Fear and Loathing


John Minson

It’s 2.51am and freezing cold. I had one and a half hour’s sleep last night — trying to meet various deadlines — and tonight I daren’t take any, because I’m booked in on a nine o’clock flight to Sweden. I’ve also shaved my head. And you’ll want me to talk about computer games now, won’t you?

What a month it’s been. No rest for the wicked as I emerged from the unreal mists of PCW. Remind me next year that I’m not attending that Show. It just fills me with paranoia and bad craziness. I rant. I rave. I enjoy myself too much, And I wake up outside Camden Palace, where red capped youths are trying to sidewalk surf (skateboard for the un-hip) up the stairs. Turns out it’s the LM launch and I’m the honoured guest.

Actually, I’m not an honoured guest at all. I’m not even invited. But for once the boys from Ludlow seem in a good enough mood to forgive my transgressions with late copy. (The previous column was sent in at the last minute via a Fax machine. Thanks to an anonymous company for lending me the services of this invaluable device — even if they didn’t realise that they were!)

Once inside I was fascinated to find a distinct social divide between us and them. They were the CRASH, ZZAP! and AMTIX! readers who had foolishly jumped at the chance to get a rare and wonderful invite to the launch. They were marooned at ground level (but if they try to skateboard up stairs, what else do they deserve?) and harangued by an alternative comedian; his alternative to comedy being that he wasn’t funny!Meanwhile, we were the potential advertisers, editors and representatives of the software industry, and we had a bird’s-eye view of the carnage below. Really, it was rather like watching the Christians and lions. But I have too tender a heart, and hurled the odd chicken bone at the starving teenagers below. Sadly, I didn’t manage to hit any.

It was an interesting diversion, indeed, and thanks to a little bribery and a lot of corruption, it looks like LM will be thrilling its audience with my coherent ramblings. I’m not sure what I’ll write about though. I mean, here I’m supposed to write about computer games so I don’t! When I’m not supposed to write about anything in particular, it’s far more difficult.

Hunter S goes in search of a Hoover to solve a perennial problem...

Not that I’m losing any sleep over it. In fact I was woken from a deep slumber a few days later by the phone. “Darling,” said a voice I immediately recognised. “Unusually affectionate for you, Michael”, I told the ubiquitous Baxter. “No”, he tittered, “The Darling family. We’re launching their new Code Masters budget range today. Be there or be somewhere else.” “Okay”, I said, slipping out of slumber and into some trousers, “Where is it?” “Your favourite”, the ubiquitous Baxter replied, “No 1 Holsten.”

Of course, Baxter was right. I have great affection for this London watering hole, though it got a black mark for the desserts this time. Why, oh why, did we get cold, pink rice pudding? Perhaps the man from Africa News knew, but he wasn’t letting on. Still, I’ll say this for Baxter, he can certainly pull the world press if he does your PR.

Code Masters looks promising. The Darlings appear to have recognised the basic rule of budget software... give the punters something good and they’ll flock to you.

Nice to see my erstwhile colleague, Leslie (LB) Bunder there too, even if he did keep looking behind him and muttering something about the ‘New Man’ being after him. Obviously he’s involved in another example of investigative journalism at its very best. He told me something about the fact that he’s becoming a limited company, so that his cards will now bear the motto Leslie Bunder Limited. Couldn’t you make that PLC, LB?

The endless patience of Baxter, demonstrated by this latest invitation, was thrown into perspective soon after. I had to invite myself to Activision. Maybe the Volvo that received the multi-coloured paint job from a great height last time I was there belonged to somebody in the company. Anyhow, their failure to notify me of this pre-Christmas preview meant that I arrived late, and the first delivery of pizza had already been consumed. Not surprising as John — the Trap Door — was there. Still, the good burghers of Activision made amends for their craven attempt to avoid my company by sending out for yet more deep pan with extra everything, and very welcome it was too. It also meant that while I was stuck, waiting to do my duty as gourmet correspondent, they could force me to look at a computer game!

Actually, this was rather interesting. Remember how they said Little Computer People couldn’t be done on the Spectrum? Well, they’ve just gone and done it! Quite how well they’ve done it was difficult to say from this very unfinished version, but if you’ve ever hankered after a little computer person to starve to death, you don’t have to wait long.

All this while a Very Big Computer Journo was pestering me to give him a mention in this column. He’s obviously seen how other people who have been graced with a mention have gone onto better things. But I think I’ll have to keep this fellow out of it. Anyhow, the combination of extra onions plus the Little Computer Hippy’s garishly coloured house was beginning to do odd things to me.

That’s why it was a mistake to subject myself to Rainbird’s Star Glider. I mean, it’s lovely to mention that the divine Clare Edgley is now no longer working for a rival mag, but doing PR for Rainbird. But her gentle voice did nothing to prepare me for the assault that hit me when we finally got the preview program to load.

Lulled into a false sense of security I took the joystick and started to fly around a planet’s surface. Within seconds I was blasting away, fighting for my life, among animated vector graphics. The finished Star Glider should feature Clare’s voice, which sort of makes her a Star Bird. It will be massive!!!

Enough! Too much, even. I rushed home to the warmth and comfort of the latest CRASH and what did I find? Yet more fan mail. What is this? Am I doing something wrong, to receive such adulation, or is this really a nation of degenerates who find my sort of behaviour amusing. For all our sakes, I hope so.

Spurred on to greater excesses, I called in on my friend and part time hair-dresser, Laszlo Lays. Once I’d imbibed a sufficient amount of local anaesthetic, he shaved my head to shiny perfection. I no longer have any need of Head and Shoulders for my dandruff — I just use a hoover.

Then I booked my Swedish flight, and in less than eight hours I’ll be in the arms of my beloved. Quite how she’ll react to the absence of follicles, I’m not sure, but keep an eye on LM if you want to know what it’s like to be bald in Stockholm. That’s that. I must go pack a toothbrush. Yours in fear and lathering
Hunter S. Minson (The Great Bald Eagle)