The Ghanaian symbol, the Sankofa, is represented by a bird with one foot stepping forward with its neck bent backward arching its head toward its back feathers. It represents the belief that in order to step into the future, we must look back and learn from our past. I have been thinking a lot about the future, but lately, every time I try to step forward through the doorway of a café or bar I pause, mask in hand, a little paralyzed by our new normal. Inside venues across metro Detroit, throngs of people elbow to elbow lean into one another unmasked, as if trying to dismiss the last two years of social distancing and washing our hands to “happy birthday.”
One thing these past two years have taught me is that the future is not certain, that no matter how advanced we humans think we have developed, no matter how sophisticated our technology, no matter what modes of transportation we build to arrive at destinations much farther and in the fastest means imaginable, we are still at the whim of our own nature. We are vulnerable creatures that have been grounded by terrible illnesses and natural disasters. And these illnesses and disasters happen every generation. But we have also forged resilient communities. We are made up of gardeners, healers, scientists, and caregivers. When faced with uncertainty we turn to one another.
In this Fiction Issue, by taking on the theme “Conjuring Future Visions,” writers and artists meditate on what lies ahead. Some pieces create speculative imagery of a future Detroit where citizens have access to devices that read our emotions; others ask us to question our relationship to the multiverse, the imaginative selves that may be more accessible to us than we thought.
But not all the work ventures into a distant future that is tech-driven. Some of the work asks that we only think about actions that will affect our future selves, others to consider the next seconds. There is even a piece where a future sage sends a message to the past (our present) warning us and guiding us as we move towards a radical future. To be, in the most personal sense, wizards and magicians.
And then there is ritual. Some of our artists acknowledge that in our desire to move forward and transition into a new day there is a need to uplift traditional practices that we have preserved for generations. They embody the spirit of the Sankofa by remembering our past in order to move forward into the future. Together these 21 artists present work of documentation mixed with that of conjecture and speculation. There is magic in the scenery. Their work highlights the alchemy of our survival, the importance of looking at our land, and ancestral practices.
The 2022 Fiction issue invites us to conjure and meditate on our tomorrow. They help me to understand that while the next step into the future may not be assured, it will be guided by our past and filled with curiosity and imagination. I hope you find delight in their work, like I did. —Nandi Comer