The purpose of this blog is about examining how popular culture depicts archivists, archives, and all manner of in between. The reason being that there is a dearth of literature within the archival community about the subject, but there are plenty of movies, television shows, books, etc. that presume to know our profession, and our personalities, but only end up reinforcing stereotypes we constantly combat. So when articles like Alice Dreger’s “The Delicate Art of Dealing With Your Archivist” are released into the mainstream it then falls on us, the actual archivists, to counter such condescending pieces with a dose of reality.
Saga is one of my favorite on-going comic books. Even when I try to take a break from buying comics for financial reasons, Saga is always the exception. From the moment I read the first issue and was blessed with Fiona Staples beautiful art and colors complimenting Brian K. Vaughan’s writing, I was hooked.
It was recently announced, however, that Vaughan and Staples are taking a year-long hiatus (break) after the release of issue #54. I can’t blame them. It’s a gut-punch of a book that heralds a big change for the characters going forward, so I’m not surprised they need the break in order to come back fresh and begin telling the next leg of the story.
So, in honor of my favorite comic and one of my favorite creative teams, I thought I’d take a look at that time Marko and Alana burnt down an archive!
It’s the beginning of August, which means the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting is only two weeks away. This year, SAA returns to Washington, DC where I’m sure nothing politically charged is happening at all.
Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist.
As far as intriguing premises go, Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace certainly caught my attention. There’s a lot to unpack in the first book of her post-apocalyptic saga and Kornher-Stace deserves all of the applause for the amount of world-building and myth-making accomplished. And while I’ll admit it was the title that initially drew me in – seriously, I don’t see Archivist in a lot book titles – by the end of the novel I was cheering Wasp on and rooting for her ruthless competence to win out, or, at the very least, to survive.
“They are a record. They tell the story of my life, the things I want remembered.”
“They are tensed into my skin, into my flesh. I made them so they will burn into my bones upon my death.”
“I do not want my existence to go unremarked upon. I do not want to be an anonymous set of bones scattered in the desert, chanced upon by travelers and discarded.”
In JY Yang’s debut novella, The Red Threads of Fortune, Quarterlander Rider explains the purpose of their tattoos to Mokoya, a Tensor who can – simply put – manipulate the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and metal. It’s a small, intimate moment between the two that, to some, wouldn’t be worth remarking upon. It’s a character building scene meant to strengthen the bond between them so that once the plot kicks into overdrive we the readers are staunchly invested in their brief but potent connection. The tattoos aren’t a plot device, nor are they really brought up again after the initial pillow talk. They just are and yet I found myself latching on to their purpose and significance regarding ideas about records, memory, and autonomy.
Author’s Note: Originally published on the Society of American Archivists Review Portal, July 8, 2018
If you’re like me, sometimes a little escape is necessary when the real world gets a little too real. Lately, that means of escape is role playing games (RPGs). Surprisingly, a handful of RPGs feature archivists and archives not only within the lore and history of their worlds, but as playable character classes and adventure settings. Of course, as a scholarly exercise, we should examine how RPGs and tabletop games represent our profession. After all, you never know when knowledge of a beholder or a death knight might make all the difference in a battle for the very soul of the archives! Get your character sheets and bless your dice, kids. It’s time to roll for initiative!