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Tomorrow and Tomorrow Review

on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 00:00

Within the pages of Steel City native Thomas Sweterlitsch’s first novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Putnam, 2014), the city of Pittsburgh has been destroyed, the victim of a nuclear explosion set off by a lone terrorist ten years earlier. While the world has changed during the intervening decade—with society becoming obsessed with violent revenge for such actions—Pittsburgh itself continues to exist in a virtual world known as the Archive. Using video footage from traffic cameras, surveillance systems and even webcams from home computers, the Library of Congress has recreated the Steel City, up to and including the fateful moment of its destruction. The Archive serves as both homage and remembrance to those who died in the tragedy, a lasting record of a lost city and a way for survivors to cope with their own personal bereavement.

In many ways, Tomorrow and Tomorrow is hard to pin down in regards to genre. Science fiction immediately comes to mind, with a mid-Twenty First Century dystopian setting similar to the futures imagined by such classic sci-fi novelists as Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. The novel also contains numerous ventures into the Archive, meanwhile, offering a realistic vision of Pittsburgh with chapters containing not even the slightest tint of science fiction. Then there is the main narrative itself, which revolves around the recent discovery of a murdered girl within the virtual reality of Pittsburgh—a previously unknown crime committed ten years earlier that the main protagonist of the novel becomes determined to solve—making Tomorrow and Tomorrow part detective story to go along with its many other ingredients.

Gondek + Gonnella = A Big Bang!

on Mon, 07/28/2014 - 00:00

Pittsburgh has already produced two of the most popular and influential creators of Pop Art, Andy Warhol and Burton Morris. The Steel City has also had its fair share of comic book illustrators, including Golden Age pioneer Matt Baker and contemporary artists like Ed Piskor, Jim Rugg and Tom Scioli. Although not as nationally well-known, local talents Matt Gondek and Brian Gonnella will be bringing their own unique mashup of pop and comic artistic styles to a special joint exhibition at The Shop in Bloomfield on August 1, 2014, appropriately entitled Big Bang!

“I’ve been a full time artist and illustrator for the past five years,” Matt Gondek explains. “A lot of my work involves pop culture characters which are either blowing up or melting. I like to take imagery that everyone is familiar with, and destroy it.” Brian Gonnella, meanwhile, likewise has an “underground comix” texture to his own creations. “Brian is a full time artist from Pittsburgh as well,” Gondek offers in regards to his counterpart. “His recent work is hyper detailed scenes of dystopian cities and landscapes. Where most artists would just create something cool to look at and call it a day, Brian goes so far as to craft entire stories based on the paintings. He’s currently in the process of writing and illustrating a comic book that fleshes out his world more.”

Cities in Flight, Pittsburgh on Mars

on Mon, 07/21/2014 - 00:00

Science fiction writer James Blish is best remembered for his short-story adaptations of episodes from the original Star Trek of the 1960s, and even authored the first novel based on characters from the television series in 1970, called Spock Must Die! Blish was also a trained biologist who made his living in the 1940s, 50s and 60s within the scientific realm while likewise writing science fiction pieces for the various pulps of the era. In 1959, Blish received the Hugo Award for “Best Novel” from the World Science Fiction Society for his religiously-tinged A Case of Conscience, and was further acknowledged the following year as Guest of Honor at the 1960 World Science Fiction Convention held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

James Blish’s appearance in the Steel City occurred two years before the publication of A Life for the Stars, which became the second “chapter” in Cities in Flight, a four volume omnibus that details mankind’s exploration of space that is arguably Blish’s greatest achievement. The quartet of novels that encompass Cities in Flight span millenniums, from the development of an anti-gravity device in 2021 that enables the human race to literally reach for the stars, to the inevitable end of the universe in the year 4004. The narratives contained within Cities in Flight are often referred to as James Blish’s “Okie” stories as they follow the journeys of New York City—which has been able to “lift” itself from planet Earth—as it travels the galaxy in search of work, in much the same way that millions of Midwest farm laborers migrated around the country during the Great Depression in the hopes of finding employment.