Scheduling note: This is the August issue, which wraps up volume 38. Our hope was to get this issue and the following one out this month, which would leave us only a month behind schedule, but circumstances have conspired against us. The next issue should come out in early November, and the October issue in late November. The November issue will slither forth sometime between the Snozzberry Harvest Moon and Tredecimber. Keep watching the skies!
A few weeks ago, I made an awkward joke on Twitter about the title of the upcoming Marvel television series The Defenders. This will be a grand crossover among the four Netflix Marvel series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) and it looks terrific. But the comic book called The Defenders has rarely featured any of those characters; over its forty-year on-and-off history, it tended towards an oddball/weirdo affect with heroes such as Doctor Strange, the alienated space Jesus known as the Silver Surfer, bi-gendered cloud angels, and Norse psychopomps engaged in battles against The Cult of Entropy or heavily armed garden gnomes. The TV series by contrast will be a team of (by superhero standards) grounded, “realistic” heroes in more prosaic conflicts—the villain in the first season of Daredevil was gentrification.
So when someone jokingly tweeted out an illustration of a 1970s incarnation of the comic book team as the “only true” version of the team, I commented that he and I and two of maybe four true believers in the world remembered. After I picked the leather scraps out of my teeth (from putting both my feet, sandals and all, into my mouth), I thought about why I’d had such a strong reaction.
Usually, I’ve discovered, if I make a really awkward joke, it’s because I’m facing an uncomfortable tension between impulses. The original joke played off the stereotype of hardcore/long-term comics fans as angrily opposed to change; my follow-up joke fell solidly into that stereotype to a degree that I had not thought myself capable. The joke I had thought I was making, the joke that existed only in my head, was a more plaintive cry to remember the original Defenders series despite the overwhelming momentum to forget it in the advent of the new, unrelated series.
One of the greatest challenges facing any work of art is finding an audience. New works get lost in the crush of other releases, and old works end up buried under successive avalanches of the new. A few works achieve canonical status almost immediately and remain visible, but many good, great, even landmark works would be lost forever without people making a special effort to preserve them. And my ill-considered joke grew out of that fear of loss.
Every virtue can putrefy into a vice, and the fan’s tendency toward preservationism can easily slide into entrenchment, the unthinking defense of the way things are (and how they got there) and lashing out at change. I’m hoping that recognizing it can help me fight against falling into that. And maybe others can learn from my mistake this time.
More broadly, preservation is one of the overt goals of NYRSF. Helping good works from the past find an new audience is one of the things that distinguishes us in the crowded world of sf/f criticism. It was always a passion of Hartwell’s and we’ve tried to carry that forward—with lightness and the joy of rediscovery and not by falling into entrenchment. Plucking great works out of the torrent of the now is wonderful, but there’s a unique pleasure in bringing something old and wondrous back into the light.
—Kevin J. Maroney and the editors