Judge Dredd is a comic about a future America where the interior has been completely destroyed by a nuclear war. The coastal areas manage to survive because of a missile shield but one that only covered the most densely populated areas. Essentially the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States survived the war. What was left were towns and small cities surrounding major ones, that, out of necessity, eventually merged into one giant city. At some point after this war, the Judges lead a rebellion and overthrew the President and implemented martial law. They knew that if they didn't manage to maintain some semblance of law and order, the city would fall into chaos. The Judges declared themselves the sole authority and empowered themselves to not only make arrests but to dispense sentences on the spot. Including death sentences. The story centers around one Judge: Judge Dredd. He is the quintessential Judge. The standard by which all other Judges are Judged (sorry). All of the Judges are extremely tough. They train from the age of five to do the job and only a small percentage become actual Judges. Dredd is the toughest of the Judges and the stories perpetually test him and his partner, Judge Anderson. "2000 AD" is the comic in which "Judge Dredd" appeared. It was originally published in 1977 by IPC magazines. It is a science fiction comic anthology and each issue contains one or more different stories. Judge Dredd emerged over time as the most notable. IPC changed hands several times over the years and is currently being published by Rebellion Development. Despite this, the comic has remained true to its roots for the most part and still sells the "Judge Dredd" comics, though as stand-alone comics and graphic novels now. Another interesting thing to note, several notable artists and writers have worked at or contributed to "2000 AD", Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman being among them.
Recently I was reading an article about some studio that was planning to make "Judge Dredd" into a tv series. And because of the strength of the most recent film (not that Stallone monstrosity), Karl Urban might even end up reprising his role as the title character. I was really quite excited to hear about this. I enjoyed the movie, mostly because it managed to convey some level of the darkness of that world. Although it didn't quite nail the dry humor of the original comics, I feel like a serialized version of the movie might have a better shot at this. I'm excited about the show. Mostly because of the impact that the original comics had on my life. Even before Walter Jon Williams or William Gibson created the Cyberpunk genre, my first encounter with cyberpunk-esque, dystopian fiction, was "Judge Dredd". Oddly I first played the role-playing game with friends before hearing about the comics. That didn't come until months later when I was in a comic shop and saw a copy of "2000 AD" on the shelves. I enjoyed the game, despite not knowing much about the world, so I gave it a chance. I bought two black and white graphic novels and began reading them right away. The interesting thing about the black and whites is, for the longest time I believed Dredd was black. He was always wearing a helmet and the lower half of his face could have been anything. I would have read the comics either way, but looking back on it, I wonder what made me think that. The thing I loved about the comics was the rich detail about criminal sub-cultures, urban sub-culture, and youth sub-culture. All of the little things that a cop in a future megacity might encounter. I found the little glimpses into the lives of the citizens of Mega-City One to be fascinating because it made me interested to read more. One of the greatest things about the comics was Judge Dredd himself. He was this tower of iron will, this uncompromising being with the competence and the toughness to back it up. The last thing I loved about comics is the evolution of the stories and the art. Granted, "Judge Dredd" has jumped the shark many times in its 40-year run, but new writers and new artists have always managed to draw me back into the fold. I hope one day they will release a comprehensive art book detailing the entire history of the series because I thoroughly enjoy just looking at a lot of the art.
