Last week I talked about the first collected book of MIND MGMT issues, subtitled “The Manager”. Today we’re going to talk about the next book, “The Futurist”.
After a quick but clear recap, Kindt drops us right back into the action. When last we left our heroine Meru*, she’s still chasing Henry Lyme and MIND MGMT, still missing memories and still not sure why she’s doing what she’s doing. We see more of Lyme’s perspective this time, which Kindt is better at, giving the second collection a more solid footing. Like the first set of issues, this book is action-packed and a quick read; there’s toothy issues for your brain to gnaw on, but they’re delivered on the fly as Meru and Lyme run through scene after scene.
I’m continuing my big pandemic reread – using graphic novels, collections, and single issues I’ve got in my apartment right now – with the first collected hardback of Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT. Subtitled “The Manager”, this includes issues 1-6, originally published monthly.
I got this and the second collection as a Christmas present a few years ago. The person who gave them to me had read and loved them, which is the best kind of present: not just something they thought I’d like, but a gift of getting to know them better too, but seeing what matters to them.
Last week I reread The Eyes of The Cat, thinking it’d be fun to start reviewing comics again, which I haven’t done regularly since I had a column at SF Signal (1). With the pandemic and ensuing lockdown shuttering my local comics shop for now, I’ve decided to re-read and review books I’ve already got at home. I have so many! Graphic novels and collections and boxes of floppies… I could talk about different comics every week until the end of 2021. (Fingers crossed my local reopens before then.)
So, that’s the plan.
I bought Lost At Sea, by Bryan Lee O’Malley, at The Beguiling when I was in Toronto a few years ago. It was released by Oni Press in 2003 (they also put out his more famous work, the Scott Pilgrim series).
This stand-alone graphic novel kicked off O’Malley’s career a year before Scott Pilgrim began, when he was just 24. It started as a two-page full-color comic in the 2002 Oni Press Color Special, and later expanded into a small book. Though fans will be able to see the evolution in O’Malley’s style from here to there, I actually prefer Lost at Sea. It’s not as directed toward the 20-something gamer geek crowd. (No disrespect intended; I’m both a gamer and a geek.) It’s softer, more open to interpretation, and easier to find yourself in.
Lost focuses on the story of one girl looking for her soul, which was stolen by cats, or traded to the devil. Or she could be looking for friends, or a salve for her broken heart, or a ride back to Canada. There are a lot of possibilities. O’Malley mixes a strong but cute style – grounded in his use of dark line work and sometimes-dynamic panel placement – with a not-entirely-linear story line that was so intriguing I read the whole book in one sitting the first time through. And the next time. And again this week.
What stands out to me most this time wasn’t the way in which this lost girl wandered through her life, but how much the story looks the reader right in the eyes and says, “Hey, you’re secretly pretty great and worth fighting for.” There’s a kind of companionship there we all either take for granted because we’ve always had it, or wish we had because we never really did. The idea that no matter how weird or screwed up we are, there’s someone who’ll believe in us, walk with us, go to war for us… Right now, when any connection is a lifeline, friends like that seem like a dream, and Lost at Sea becomes even more lovely.
Notes and References:
You can still read all the comics reviews from my “Outside the Frame” column at SF Signal, here.
The Beguiling, like a lot of shops, is closed for the duration of the shutdown but if you’re local, you can call or email them to place orders. They’re offering pick-up and delivery. Read more here.
This story was originally written for Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction, an anthology to benefit tornado relief (2011). I later republished it in my 2013 short fiction collection, Women and Other Constructs. It remains one of my favorite stories, and the one I’m most often asked to read at events. (I also haven’t quite gotten through a live reading of it without tearing up.)
The tree grew up around her as she sat at its base, day after day. It had been a sapling when her parents bought the house by the creek, and it made the perfect backrest for Annabelle-the-child. She sat very still, her chubby three-year-old hands clasped together, arms tight around her knees, as her father sat alone on the creek bank. He waited for a fish to appear on his line, and she waited with him.
“I don’t want you sitting all day out on the ground,” her momma had said after the second day faded into evening and Annabelle once again walked into the kitchen with a dirty bottom.
“Yes, Momma,” she’d replied quietly as her momma brushed her off with a hand broom and quick, hard strokes. Her momma sighed.
