Hello there and welcome to Volume 3 of Mercurial Stories.
Perhaps you are wondering, considering the global tragedy going on, why I chose such a prompt for this week’s issue. It was not done flippantly, I can assure you. I chose the 1950s as this week’s challenge because it is a time period that is often seen with rose-colored glasses, cited as being a period of innocence and decency. It is the darling of the right wing conservatives, the period the current president of the United States refers to when talking about making America great again.
Of course, like any era involving humans, the 1950s were not great, even for those who benefited from that brief moment of economic prosperity. The 1950s seemed great only when compared to the horrors of World War II. The 1950s was a time of delusion and denial, when the world suffered through a long stretch of post-traumatic stress disorder and treated our collective psychological wounds with consumerism. In America, men returned with night terrors but instead of dealing with what had happened, they bought cars and houses in the suburbs and set themselves up for disappointment. They were sentimental for a time before they intimately knew the raw cruelty of humanity. They set about creating a world that replicated a time period that had never happened; humans have always been cruel and have rarely known peace.
At the same time, those who had not benefited from the status quo, such as minorities and women, came out of the war with the realization that change, even seemingly impossible change, was actually possible. For a while they played along with fantasy, left the work force and returned to the kitchens and fields. But the seeds had already been planted by that point. And when the fantasy was disrupted by what some called disorder and others called progress, well, that was a great period of hope for our species, a period when our capacity for cruelty was balanced with our capacity for compassion and true decency.
I have been thinking about the 1950s a lot lately not because of the nostalgic rhetoric of right-wing pundits but because right now we are facing a similar future. A pandemic is not the same as a war, obviously, but it is a sudden shock to our psyche, as we bear witness to the senseless loss of life that we are incapable, at this point, of stopping. I hear many talk about the things they miss about life before quarantine, as if life can just go back to being normal, as if normal was working for everyone. We are learning a lot during our respective confinements, learning about our priorities and shortcomings, and most of all about our commonalities, our need for connection and interaction. Just as it was impossible in the 1950s to return to a time that never happened, it will be impossible when the pandemic is over to go back to our old mindless habits, habits that were destructive and prohibitive. And yet, just like in the 1950s, I suspect that many will still try to do so (as we see many already doing now), and the result will be something equally captivating and fleeting. I look forward to seeing the dawn of that transition period and the even greater change that will follow.
Until then, stay safe, dear readers and writers.
In this issue, we have four stories of the 1950s:
(1) Rebel In Color by Yash Seyedbagheri
(2) Red Dawn by Mark Kodama
(3) Nineteen Fifty Something by Lynn White
(4) Remote Control by Dawn DeBraal