Friday, June 12, 2009

Tomorrow Came in the Mail Today

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, by Brian Fies. Please click on the above image to be taken to's ordering page.

My friend, Brian Fies, is a scientist by college training and a cartoon artist by fame. His first book, Mom's Cancer, was written and drawn in response to his mother's battle with the disease and his family's battles to cope with it and to support her. It was widely acclaimed and won many awards. More importantly, selfish creatures that we are, it touched a deep, personal place in each of us who have dealt with a loved one's cancer and that person's response to it, which is not always one of traditional stoic heroism. Maintenance of love through the most difficult of circumstances is facilitated by an unblinking inner eye, and Mom's Cancer showed that very, very clearly.

Since Mom's Cancer, Brian's fans have been anxiously waiting for his next book. Would it be a "sequel"? A medical advice book would have been logical, since Mom's Cancer was so widely acclaimed as a help for families coping with a loved one's catastrophic illness. Or would it be something else entirely?

It is something else entirely.

Brian's publisher, Harry N. Abrams, and his editor, Charlie Kochman, encouraged Brian to follow his enthusiasm for science, technology, and exploration instead of going the "safe" route with a sequel. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow is the spectacular result of that gamble.

Whatever Happened... chronicles the 20th Century American love affair with technology and progress from its first-bloom manifestation in the 1939 World's Fair through its confused dissolution at the end of the Apollo era. Along the way, it presents images and print media that are genuine echoes of the times they represent, including "play-within-a-play" comic books that are authentic not only in their art, but in the paper on which they're printed! That sort of attention to detail pervades the work: every frame seems to have been researched assiduously for accuracy. I could find no anachronisms, and I tried. Hard.

Hardbound, handsome, brilliantly printed, it would be well worth the $50 cover price it should have. It is an absolute steal at $19.

I'm pretty sure that I would say all of that if I were a thoroughly impartial observer. But I'm not.

Page 118 of Whatever Happened... looks like this:

Click to see a clearer version. Guinness, at right, is waiting for his dinner, not particularly enthralled by the artwork.

... and here's a closer look:

(Click the image to see a ligible version. Guinness's butt, blurred by the long exposure, is scooting behind the book at upper-left. Maybe it's time to feed him, think?)

That scene is based on one of my Dad's photographs, taken in the early 1960's:

Mom and I lunching in a Florida roadside diner, spring, 1961.

Brian saw it in this post in SherWords at a very opportune time while he was working on Whatever Happened... , and asked if he could use it. I think I hesitated for less than an eighth of a second. I think he did the shot justice, and his acknowledgement at the end of the book is very gracious.

Another thing about Whatever Happened... : Brian had a little virtual "Launch Party" for Whatever Happened... just a little while ago. It is well worth watching -- especially for two things: Brian's careful demonstration of cartooning techniques, and for a "visit" by a famous cartoonist, Stephan Pastis, who does the daily Pearls Before Swine strip. Pastis is a hoot, and it's clear from his behavior at Brian's party where the inspiration for his "Rat" main character comes from.

Pastis also takes off his shirt in that clip. Just in case you needed any further impetus to watch.



Brian Fies said...

That's very kind of you, Sherwood, thanks. Perhaps I can win over Guinness's affections in the future.

Pastis . . . What a jerk.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Guinness already likes you as much as he likes me, Brian. Equal, too, to Prince Harry, Peter Yarrow, and Harrold Carswell.

In other words, "Good on you, pinky. What's for dinner?"