Fear and Loathing

John Minson


It all happened in five days, more or less, and left me so warped I’m still not fully recovered. Five days that spanned a chip buttie in Ludlow, a Champagne Breakfast and the sheer hell of a Microfair.

Chip cordon bleu au Ludlow first though. It was all that the local hostelry could provide at five minutes to closing time. And quite what I was doing there anyway is beyond me. Seven hours in a succession of British Rail’s draughtiest carriages is not my idea of fun, however good the sarnie at the end of it may be.

Officially, I was in Ludlow to research a profile on the nefarious ne’er do wells of Newsfield. ‘Come on up for the day,’ said Graeme, ‘It’ll make a nice change from The Smoke.’ I spent ten smoke free minutes catching pneumonia in the pouring rain, walking up and down King Street, searching for a likely looking doorway. I should have known. CRASH Towers is conveniently located above an off licence!

Well, I got the story... but if you want to read it, keep an eye on THE GUARDIAN because that’s where it will appear — providing I ever get round to writing it. No. What I am trying to get over here is that I began this momentous week in a state of total exhaustion — and it got worse.

Wednesday was a launch. OCEAN inviting us all to The Basil Hotel. Fawlty Towers images were banished by the plush interior — though the food was fairly school dinners. Give me a good honest chip buttie any day rather than a sloshy chicken in sauce concoction!

So why were the Manchester merocrats inviting us round for lunch? Not Street Hawk? Not Knight Rider? Not likely! Instead, Laser Genius, their Assembler with knobs on. A strangely unglamorous product to fete like this, especially when Ocean are hardly known for wining and dining us hungry hacks. But am I the person to let such a show of hospitality stave off tactless questions? Of course not!

Avoiding the earnest young man who wanted to explain how wonderful the product was — something which I’d have to take on trust as Machine Code is as arcane to me as shark hunting is to most programmers — I cornered an Oasis representative. ‘So what about the last Ocean IQ product — the so called ‘Compiler’ (ho, ho!) that CRASH blew the whistle on while the other mags were raving... ?’ And I mean raving mad for being taken in by a compiler that didn’t compile!

‘Yes,’ said the spokesperson (who shall remain nameless), ‘We should really have called the Spectrum version a compactor but because there were Amstrad and Commodore versions as well we couldn’t treat it separately could we?’ I leave you to make up your own young and innocent minds about this ‘justification’.

Better lunch — much better — on Thursday at ACTIVISION. But by now the nerves were beginning to go. The bash was the christening of the carpets — with copious amounts of spilled beer — of Activiz’s new offices up in the airy heights of arty Hampstead. Obviously MELBOURNE HOUSE’s adventure game wasn’t wasted on everyone...

The most interesting product on view will never appear on the Spectrum, owing to its need for disks. Alter Ego is, I am reliably informed, the only game available that lets you practise self abuse. Apparently Commodore owners like this sort of thing!

After five minutes at a machine my alter ego had hairs growing in the palms of his hands and couldn’t see further than the end of his... nose? Neither could I, but that was purely due to my intake of excessive amounts of alcohol. Andy Wright, looking debonaire as ever, took me in hand and steered me to the balcony where I amused myself by shouting at the bourgeois peckerheads below and trying to vomit on their Volvos.

Spot the Dandy. Somewhere in this picture of the ACTIVISION and ELECTRIC DREAMS crew is the industry’s sharpest dresser, but we won’t let on who you are, Andy.

Just about recovered enough in time for Friday and the Commodore show. The Commodore show? Well yes, because to tempt every last cranked up freak out of the woodwork and to the launch of the Amiga (the £1,500 version of the Loki) they were promising a champagne breakfast. Now it must be said that the new Commodore croissant ain’t bad but it takes more than one glass of Bucks Fizz at 9.30am to get the hacks to dig into their pockets and shell out for an Amiga, amigo — even at the 50% off journo’s price! A great machine though, noticeably free of attribute problems.

It was at this point I ran into the Eligible Baxter but I’m not going to mention him further this month. It seems the kindest thing to do, now that he’s suffering stardom after his previous appearances in this organ.

That only left the Microfair on Saturday, more crowded than ever. By this stage I was a gibbering wreck. Why was it all happening in just one week? I sought solace in the bar only to meet a certain software magnate who was busy lamenting that he’s not yet a millionaire. It hardly seemed an opportune moment to blag a drink so I crept away.

And was there anything interesting at the fair? Somebody selling Memotechs, at least two C64s for sale and a repackaged QL going by the name of Thor — a much more fitting Norse god than Loki who was an inveterate liar. There were also lots of Sinclair owners — though not the Sinclair owner, Alan Sugar — but as you all failed to recognise me and apply alcoholic sustenance, I crept even further away.

So — yes — and here we are once again, deadline looming, the promised HEWSON do postponed and no corroborating evidence that (Look, I’ve told you we can’t print his name — Graeme) is a werewolf! So this month’s crumpled flyer concems last month’s bondage bird, Mandy Barry. Apparently the photos that were released were all from early in the session. We’d love to see some of the later ones!

To end with a profound thought. Laurie Anderson says that technology is a parasite, destroying its host. She also quoted Bill Burroughs. Language is a virus. Enough!


Hunter S Minson

PS. In reply to Nathan Byer’s letter last month, calling me a PCW spy, be glad you live in Taunton, kid, or I would personally come round and rip out your liver then eat it raw. As a freelance I am not a spy. I belong to that honoured brotherhood, the mercenaries who sell to the highest bidder, scumbag!