In a departure from the normal "media". (i.e. print), I am linking to the 2000 AD shop. There are several free downloadable "Judge Dredd" comics available which should get you started. There are also a couple of other freely available titles there as well. "Jaegir: Strigoi" a comic about a war veteran who hunts down escaped war criminals, is an awesome read. The main character is a badass. "Brass Sun" which wasn't my cup of tea about a character from a "clockwork solar system" that is dying and must find the key to restarting their sun. "Ichabod Azreal" is about a gunfighter who dies and has to shoot his way out of the underworld to get back to his life and family. I like westerns and I liked the art so give this one a try too. Lastly, there is a title there called "Aquila", a gladiator who was crucified for participating in Spartacus' rebellion. He makes a plea for vengeance and is brought back by a demon and now walks the Earth killing people. If you like that period then definitely check this out. I liked the concept, writing, and art, but ancient Rome isn't my thing when it comes to comics or film. Keep in mind that these are just samples. If you like them then please purchase some, either digital or hard copy. I am not being paid to promote the magazine. I simply love the comics and hope you will too. Considering that "2000 AD" has been running continuously since 1977, it may seem a bit daunting or weird to jump into a story. I have embedded a youtube video below of a couple of guys from the magazine who give an incredible guide to getting started reading the comics. I suggest you watch that before making any purchases. And I hope you enjoy "2000 AD" as much as I have. Below is the link to the 2000 A.D. store.
Most of the things I write in here have some nostalgic component to them. If you know me in real life, you will see how much of my life has been colored by Sci-Fi. It isn't a tale of desperation, grievance, anger, or even drama. It is a tale of a young man whose dreams transcended the technology of the day. A person who is Earthbound and trapped in a fragile coil that harbors neither superpowers or the technological capacity to build a starship. I once had someone tell me that fiction was escapism. And for the longest time, that sentiment angered me. Until one I realized I simply felt sorry for that person. How small must a person be to lash out with someone for imagining or dreaming a time beyond their own? How devoid of dreams must they be? But it wasn't until the advent of the Cyberpunk age that I began to find the true expression of what was in my geeky little hear. It took two of the things I loved the most Punk culture and near-futuristic machines and dynamics and joined them together.
It started for me with "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, and "Street Lethal" by Steven Barnes. And over the next fifteen or so years, I diligently mined the local bookstores for new releases in the sub-genre.
In truth William Gibson had no idea what he was writing was "Cyberpunk". He asserted in an interesting interview with Mark Dery some years later that it was a name given to his work by publishing houses. I'm ok with that. Giving it a name; giving it that name, associated my own voice and my own dreams with the things GIbson wrote. I loved Gibson, Williams, Barnes. But I couldn't love them forever. The books simply weren't coming fast enough for me to stay in love with them. And as the years wore on, they went in directions I simply became less interested in. (One of the problems of co-dependency). I stopped reading those authors for a while. I came across "Halo" by Tom Maddox which was free online for a while and an unexpectedly pleasant injection of Cyberpunk-esque writing and aesthetic. But it wasn't until around 2010 (I know, I was slow) that a former Professor of mine, and mentor, mentioned Charles Stross to me. He just said "Accelerando" and "You gotta read it.".
I went and bought the book that day. It was lengthy. But I read it in a weekend, not bothering to do anything else like shower or go out with my girlfriend. It was more than I expected, and in fact, the term "Cyberpunk" seemed far too small a word for it. Certainly, it had many of the trappings of what we call Cyberpunk, but it was far smarter than the word, far more nuanced than the genre. But somehow it seemed a natural inheritor of that legacy. Perhaps Cyberpunk is dead and this is some evolutionary descendant; a mutation that is smarter and stronger than its ancestors. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Stross has made this book and other works of fiction available for free on his website. Please go there and download it and read it. Also please observe the copyright information he has provided regarding Creative Commons and abide by them. Mr. Stross also has a comments section which he appears to respond and engage with his readers. We hope you enjoy this one. I did! You can download the books by going here. They are available in multiple digital formats. And if you enjoy the book you should purchase any one of the several books Mr. Stross has written. Even if you don't enjoy "Accelerando" it is highly likely you will find something by him that you will. And what better way to support an author than buying his or her books!
Here is a brief synopsis of the book:
"The book is a collection of nine short stories telling the tale of three generations of a highly dysfunctional family before, during, and after a technological singularity. It was originally written as a series of novelettes and novellas, all published in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine in the period 2001 to 2004. The first three stories follow the character of "venture altruist" Manfred Macx starting in the early 21st Century, the second three stories follow his daughter Amber, and the final three focus largely on her son Sirhan in the completely transformed world at the end of the century. "