If you’re a careful reader of this paper, you may have looked at the cover and thought “What the fuck is up with City Paper and all of this ‘Blade Runner’ shit?” Well, over the last year, a couple of our writers have been obsessed with this notion that our globalized 21st-century world is starting to look a lot like that of the Ridley Scott film and the Philip K. Dick book it was based on. It’s not to say that people are really androids—though not being able to tell the difference between the real and the virtual is a hallmark of our age—but that the futuristic-yet-grimy aesthetic of that film is now our reality. Go up by Penn Station and look for a junkie nodding off under the LED billboard and see what we mean.
That anxious aesthetic fits well with this year’s Big Books issue and the Baltimore Book Festival, both of which feature authors who tend to skew, whether historical or futuristic, whether economically or ethically, toward the dystopian. We have an essay by Lee Gardner on Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy and the state of narrative in our fucked-up world. This is nicely paired with Kate Drabinski’s review of local union historian Bill Barry’s “The 1877 Railroad Strike in Baltimore,” which shows that you don’t need to go speculative to uncover conspiracies; looking at the economics of the past is enough. Bret McCabe talks with Melissa Gira Grant about her book “Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work,” which attempts to see the sex worker as a worker rather than a victim or a villain, while Evan Serpick talks with Chuck Klosterman about the nature of villainy and our media-saturated environment.
All of these writers, and tons more, will be reading or speaking at the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend. And, though we’re a bit bummed about Bookfest moving out of its traditional home in Mount Vernon (bye bye, 12-hour book-fest brunch) down to the Inner Harbor, we are psyched to go wherever there will be so many great authors—even if it does feel a bit like Tyrell’s dream Replicant-land.
So, whether you’re reading this on your touchscreen device (we have mobile now!) or are getting your hands dirty with our grimy old-school newsprint, try to block out all the distractions bombarding you, and enjoy (and when you’re done, maybe you can fold this page into a unicorn).
To see a gallery of local points of literary interest, go to citypaper.com/bigbooks