Fantastic Nonsense! Or as Dr Grordbort himself might say, “absolute balderdash.” And what fun! Dr Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory is a recent product of Weta Workshops, launched in New Zealand last month, though available overseas before that. I got hold of a copy recently and found it zany, funny as heck, and a lovely object in its own right.
Dr Grordbort, a mad scientist character invented by Weta designer Greg Broadmore, is prone to the kind of malapropisms that will reward the careful reader with a good laugh, as the opening sentences make clear. “Welcome to Futurity! Greetings and welcome to this, my suppository of scientific splendour. You hold in your hand a directory of today’s foremost contraptions and inventions…” And what a nice little book it is to hold in the hand, too, with its satiny leather-look cover and heavy pages trimmed with elegant art deco doodads.
Inside you’ll find all kinds of lovingly illustrated devices to make life easier in an alternate world of rayguns, death rays, invading moon soldiers and awful creatures from Venus. It’s the life that science fiction writers of the 1920s predicted we’d have today.
The book takes the format of a 1920s gun catalogue, with diagrams and illustrations of everything from the rayguns and disintegrator pistols you might expect, to scorpion-like walking chairs and mysterious inventions such as “Dephagmotisers” and “Bifurnalisers”.
As much as I like what modern SF is capable of, I grew up around my Dad’s stash of pulp SF magazines. It’s hard not to love some of the stuff written in their heyday, when science was sketchier and space more mysterious. The pulps had boundless imagination illustrated with luridly exciting pictures of bug-eyed monsters threatening scantily clad maidens. Dr Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory is celebrates that fun, as well as enjoying the laughable assumptions of the day.
It’s not a long read, but that’s offset by its value as a coffee-table book that’s sure to kickstart some good conversations.
Richard Taylor and Weta Workshops have never been ones for letting their talented staff cool their heels between film projects. The film industry in New Zealand is sporadic, and there was a time during the production of The Lord of the Rings when, difficult as it is to believe now, there were no new jobs on Weta’s books. As a result, Weta became very inventive in creating projects outside of film work, including publishing ventures such as this one.
Further adventures Dr Grordbort are promised for the future. Or futurity, as he might say.