In 2010, the internet discovered Space Jam, although you could also say it was Space Jam that had earlier discovered the internet. Released in 1996, the film boasted one of the first movie marketing websites, and perhaps the first to actually take advantage of the technology of the web. In 2010, the site was still online and unchanged when it was found by a group of Reddit users who experienced a kind of Proustian memory, rediscovering a childhood and adolescence spent online at a time when that world seemed much smaller, and much friendlier, than it is now.
“I’m not a civilian,” Paula Neira says. To demonstrate, she recites the oath of office she took when she received her commission as a U.S. Naval officer. That oath was to the Constitution of the United States, which all officers vow “to support and defend.” Ironically, Neira has been a civilian since she left the U.S. Navy in 1991; yet that oath, and her commitment to serving her country, took her away from the military and brought her to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and to the Center for Transgender Health. Neira — a nurse and lawyer as well as a veteran — will lead the Center, opening this summer.
Late in Brightfellow, Rikki Ducornet’s new novel, the protagonist and titular “fellow” takes two eight-year-old girls to see Rear Window. Unsurprisingly, for those readers familiar with Ducornet, the impropriety of this outing is never discussed. Rather, the children are more upset by Jimmy Stewart’s nipples than Raymond Burr’s murder and dismemberment of his wife, “Men should not have nipples!” they insist, “no one should have nipples!.”
This absurd and illogical world, here as in all of Ducornet’s novels, is not exactly magical realist — there is no intrusion of the fantastic into the otherwise normal here. It is also not a postmodernist world of artifice and simulacrum. Rather, her worlds are all surface and texture.
Victor LaValle has a knack for colliding the mundane and the horrific in works that marry fantasy with social realism. In his last novel, The Devil in Silver, the uncanny horrors of an asylum are shown to be the product of late-capitalist decline. His latest offering, a novella called The Ballad of Black Tom, continues this journey into darkness with a “love letter-slash-rebuke” to H.P. Lovecraft, the progenitor of a particular brand of dark fantasy, and an author who is enjoying a kind of revival that remembers his work while reviling his racism.
In the 1950s, disease epidemics like the 1919 Spanish Flu seemed to be a thing of the past. Penicillin was being described as "yellow magic" and "the most glamorous drug ever invented." Plus, polio vaccines seemed to herald the end of the viral epidemics that had haunted every U.S. summer since 1916. Medical students were even being encouraged to give up studying infectious diseases.
Yet even as the age of infectious disease seemed to be waning, stories about devastating infections proliferated. The 1950s saw the beginning of the plague genre we know so well today in stories from Walking Dead to Contagion. These are stories about killer microbes, but they're also about social panic and the collapse of civilization. It's often hard to say which is worse: dying from a horrific plague, or being murdered by a gang of lawless humans, roaming the disease-ravaged countryside.