The cherry blossom trees are dead. The federal government is moving to Colorado. But there’s good news for anyone pining for statehood for the District of Columbia: It will happen! In 100 years.
That’s the setting for “Dispatches From 2120,” a “speculative fiction newsletter from the terrific local things-to-do newsletter 730DC that debuted Thursday. A new 2120 newsletter will appear weekly, as will a related comic on Instagram. Both will be created by Josh Kramer, a freelance journalist and artist who’s lived in DC on and off (mostly on) since he enrolled in American University in 2005. Kramer’s fascinated by transportation and urban infrastructure, and last year he created a comic for CityLab about how a commute might look in a dystopian future.
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Introducing a new original comic by @joshpkramer! It’s a companion to our 📣new limited series📣 launching today, Dispatches from 2120. (Link in bio.) This comic is set in the world of the newsletter, one hundred years from now, and was drawn and improvised one panel at a time, telling the story of a civil servant trying to make the biggest decision of his life. . . . . . . #2120DC #DC #comics #dc #dcart #originalart #acreativedc #madeindc #dmvart #illustration #artistsofinstagram #colorfulart #penandink #2120DCComic
While the newsletter will describe happenings in the new commonwealth of Douglass (whose citizens rejected the names “Washington” and “Columbia” because of their namesakes’ troubling histories), the comic will tell the story of a resident who works for the Department of the Interior, has a relationship, and has to decide whether to move to Colorado to keep his job.
“There’s a couple of things that are just like mentioned, literally in one or two lines” in the newsletter, Kramer says, “and they end up being a huge setting for an entire chapter of the comic.” If that sounds like a fictional universe to you, you’ve understood the project, he says. He compiled a “bible” of things that are canonically true about the world in “Dispatches From 2120,” but he hopes people will want to contribute “sanctioned fanfic” in whatever form they like. “For someone who is really invested in sports or local music or food,” he says, “there would be so much that they could do here.”
Technology is often where fiction about the future stumbles—not every sci-fi author imagined that we’d all would walk around with a powerful computer in our pockets, for instance. “There is a lot of technology in there,” he says. “But it is specific to certain areas that we’re talking about.” For example, in the first newsletter, there’s an event (sorry, it’s sold out) where an arborist will present a plan to bring cherry blossoms, which died out due to climate change, and a reference to the “Governor-elect’s remarks on public messaging, AKA that notification you couldn’t swat away yesterday.”
“The idea is I bet there will be notifications of some sort,” he says. “And you can dismiss them or not.”
Douglass’s governor to be is named Angela Beal, and if that last name sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason why: Kramer constructed a name generator for the project using the names of DC ANC commissioners, the Washington Mystics, and the Washington Wizards. Some characters are referred to with they/them pronouns, as well: In the future, Kramer reckons, around a third of the population will prefer such forms of address.
If that sounds like progress, please note that in the future of “Dispatches From 2120,” ANCs still exist. “We definitely early on decided that we did not want this to be a full on utopia or a full-on dystopia,” he says. People around the US don’t always understand that DC is a city with its own culture and government, an issue Kramer doesn’t expect time to erase. “I wanted to see a version of the future that grappled with that.”
The Washington Post still exists in 2120, and there’s a publication called CHEERS that Kramer views as similar to the now-shuttered Express. I was curious whether my employer might exist a century from now, something Kramer says he hadn’t considered. After a few moments of discussion, we decided that it would, but its name would have to change, too. I do hope my descendants will enjoy working at Douglasstonian.
“Dispatches From 2120” will appear every Thursday until September 10. Current subscribers will already receive the newsletter and you can also sign up here and look for comic updates on 730DC’s Instagram. Kramer will appear in a live Q&A on 730DC’s Instagram at 7:30 PM on August 17.