"The Nine Ex-Boyfriends of Kati Jo"

February 8, 2012 (originally drawn ca. 1996)

Artist's Statement

While I was back at my Undisclosed Location I unearthed this old drawing that never made it into any of my book collections, or online, and is really pretty good. I run it today both in honor of Valentine's Day and also another, even sadder occasion, about which more below. Valentine's Day is everyone's least favorite holiday, or comes in second least favorite only to Christmas. Both presume a warmth and intimacy that may not, in all cases, exist. And so they both tend to exacerbate a lot of people's feelings of alienation and generally make life worse. So this cartoon is t remind our single readers that, as Kati Jo herself says:

Astute and literate readers will recognize a few of these ex-boyfriends from our dubious cultural history--Max Shreck's Nosferatu and He Who Must Not Be Named, who once went by another name long ago. Others are taken purely from my own personal mythology. A long time has passed since I drew this cartoon; the Jeep is no more, and he who once was called Corky is now a lady. But The Man Who Kisses Things kisses them still. O yes.

But it is primarily because of the last of the ex-boyfriends of Kati Jo, Ruki, that I chose to run this cartoon this week. I learned late last night that a gentleman named Samuel Youd passed away in Bath, England a few days ago. He was far better known to young readers of my generation as John Christopher, author of The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire, The Lotus Caves, Empty World, and a dozen other books just as good. Unbeknownst to us kids, he'd also had a career as an author of adult sf, known for apolcapyptic novels such The Death of Grass and as The Long Winter. (The latter, a novel about abrupt catastrophic climate change that leads to a new Ice Age, is memorable for its social satire--Europe becomes uninhabitable and the massive influx of white immigrants become second-class citizens in Africa.) But for me and a lot of other readers, he was the first introduction to serious science-fiction and to serious literature generally. By "serious" I mean books in which people behave not as we wish they would--either with heroism we can project ourselves into or with unalloyed villainy we can wholeheartedly loathe--but as they do in real life. (Youd cited Jane Austen as his favorite writer.) His protagonists were not the smartest characters in the book, or the strongest; they were flawed, selfish, and weak, just like we were, but they generally ended up doing the right thing, even if they had to force themselves into it and did so with regret. It made for compelling reading. I still remember being on a road trip with my family and being unable to get out of the back seat at a rest stop because I'd come to the part in The City of Gold and Lead where we're about to see the mysterious aliens, The Masters, for the first time. They looked, to my mind's eye at least, like Ruki.

from Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials


Next week: Jim's birthday cartoon!

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