Time travel plays a big part in The Memory Librarian by musician and all-round force of nature Janelle Monáe.
This collection of five stories is co-written by Monáe with a fine selection of female or non-binary writers of colour, and is an expansion of the speculative world created in her 2018 Dirty Computer album and the accompanying ‘emotion picture’. In a dystopian future, New Dawn control the population and monitor everyone’s thoughts and actions.
Difference is viewed as a crime, and those deemed to be different are ‘dirty computers’, cleansed of their memories via drugs. But amid this authoritarian rule there are pockets of resistance – young, marginalised people fighting to be individuals in a world set against them.
The world-building across these tales is terrific and evocative, and the ability to manipulate time threads through three of them. What would you do with more time? What could you change in the past or create in the future? These stories are a clarion call for the disenfranchised of today’s world, and provide an optimistic view of a better way to live going forward. Stirring stuff.
Doug Johnstone is a journalist and author