Millennium moan


From The Times of London (March 7, 1998)

by Mike Pattenden

DISCO 2000. Edited by Sarah Champion. Sceptre. Pounds 6.99 (Fiction) - ISBN 0 340 70771 2.

What will you be doing on New Year's Eve 1999? The options for celebrating the end of this century in style are manifold. Ravers will head for the mother of all parties; clubs will break the Pounds 100-a-ticket barrier; the fountains in Trafalgar Square will run with sick; Peter Mandelson will have a nervous breakdown in the lavatories of the Millennium Dome; and Scotland will be obliged to erect barriers at Hadrian's Wall to stop overcrowding in Princes Street.

However, for the writers of Disco 2000 the fin de siecle promises a crescendo of misery, despair, madness and confusion. The message appears to be, don't make any plans for New Year's Day: the mother of all hangovers awaits.

Mancunian journalist Sarah Champion previously edited Disco Biscuits , an anthology of short stories about club culture. Here she assembles 19 writers - including Generation X author Douglas Coupland , cyberpunk pretender Neal Stephenson, former millionaire prankster Bill Drummond and his inspirer, Illuminatus creator Robert Anton Wilson - and asks them to imagine what the century's final moments will be like.

The elements are much the same: drugs, sex, music and violence (and several of the collection's stories become tiresomely bogged down in them) but the comedown is far worse. As the clocks measure out the final hours and minutes of 1999 we are presented with the end of civilisation, the end of culture, the end of time, the end of hope.

Pulling off that memorable New Year's Eve you've nurtured all year is a hit and miss affair anyway, but hardly anyone is having a good time here. Disco 2000 's darkest moment belongs to Steve Aylett's Gigantic, in which a scientist who warns of an impending psychic collapse is turned into a freak show by the media. The story ends with the world's major cities submerged under the corpses of a thousand years of innocent victims.

Douglas Rushkoff pursues a theme he began with last year's disappointing rave novel The Ecstasy Club , but strikes a more chilling note as his prose poem reveals a cult messiah conducting a mass suicide. Douglas Coupland pictures a man who cannot reproduce and decides to clean the 20th century out of his system. In Nicholas Blincoe's The English Astronaut, a crazed numerologist clubber descends on Jerusalem and meets his maker. Elsewhere ravers at the end of the world are stuck in a time loop; the first human clone escapes and reproduces; people mysteriously disappear; and a suicidal man is condemned to party for the rest of his life.

If it's going to be this bad, I think I'll stay in and watch telly. That way the century will end for me, as it inevitably will for the vast majority of us, not with a bang but with Michael Barrymore conducting B-list celebs in a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.