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In science fiction, retro elegance often meets great stories – as in the Netflix series Stranger Things.

Photo: Netflix

Science fiction stories stand and fall as their world is built, that is, as the fictional world in which the stories take place takes off. In addition to the central plot – regardless of whether it falls into the subgenre of time travel, space adventures, apocalyptic environmental disasters, or a world full of artificial intelligence – there are often social, technological, cultural and political framework conditions for the future, alternate or parallel worlds that greatly shape the character. The social and political story.

Of course, literature is always a step forward because it can create complex themes that can only be recreated to a limited extent on a film set. Or the costs of production are so high that under capitalist conditions a product suitable for a wide audience and cash registers must automatically appear. Artistic aspirations and socio-political content may recede. Whereas in Dietmar Dath’s one-kilometer novel “Pulsarnacht” spaceships nearly a kilometer long fly through black holes in a space inhabited by a myriad of species, the director has to move huge amounts of money in order to start doing something like this Regarding deceptive technology. The possibilities here have changed dramatically in recent years.

Swedish artist Simon Stalinhag uses a great way to create wonderful worlds through his graphic novels, including his new book, The Labyrinth. In “The Labyrinth,” Stålenhag’s naive folk art photographs with short text sequences, which look like oil paintings but are digitally produced, tell of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone lives in underground bunkers and visits the planet occasionally only for research purposes. the fog. The cities are ruined ruins, somewhat reminiscent of the images of Ukrainian cities that are currently in the media. Strange black balls hanging in the sky, which suddenly appeared a few years ago, changed physical laws, destroyed the environment and made people sick.

The futuristic technology of hovering and flying machines, as seen in previous Stålenhag books, suggests that all of this must take place in the future or in a parallel universe. In terms of the general aesthetic of his paintings, the interiors of the hideouts and the jackets worn by the characters are somewhat antique and reminiscent of the 80s.

This legendary vintage ’80s aesthetic romance has been experiencing a real boom in glamor for some time now. It doesn’t matter whether it was the popular Netflix series “Stranger Things” or the new season of “Matryoshka” from New York at the time, or the popular series “Wonder Woman 1984” or the final season of the global parallel series “For All Mankind.” . , set in the mid-1980s: The Decade, which is also still popular in terms of pop music, seems to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for contemporary culture.

Neither the 1984 Stalinhag nor the Dover twins, who were born the same year and are responsible for Stranger Things, have noticed much of this seemingly culturally meaningful decade. This trend may also be due to the fact that late baby boomers and early representatives of “Generation X” as target audiences can consume the time of their early youth as a narrative framework for great stories. Because in both “Stranger Things” and in Simon Stålenhag, the adolescent and male protagonists (against) are the focus of the narrative, which (for men) should intensify the correspondence with these stories.

This raises the question: How realistic is the ’80s so luxuriously organized here? Are they reduced to a pattern of defining popular culture that frequently does not correspond to television advertising in terms of visual aesthetics, beyond social and political reality? Where the “Stranger Things” series, set in a newly unindustrial rust belt, is filled with social and political allusions, in season three, a monster sleeps in a shuttered steel mill and an elegant shopping mall is completely wrecked. But in many of these ancient novels, contemporary history meticulously reconstructed serves as a kind of artificial chip enough to develop great content on. At the same time, classic films such as “E. T. «(1982) or “Back to the Future” (1985-1990) as references that keep appearing again and again, almost in a brand sense. Plus, it’s easier for the film to recreate iconic ’80s themes as giant, futuristic worlds, as Apple TV recently did for a huge budget when the Isaac Asimov Foundation trilogy was first adapted for a series.

However, the worlds of the ’80s are sometimes very fun and fairly easy to use. At least in the big contemporary Netflix series Matryoshka, the ’80s are at times sloppy and full of droopy nooks, which contrast distinctly with the (authoritarian by Rudy Giuliani) chic that adorns midtown Manhattan today. In contrast, the elegant ’80s appeared in “Wonder Woman 1984” as in the commercial.

In the field of films and series, this is always organized with pop music. Frankie’s songs go to Hollywood with the ultra-pure visuals of “Wonder Woman 1984”, punk music becomes the musical and sub-cultural standard in “Matrjoschka” or in the new pop culture Netflix time-travel series “Léas 7 Leben”, and in the new season” Stranger Things,” ’80s teens, dressed as big-city hipsters, travel through small-town high school corridors with Kate Bush’s “Babushka.” This ancient factor also allows viewers and readers to engage in narratives of a genre that has nothing usually to do with horror, science fiction, or fantasy.

It remains to be seen if this reduced reach factor also applies to Simon Stalinhag’s graphic novels. Although his book “Tales from the Loop” has already been shot as a series by Amazon Prime, it falls short of the reach of the long-running hit series “Stranger Things,” perhaps the most successful of the 1980s in industrial culture. A vintage retro product at the moment. Stålenhag’s new visual novel “The Labyrinth” tells the story of a mysterious environmental disaster that could be of extraterrestrial origin, and thus perfectly fits the zeitgeist of science fiction based on environmental themes and dystopian scenarios of devastation, no longer habitable. world design.

The Labyrinth also deals with the question of how many democratic rights people can still enjoy at a time when the entire planet is radically threatened by environmental disaster and what happens when individual and collective civil rights are suspended in favor of a state of emergency. Simon Stalinhag’s grim book is by no means a flat-out homage to the ’80s aesthetic and an antiquated trend, although his work is an inspiration to help shape that hype.

Simon Stalinhag: The Labyrinth. ad. Swedish V. Stefan Belchkat. Fisher’s Gate, 152 p. , born, 36 euros.

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