I’m decorating my home in what I like to think of as a retro-futurist motif. (In truth I have little experience with home decorating and am just as liable to make a mess of things as to create a unified vision.) I’m trying (within a modest budget) for a combination of contemporary sleek styling with touches of the imagined future of the 30s and 40s, things like posters that extol the wonders of air travel and magazine clippings from the 1939 World’s Fair and a clock shaped like an old metal oscillating fan.
I chose this style because I want to live in an environment full of promise and excitement about the future, about the wonders of technology, about progress and a better life and amazing advances just around the future. It is with interest, then, that I read an article I discovered in _Technology Review_ by Henry Jenkins titled The Tomorrow That Never Was. “Science fiction, post 9/11,” he writes, “has offered little by way of alternative visions of the future beyond more of the same. Perhaps the only way forward is to retrace our steps.” He looks at the graphic novel _In the Shadow of No Towers_ and the movie _Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow_ as two examples of societal yearning for a different sort of future.
Nostalgia is the powerful yearning to return to a more idyllic time. Most nostalgia focuses on times that never really existed in the first place. Is it so wrong, then, to yearn for a future that never came to pass derived from a past that is itself steeped in nostalgia? Can those of us looking for such things find a happy refuge in this doubly-imagined, meta-nostalgic, retro-future?