Friday, September 4, 2015

"A Young Thug Confronts His Own Future" by Ras Mashramani

The story is what its title says it is: an eleven year old boy tells us, with as much certainty and uncertainty as if recollecting the past (and often sliding without break from the future tense to the present to the past), what his life will be. No explanation is given or needed for how he can know this; as another part of the zine the story originally appeared in says, "the future is now and always has been." At times, too, some strange retrospective elements enter — like when he steals a Walkman from Circuit City (which feels odd to read now regardless of when the story is "set") — and as we read we find ourselves experiencing as one what we're more used to think of as different perspectives on time, different relationships with our place in it.

As in the accompanying illustration by @RecTheDirector, what stretches out in front of him — a life he's constantly trying to reclaim from the shape given it by poverty, the police, death, the whims of white people — seems to constrict and constrict, with maybe a way out — but to where? — in the distance. At the end of the story, he's fishing on a river, giving a sense of openness and freedom, but he's doing it "on my day off from the group home." The phone call that connects him with his sister and with her apocalyptic reminder, "You were a life" (that verb tense resonating off in thousands of directions) connects him also with his own mortality (and the quickness with which the structures surrounding him are willing to dismiss the significance of that mortality) as well as the other, entirely ordinary, apocalypse that's going on on her end of the line and, by the time he wakes up (will wake up) the next morning, at his end of it as well. And there are a million other significances I'm sure I'm missing.

But it's not a hopeless story, not a defeatist story, instead a realistic one — and this, not whatever nonsense Kim Stanley Robinson wants to babble about, is the sense in which science fiction can be uniquely realistic — and realism has to include the reality of alternatives, of possibilities. By telling this story, by imagining the ability to tell it at all, the narrator is resisting, refusing to become the "ideal blackbody" the oppressive world around him wants him to be; and the story itself, Ras Mashramani's story — the story she imagines, the work she lives, the other life she writes — though it is only words on a screen or in a zine, is the presence of possibility in a world that needs it.

No comments: