By Sky Gilbert
With Come Back playwright, author, and “drag queen extraordinaire” Sky Gilbert rounds off what may be thought of as a trilogy of novels concerned with literary celebrity, only this time with an SF twist. After An English Gentleman (which dealt with J. M. Barrie) and Brother Dumb (J. D. Salinger) we now get a 138-year-old Judy Garland coming to us from the year 2050, where she is writing a thesis at the University of Toronto on a semi-famous gay Canadian playwright named Dash King.
King and Garland are obviously alter egos for Gilbert himself, as well as for each other. What they share is a sense of being out of step with their time. For King, our contemporary, this primarily means being a gay writer and aspiring academic in an age that is post-gay and post-theory (the two are linked). For Garland it means being an archaic and decaying physical presence in a post-gender, post-body, post-reality world.
Any account of the future is an allegory of the present, and the parallel between King and Garland only brings this into sharper focus. If King is, as Garland puts it, “a metaphor for the decline of an entire era,” then so is she. The world of 2050 may be dominated by a Modern Ottoman Empire and under sharia law, but none of that really matters because everyone is living in an apolitical virtual world of their own anyway. It is this enervated, post-everything withdrawal from life that King, Garland, and Gilbert rage against in a crackling psychosexual satire that sounds an alarm about the way we live now.