Friday, November 9, 2018

Walter Mosley's FUTURELAND

I'd imagine, if I wanted to step outside of my best life right now--thank you very much--to be anyone from any of the books that have stayed with me, I would be Walter Mosley's Ptolemy Bent, from his absolutely chilling, stirring, and memorable FUTURELAND. This may surprise some folks, given the comparisons and litmus tests I have to jump through for daring to be black and write mysteries without regard for all the other blacks who may have wanted to do so as well.

It ain't hate for his crime fiction but abject love and worship of his science fiction, beginning with BLUE LIGHT, which I feel should have won him the National Book Award, as it surpasses Atwood's ORYX AND CRAKE for chilling, hyper-realized technological domination of the human species, only as it dares to double-down upon her strong feminist message in his nightmarishly trippy 60s free-love superhero epic.

I have a confession to make, and it's I prefer Walter Mosley's science fiction to his crime fiction, and we all know his work is some of the roots of my work's fruits, no question. I write about food and sex in aspiration of how Mosley's work moves me when he offers lush details with whimsy. I try to bite his style, but I'm from Chicago, with too much mercury and nickel in my bloodstream to be light about any details, what, me being laced with heavy metals 'n all.

What Mosley's crime fiction doesn't do for me is a sense of familiarity with the environments. I can't position myself in Easy Rawlins' world. I get dragged along, which is a perfectly great position for the average reader, but for the guy who is searching for his own style back in the 90s, when I made three of his books my first Amazon purchase ever, at the behest of Arthur Andersen and Co. partners who wanted to see their sales order process work firsthand in a client presentation, I read him realizing I had stories of my own, and I better tell them.

Mosley's science fiction is immediately familiar to me, as it is within direct conversation with each and every one of the masters, like a griot using his sacred smoke to weave his tales in with Stephen King's The Jaunt and The Long Walk, Ray Bradbury's commitment to enlightening the reader in Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man, and an urge to merge new and exciting conceptual technologies into the daily lives of his characters that speaks of his mastery of forms offered by greats such as Robert A. Heinlein and Orson Scott Card, who all bit off of Ursula LeGuin, but at least Walter keeps it femme, which is lovely.

I love Futureland so much, it's in the DNA of my work that sits side-by-side with his in THE OBAMA INHERITANCE. In my story BROTHER'S KEEPER, my not quite veiled criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the economy and public safety for African-Americans framed as an anti-Trump story, which is really only an anti-tyranny story, but don't get me to talkin', check out the endless skyscrapers Larry, our protagonist, lives in, and then read about the office building Mosley's Popo Bent houses his chosen elites to help bring about change in a Manhattan that has grown vertically to monstrous proportions. He's a mastermind of what makes people better. Ptolemy Bent uplifts everyone around him to make them believe in themselves. I can relate to that character, and I still do, and its embedded within the DNA of my work. It's proof of Walter Mosley's genius in the form. Seek out his handful of science fiction works and be as delighted as I am remembering his gift to the genre, and to literary fiction overall.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.



Terry said...

I've always been an avid sci-fi reader, and didn't even know Mosley wrote it. So thanks for the tip. Rushing right out to add your recommendations to my perilously giant stack of TBRs.

Cathy Ace said...

Other than Wells and Huxley, and some PKD, I've never been a sci-fi reader. Might have to amend that. Thanks.

Susan C Shea said...

Boy, am I ignorant. I didn't know Walter Mosley wrote science fiction. Like Cathy, I'm not a sci fi reader although Octavia Butler's work pretty much transcends the tropes of that genre and I do like her writing. And while Philip Dick was not the best writer, his science fiction imagination was wild and inventive.

James Ziskin said...

Great piece, Danny. I have to read some of this.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great post, Danny. I love Mosely's crime fiction, but now you've got me wanting to check out his sci-fi.

RJ Harlick said...

Ditto for the sci-fi. I never knew Mosely wrote it. Will have to check it out. Great post, Danny.

Danny Gardner said...

His work is really great in the science fiction space. It always starts out accessible, then takes you on a wild ride. I'd read FUTURELAND first. If you have the brain capacity for really weird stuff, BLUE LIGHT is great. The ending still haunts me, because it implies to do great things and to rise to heroism in the current insane world, you may risk your own sanity. Walter's science fiction found me at an impressionable time and I'm better for it.