Since I'm so plagued by the present being deferred into the future indefinitely, it seems fitting that the material I've cobbled together for this set of reviews all pertains in one way or another to the way futuristic science fiction visions keep kinda letting me the fuck down.
I mean I didn't set out to do this, it just sort of emerged naturally from the reviews I've written so far. I looked at one I wrote a few days ago about The Rapture of the Nerds, and said ok there's room here for a decent selection of science fiction themed stuff, and it turns out that one of the first things I wrote a month ago is pretty much tonally consistent. In fact, while most of what I've covered thus far tends to be more broadly fantasy-oriented, the things that have moved more towards science fiction all tend to have the same preoccupation: mainly that these supposedly futuristic worlds in which society has been radically altered still have the most banal neoliberal imperialist underpinnings.
It's impossible to ignore the confluence of this realization and my reading of Naomi Klein's recent book This Changes Everything. An attempt at critiquing the whole response to and coverage of global warming and the looming threat of planetary extinction, there's some striking parallels between the dynamics she describes and these texts that I'm analyzing.
I actually already have a response to some of the book's argument in the notebook where all these review type things have been shared with my patrons, but that piece is more attuned to horror than science fiction. No, the piece is good (I mean it contains the line "Global Warming is not an Outer God but a poltergeist," so I gotta be pretty proud of it) but it's not really in line with what I'm trying to cover here, since it's focused primarily on an affect of terror.
Here on the other hand I think the circuit is more one of interest and frustration of that interest, chasing around and around. This is a familiar dynamic for anyone familiar with the Silvan Tomkins model of affect, which I've talked about before elsewhere. For Tomkins, affects like shame, disgust, or contempt are characterized by a barrier or break, a point where a positive affect like interest is foiled or broken or made strange. Eve Sedgwich and Adam Frank describe this as the "duck to interest's rabbit," the flipped side of the optical illusion. For some reason I keep mis-processing this description as "chasing"--the duck pursuing the rabbit--which makes no sense if you're thinking in terms of the optical illusion but does kinda map onto the experience I get reading the following things. My interest is aroused, but the duck of annoyance comes quacking after.
|This is the titular duck in the rotors, I guess. Or rabbit. Whatever.|
What follows is a series of reviews that have this basic content then: the interest of someone who'd really like to be into science fiction, and the frustration of having that interest interrupted repeatedly by lazy bullshit.
Grant Morrison's Action Comics
At its best, this is the kind of thing Action Comics does. My favorite story in the entire volume is a solid little self contained work called The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape. As the title implies, Superman is knocked off a building with a random missile early on in the story, and some brat steals his cape.
Of course the cape is basically indestructible, like the Man of Steel himself, and the kid uses it to protect his brother from his abusive father. Intertwined through this is the story of Lois Lane and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen trying to track down the early stories of the "midwest strongman" who's been sighted in the city.
And basically the story is ultimately about Superman as symbol which is really the realm Morrison seems to like best for Superman--Superman or indeed Clark Kent as this kind of inspirational force.
And yet the comic never quite signals that Morrison is interested in this in a more than idealistic level. After all, this is a comic where (an alternate Earth) Superman attacks a country named, subtly enough, "Qurac" for trying to create nuclear weapons, and then promises, nobly, that the country will be given the gift of "free trade." Once you get past the inspiration porn of Superman ushering a battered woman to a shelter, under the hood of the comic is kinda the same old familiar neolibralism and imperialism churning away. This from someone who wrote an entire comic about overthrowing the chains of corrupt institutions and then reality itself.