The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 237 | Space is no refuge from the world’s problems in The Fuse

Leaving Proof 237 | Space is no refuge from the world’s problems in The Fuse
Published on Friday, August 29, 2014 by
In this week’s Leaving Proof: Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood’s The Fuse has us rethinking the relationship between society and technology. ALSO: We discuss the Noragami anime and share images of Mecha Zone’s newest releases.

In the far-flung futures of many works of science-fiction, there is often the implicit assumption that advances in technology drive parallel changes in social and economic constructs. This notion of what is called “technological determinism” can be traced to Thorstein Veblen, the American economist and sociologist who proposed, in works published during the late 19th and early 20th century, that the traditional market economy would eventually be rendered irrelevant in the face of radical innovations in engineering and production technology. Obviously influenced by the upheavals of widespread industrialization, we can see Veblen’s ideas taken to their most positive, logical extreme in Star Trek‘s United Federation of Planets, an interstellar quasi-socialist utopia where the democratization of access to highly advanced replicator technology has all but eliminated the problem of scarcity and, by extension, the economic model of supply and demand. Liberated from the constant struggle for resources necessary for survival, the citizens of the Federation no longer have to deal with discrimination based on status, caste, or nationality. Within the Federation, conflict and crime driven by the pursuit of (now-meaningless) personal wealth have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

A competing position, however, is the one that says that instead of reshaping society, new technology is instead used by society in such a way that it fits existing, calcified norms. As the British technology theorist Tom Chatfield wrote in an article for the BBC (“The truth about technology’s greatest myth”):

… while technological and scientific progress is indeed an astonishing thing—its relationship with human progress is more aspiration than established fact. Whether we like it or not, acceleration cannot continue indefinitely. We may long to escape flesh and history, but the selves we are busy reinventing come equipped with the same old gamut of beauties, perversities and all-too-human failings. In time, our dreams of technology departing mere actuality—and taking us along for the ride—will come to seem as quaint as Victorian gentlemen donning evening dress to make a phonecall.

[Technology] remains as mired in history, politics and human frailty as everything else we touch.

It is a related theme that is evident in the background throughout Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood’s The Fuse (first issue reviewed here and currently available for free download on the Image Comics digital store and comiXology), a police drama set aboard an orbiting space city in the early 22nd century.

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Johnston and Greenwood’s comic isn’t explicitly about the interplay of society and technology, despite its futuristic setting. It’s a police procedural first and foremost, with the odd-couple buddy-cop pairing of crusty veteran homicide sergeant Klementina “Klem” Rystovich and hotshot rookie detective Ralph Dietrich investigating the violent deaths of two “cablers”—what are essentially homeless underground dwellers—in the orbiting energy station/space colony of Midway City.

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It is hard to ignore, however, how so much of the characters and history of The Fuse are informed by links to 20th and early 21st century Earth. National origins and ethnic/racial make-up play an important role in how certain characters self-identify and are identified by those around them—Rystovich’s shift boss refers to her as a “Muscovite” while Rystovich’s nickname for the German-born Dietrich is “Marlene.” The embattled mayor is a survivor of the lethal Midway City race riots of 2097, an off-world version of the same racially-charged violence seen on Earth and a pivotal incident in the colony’s development. The deputy mayor, a man of Latino descent, is keen to hide his alleged gangbanger past, and so on and so forth. Human society in space, it seems, has carried with it all the baggage of its planetside counterpart.

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Even the economic “geography” of Midway City reflects that of terrestrial urban spaces, with social stratification taking on a most literal sense: The poor and the working class are crammed together in the colony’s lower levels close to the station core—an actual inner city ghetto, if you will—while the affluent live on the more expansive upper levels. Midway City may be several thousand miles closer to the stars, but its marginalized and disenfranchised still live in the gutter, as they always have.

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For all the impressive future technology that has allowed for permanent human habitation in space in The Fuse—stuff like technology that simulates Earth-like gravity in a space station, for example—its society is still subject to what Chatfield calls its “perversities and all-too-human failings.”

But while it’s tempting to interpret The Fuse‘s vision of the near-future as a cynical comment on human nature, it’s also possible to view it through a more optimistic prism: That Midway City, so afflicted by the same age-old human weaknesses and prejudices, can hold out in the depths of space, continue to attract new residents, and even produce heroes like Klem Rystovich, is a testament to the indomitable pioneer spirit and the human drive to make life better.

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Digressions

fuseforbiddenplanetsigningAs you guys may or may not have heard, The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift  hit retail earlier this week. The trade paperback collects the first six issues of The Fuse and is 160 full-color pages of detectives-in-space action and intrigue, priced at a new reader-friendly $9.99. Writer Antony Johnston will be appearing at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore (179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR; tel.: 0207-420-3666) on Saturday, 30 August, from 3–4 PM to sign copies of The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift as well as Umbral, Vol. 1: Out of the Shadows (the first trade collection of his other Image Comics title, the first issue of which we reviewed here).

The first 150 copies of The Fuse and Umbral books to be sold during the signing will come with signed and numbered limited edition bookplates by artists Justin Greenwood and Christopher Mitten, respectively. Readers of Wasteland (Johnston’s long-running Harvey and Eagle Award-nominated Oni Press comic), The Coldest City, Dead Space, Fashion Beast, Spooked, The Long Haul, Nightjar, F-Stop, Wolverine: Prodigal Son, Daredevil: Season One, and Johnston’s other comics works are also welcome to attend the signing.

Friend of the site David “Mecha Zone” White has informed us that super limited quantities of the Predanaut (in red and black) and Mechanaut v2.0 (in green and black) designer action figures are now available for preorder on the Mecha Zone store. Both figures are approximately six inches tall, feature multiple points of articulation, 5 mm ports on the arms and legs for further customization, and are restricted to an extremely limited production run of just 15 figures each. Check out the images of the figures and the design/production process below:

I recently started watching Noragami—the anime based on Adachitoka’s manga of the same title—on Netflix. The show is produced by BONES (the same studio behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Soul Eater, and Star Driver, three shows I’ve previously discussed in this space) and it  looks absolutely fantastic. It certainly appears to have high production values. The story, as I’ve come to understand it thus far (I’m only three episodes in), calls to mind elements of Kamisama Kiss and the aforementioned Soul Eater: It’s reminiscent of the former because of the plucky female high school student lead who falls in with a minor deity (figuring in what could potentially be a love triangle) and it calls to mind the latter with its use of sentient human weapons—that is, humanoids who can turn into handheld armaments—as a central design element. Beyond the exemplary visuals, what has really grabbed me is Noragami‘s comedy. I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a show that isn’t nominally a comedy since Samurai Champloo (I know that sounds like ridiculously high praise, but keep in mind that I have no idea if the show will be able to maintain the tone through the season). Anyway, check it out if you can.


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