The first time I saw the internet was a complete revelation.
One summer’s day around ’96 I was at the seaside home of an erotic writer, who also happened to be a pioneer of the web. He had invited me to see his new Apple Mac – “his wonderful machine” and the astonishing ‘Internet’.
Through a fug of heavy cigarette smoke I gazed at his magic lantern, at something called a ‘website’!
“Surely they can’t show that ??” I gasped as we looked at some dubious page.
I was reminded of the famous lines of Keats poem, ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ :-
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
I could see that the rules had all changed. We could now write and depict virtually what we wished. Oh, sure, the webhost was in between but they were usually quite liberal, hippy and unintrusive . And kinky art was liberated, as was a lot more. No longer did I need to worry whether my drawings would be published because I could be the publisher. (Though I still always self-censor I don’t know why …for reasons of ‘taste’?)
Censorship had almost always existed in some shape or form until the internet. My earliest published drawings were all made with a dark cloud hanging over them – “will the publisher accept this?” “Can I get away with this? ”
There were in fact no clear guidelines, which would have helped enormously. A lot depended on factors such as which party was in power or whom you were working for and we would all try to make sense of unclear directions. A mainstream magazine had to comply with the news vendor’s policies of what they were comfortable to put on sale. Smaller fetish magazines which allowed greater freedom could only be sold in sex-shops which were regularly raided by the authorities and restocked the next day. The extortionate mark-up on the goods meant they were never seriously out of pocket.
So life continued in a haphazard way.
The point of this rambling is that for the past few years we have seen greater regulation coming in as the Internet has taken over our lives and become much more portable, so the content of the web has become a much great concern. This week I was suspended from Twitter for the image above, one of a series I drew many years ago for OWK. My fault, as I should not have been using such a “violent” image for my public icon, which is required to be squeaky-clean. Make of that what you will. But it has made me reflect on how much we take for granted. At my age I can compare this to what came before and take it philosophically – oh well, just going back to the way it was.
I don’t know how it will all play out but I remember clearly how one day pre-internet I tore up some drawings in frustration as I thought I was doomed to only ever get a single page in an obscure magazine that would never reach a wider public or earn me more than a few pennies. It is no exaggeration to say that without this disruptive technology coming along when it did, I might never have continued.