important Science Journal, which was really just Crowleyania, Fortean phenomena, and secret societies. Then I did two issues of a mini-comic called Toilet Devil (Koko the talking ape calls people toilet devils when she is mad at them). Later that year my wife Carla and I decided to start a zine about cyberpunk, indy comics, brain technology and high weirdness. We named it bOING bOING because there were a few other zines out there with sound effects for names (HonkBlab, etc) and we liked that.

Can we agree–or, do you feel that, as I do–the advent of the World Wide Web in 1994 took most hipsters minds off of indie print publications and subsequently sucked the life straight out of “the ‘zine movement”?

Yes, I agree. It happened to me, but the full story is a bit more complicated. I was happy running bOING bOING as a print zine, but in 1994 the two largest independent magazine distributors went bankrupt, owing bOING bOING about $30,000. So the Web became a much more attractive option as a way to publish. There are no printing costs, mailing costs, or inventory costs. The zine world still exists, but it’s nothing like it was in the early 90s.

bOING bOING and Mondo 2000 are cited, correctly, as being two of the seminal engines of cyberpunk–that forward-thinking, irreverent vision of “what life can be if we decide to make it so.” Rattle on, if you’d please, about the human crossover between these two great publications. Cast, character, friendships, enemies, alliances. Just go buckwild.

The predecessor to Mondo 2000 was a magazine called High Frontiers. Carla and I came across it when R.U. Sirius and Queen Mu were hawking it at a Timothy Leary stand-up show in San Francisco in 1985 or 1986. It was the poster-size second issue – with a 17″ x 11″ bright pink cover. It had a drawing of Art Linkletter’s head, saying “Kids Do the Darnedest Drugs.” It also had a 3-eared Mickey Mouse holding some blotter LSD with the CIA logo on it. It was one of the coolest magazine covers I’ve ever seen and it still is. RU was this grinning hobbit-looking character with a floppy hat with a Andy Warhol button on it. Queen Mu was a very delicate blond woman with Stevie Nicks clothes and granny glasses and she a permanent blissful smile and didn’t say much. I bought a copy and it made me fall in love with the idea of magazine publishing. Somehow I found out that RU and Mu were hosting something in Berkeley called the High Frontiers Monthly Forum and so Carla and I started going to those. They were great. Rudy Rucker did a reading for his novel Wetware at one event. He was and is one of my favorite authors. He’s the most cyberpunk of all the cyberpunk authors, because he thinks about how technology affects human relationships...