Trustees of Strange
My partner and I were late arrivals to Stranger Things, but were finally pulled in by ubiquitous discussions of it (and, in my case, by my Atlanta rabbi’s appearance in one scene as an extra). We’re both susceptible to the uncanny—and he’s a Dungeons and Dragons nerd from back in the day. When the latter quality made the kids in Hawkins a target this season, it prompted recollections of those very real 1980s scares, when memories felt malleable, and anything different was deemed satanic—even a few kids gathering in Midwestern basements to role play.
From this safe distance, we marveled at the absurdity of it. Isn’t a studious teenager with a broad imagination who hangs at home with friends on Friday nights a parent’s dream?
But there are reminders in our issue, too, that this isn’t always so. The more black-and-white popular thinking becomes, the less people trust the creative among them. Fantasy, fiction, and art—they often become targets when culture goes rigid. See Muppets in Moscow, an account of bringing a version of Sesame Street to the East after the USSR fell; it reflects the real struggles that people had with accepting encouragements toward kindness from puppets, whom those in control regarded with suspicion. It seems silly, but so it was.
In the book world, the fantastical compels us. We seek out stories that test the elasticity of our imaginations; we fall in love with those that break us open. It happened for me several times this issue, most notably with Singer Distance, a first contact novel about communication with Mars that left me wet-eyed, staring at the stars at four in the morning. It happened with The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern, which I claimed for myself because it started with a girl in a carnival, but that surprised me on repeat: with moonlight incantations, grimoires, and bursts of love. It’s even evident in our University Press special section, which perennially reminds us that academia isn’t as stodgy as people suspect: it’s a place of ongoing adventures, of eternal “what if?“s.
As our Netflix entertainment wound its way toward the season’s end, so did this issue. Both left in their wake glittering thoughts of the possibilities that they introduced—and, I must say, a fair amount of pity for those who respond to such dreams with firm “no”s. They’re missing out. May we never do the same.
Michelle Anne Schingler
Editor in Chief
Image from Gold, by Jed Alexander. Used with permission from Creston Books.
Michelle Anne Schingler