Right, you can go to naughty places and watch the pilot episode of Supergirl, airing in the autumn. You can watch two episodes of Jonathan Strange And Mister Norrell which won’t air in the US until the summer. And I’ve read the scripts to Lucifer, Fear The Walking Dead, Scream The TV Show and Preacher.
It’s all thanks to the internet. But nothing much has changed as a result of this. A few people might get cross about spoilers, but only if they go on places where spoilers may occur. I have friends who enjoy Doctor Who without having a clue as to what might be coming next because they’ve never read the kind of newspaper, website or social media feed that might tell them.
Which is why the world first shown to us in No Time Like The Present, the graphic novel by Paul Rainey, now out in a big fat hardcover, is immediately recognisable. The emergence of the ultranet has meant that people can look up and download stuff from the future. Some do, some don’t. And here, in Milton Keynes, a group of geeks are caught in that dilemma, while dealing with everything else that is going on in their lives.
Just information, and now people travel from the far future, obsessed with a time when people just couldn’t do that sort of thing. But most things don’t change. Not in the provincial town of Milton Keynes. No more than they would have done otherwise. Oh sure, professional sport has gone away, along with the gambling industry, but most people try and keep doing what they always were doing, waiting for the future to catch up with them the slow way.
While for many people such information would profoundly change their lives, here, it doesn’t. That’s the thing about the future, it creeps up on you. No one ends up with jet packs of silver space suits but the future just melds with the present and the past until you can’t envisage a time without it. Until it’s too late.
And the ennui of every day modern life, collectible geek culture, argument and debate and the drag of office life continue, ultranet and future travellers or no. Fifty years later, not too much has changed in Milton Keynes either, even as a world rebels against the ultranet and starts to do away with it. Of course, everyone knew this was coming.
In a political environment where everyone seems to be emphasising the idea of “aspiration”, this is a graphic novel which fights against that. Says that this is as good as it is ever going to get and you might as well get used to it. Challenges both the American dream and the afterlife and seeks solace in the little victories we have every day when we choose to do the right thing or not. Because you won’t become President, you won;t win the lottery and you won’t get the career of your dreams. You can look yourself up to check. So you might as well just knuckle down and get on with it.
Oh and then the book blows all those expectations away, having our cake and eating it too. Showing us that we don’t know everything, even in a world where you can see the future, there are still secrets to be explored. And life is a far stranger thing than we could ever have thought.
We’ve mentioned a number of Paul Rainey;s mini-comics over the years, but this is his magnum opus. Until he has time for another one. Track it down, please. It took him seven years to finish, it took me seven hours, but every second was well spent, for both of us,