“There’s no use. That dress is ruined.” Annabelle was given a hot bath, a cold supper, and sent to bed without a story. She wrapped her arms around Mr. Bunny and listened to her parents’ raised voices float up through the floor boards until she fell asleep. The next day Daddy couldn’t fish because he had to work on the house, as it was “in no fit state for people to see,” Annabelle’s momma had said, and there were church people that wanted to come over for a house warming. Annabelle liked the church people, who’d come over to their old apartment with ambrosia salad and fried chicken and Mrs. Cramble, who wore flower print dresses and had thick, soft arms, would give her great big hugs and extra helpings on her plate, and Momma never complained. Annabelle followed her Daddy around all afternoon, holding the tin bucket with his hammer and nails in it, and when he needed one or the other, she’d lift it up as high as she could, and he’d reach down into the bucket and take what he needed. Sometimes he’d smile at her too. Continue reading →
In 2016, Apex Magazine published my short story, “That Lucky Old Sun”, to my great delight. You can still read it online for free, here. You can also buy the whole issue for Kindle here. AND it was made into a radio play by Redshift in 2017; you can listen to their performance of it here.
Before I talk about the story, I want to mention their publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Jason Sizemore. He’s been going through some health problems – Bell’s palsey, a painful cyst, required surgery – and chose to use the current issue to find inspiration in the darkness. You can read his editorial online here.
Apex Magazine has been publishing for years and has given us work by some amazing writers. While Jason’s surgery tomorrow shouldn’t affect their ability to keep publishing, maybe today is the day you subscribe? You can choose whichever format suits you best:
I know that I look forward to reading each month. I hope you do, too.
Now, about my story…
Apex Magazine, Issue 80. Jan 2016. Cover art by Matt Davis.
(If you haven’t read “That Lucky Old Sun” yet, be warned that there are minor spoilers below.)
I was nervous before “That Lucky Old Sun” came out; it’s the longest short story I’ve published to date, and it plays with an old SF trope in a way that readers might either love, or hate, or not notice at all. You can never tell until a story ends up in the world and out of your hands. I was more nervous because this story is important to me. They all are, of course, though some of what I write is fun, some is dark, some is about projecting the future – I’m usually pushing at the edges of what I can do in a story, but the boundaries I’m pushing aren’t always the same.
In classic, golden age SF, we have these grand stories about building rockets, escaping doomed worlds, blasting off into space with limitless potential in front of us. I could write that again a hundred times, and who would question it? We know that tale. We’ve all read it. With this story, I wanted to talk about the people who get left behind. Not the rocket scientists or astronauts or the child looking out the porthole at a dwindling blue marble that used to be his home. Just regular, everyday people. Families. Neighbors. Small town folks, faced with things much bigger than themselves.
Carrie’s “end of the world” science fiction story is time and world ambiguous, telling this often-told story from a new perspective. The protagonist is a small girl, innocuously spending what could be her last day with her loving mother, who knows what’s coming. The author touchingly portrays the mother’s loving patience and the girl’s innocence in this easy to read tale.
Telling the story from the little girl’s perspective made it darker and more compelling. I found the writing engaging from the very beginning and it continued to hold me even though I could guess where it might end; a pleasing new variation on an old theme.
Lastly, and with the most spoilers… At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur said:
………….okay then. Yeah, this story is a bit dark, a bit…well, a bit very dark, about a child, Melanie, and her mother as they sort-of wait for the end of the world. The setting is vaguely futuristic and also rather dystopian, a place where people are judged based on their skin but not exactly the way that they are now. Here it’s not exactly race it seems but something in the blood that changes the skin’s color and might do other things to it. Whatever the case, it means that there are vast systems in place to try and “contain” it, mostly by reporting on neighbors and living in a police state and it’s an all around not-good scene. And yet the “problem” persists and so the government decided to just bomb everything. Bomb it all and then return to reclaim the wiped slate. And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead. That there are “understanding” people who are just part of the problem and that everything is built on hate without reason, hate because that’s all it is, and in the end it tears everything apart, tears families apart and lets the central lie of the story fester and burn like the fires of the bombs being dropped. Because a large part of the story is the absence of the father, who is “pure” and who has the chance to survive. It’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath. Indeed.