The desire to take the music project off the album has prompted the careers of many creatively ambitious musicians. From classic studio films such as The Who’s “Tommy” (1975) or Prince’s “Purple Rain” (1984), to advanced music video projects such as Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” in 2016, the music conveyor belt to the film if done successfully , can establish the copyright status of the artist.
American singer, rapper and actress Janelle Monae, who made her film debut in 2016 with the award “Moonlight” and received by critics “Hidden Figures”, is no stranger to this concept. Her third Grammy-nominated album, a joyfully bright collection of pop bands by Dirty Computer, was accompanied by emotion. The Hugo Prize-winning short film revived a fully formed world around Monet’s records, introducing the audience to an anti-utopian state of observation in the near future, where strange people, colored people and anyone who doesn’t fit are considered “dirty computers” and hunted to fix . This is the world that Mona builds in her first book, The Librarian of Memory: Other Stories from a Dirty Computer, a collection of short stories that explores the power of memory in liberation.
The collection is the collaboration of Manae and several writers known for their work in speculative and science fiction, including Johanna Delgado, Yves L. Ewing, Alai Don Johnson, Danny Laur and Gray Rene Thomas. By their nature, collections of anthologies with ink written with such different pens can feel messy and messy. The merit of the editors and the strong vision of Monet is that the collection does not fall before this first hurdle. Anyway, diverse voices play into the concept of the book, immersing and detaching themselves from different characters and worldviews to paint a broader picture of the impact of a comprehensive authoritarian state, the New Dawn.
In the New Dawn era, difference is a crime. Technology is equipped with weapons to monitor every step of the citizen, and memory is seen as a threat to the new order and erased by the drug Nevermind. The allegories of our modern fears of the dominance of technology in our lives and the many ways of rewriting history for the benefit of those in power are evident throughout the text. As with her album Dirty Computer, which Monae called Rolling Stone for young marginalized people, The Memory Library focuses on the same audience – a reminder to those who have ever been told they don’t fit in. . there is a world beyond this hard and a set of tools that can help them get to it.
In the first story, The Librarian of Memory (co-written by Monet with Johnson), we meet Seshet, the city’s director of the Little Delta Library and a rare black man in the upper echelons of New Dawn who heads his authoritarian regime in the afternoon, killing Doc Young and his illegal street remixes on Nevermind. At night, she seeks thrills from living outside the rules, and after meeting her transgender girlfriend Aletia 56934 at the Seshet Dive Bar, she begins to reveal more about her past before becoming the “queen of the white city”.
Even those who have fled the regulated world of the New Dawn are still haunted by the horrors they witnessed, as evidenced by the story “Nevermind”, co-authored with Lor, which tells of the rebellious Jane 57821 who escaped the regime when she chose to remember. Now, hiding in the Pynk Hotel, an all-female community in the desert, Jane struggles to be captivated by memories of her old life and the threat of being found by New Dawn. Women gather in groups called “chords” and are portrayed as radical, free-thinking artists, like many other heroes throughout the anthology. In this world, artists, musicians, painters, designers are physical incarnations of freedom and vice versa are treated with suspicion by the regime.
Elasticity of time is a common theme for the entire collection, as Timebox (co-authored with Ewing) examines how unlimited time can help colored women who are so often the most tired and resourceless. Elsewhere, Save the Changes (co-authored by Delgado) examines a storyline about time travel in which Amber, whose late father gave her a stone that could turn back time, weighs the potential collateral damage from the intervention.
The Afrofuturist collection feeds both Monaean fans who want to delve deeper into her work and science fiction fans who are looking for another book in the growing speculative fiction genre. It should be noted that some stories are given more attention than others. As soon as you get to “Timebox” or “Save Changes”, the section ends abruptly. While another 100 pages would have been impossible, I would have gladly delved into the premise, life and dreams of our protagonists. Anyway, because showing many ways that dreams are equal to liberation for marginalized people is a key conclusion from the anthology. Dreams help characters find themselves and imagine new ways to be, so they proudly declare how Mona sings in her song “Crazy, Classic, Life”: “I’m not America’s nightmare, I’m the American dream.”