Five Years Ago - Poetry by Sofia Samatar, a column by Mark Plummer, an article by Matthew Jackson, and reviews by Liz Bourke, Nathaniel Katz, and Nina Allen.
Ten Years Ago - Fiction by Donna Glee Williams, poetry by Scott Pearson, a column by Susannah Mandel, and reviews by Colin Greenland, Nic Clarke, David Soyka, and Richard Larson.
Fifteen Years Ago - Fiction by Joel Best, poetry by John Sweet, an article by Margaret L. Carter, and a review by John Teehan.
Space was full of questions, life was a sentence always ending in an ellipsis or a question mark. You couldn’t answer everything. You could only believe there were answers at all.
—Lavie Tidhar, Central Station, p. 102
In an article published earlier this summer, the American historian and literary critic Jill Lepore labeled contemporary dystopian writing as “our new literature of radical pessimism.” “Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance,” she observed, “[but now] it’s become a fiction of submission … it cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one … Its only admonition is: Despair more.
“Everyone,” he says, relighting his cigar, “talks about . . . lessons of history when what they really mean are”—he seems to ponder the cigar a moment—“auditions of history. History always auditioning for one last performance that’s never delivered because it’s always rewritten. To, uh, talk of the “lessons” of history suggests . . . models that can be applied to other instances, when no moment really is enough like another that any model applies, without turning the model into something that’s so much something else as to make it, well, not obsolete, but not all that relevant either.”
The scene is 1968, in a party at Andy Warhol’s Factory.
Some key panels, like the one where we see Johnson’s deity Noir for the first time, stories-in-flasks sprouting off her like limbs, resemble the silent comics of the 1930s woodcut era (present day for the book’s internal chronology); white lines emerging from a jet black background, as if etched out with a chisel, à la Lynd Ward.
But the most interesting, most exhilarating, part of this whole adventure is the fact that it’s serious, that it’s real—that this feeling of uncovering something strange and important about the world applies to magic just as much as it applies to being an adult.
Like elements of it though I do, there's something about the current House Style and its pervasive sepia-tinted nostalgia that permits or even encourages the envisioning of a past without its historically present multiculturalism.
Even though developed several decades apart (The Black Panther appeared in 1966, and Coming to America was released in 1988), and written by people on different spectrums of the United States’ Salad Bowl (The Black Panther was developed by Jewish Americans Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, while Coming to America was created by African American Eddie Murphy), both share similarities that make them an interesting comparison in how fictional Africa is perceived and narrated through the lens of mainstream American media, in both positive and negative ways.
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