research * the future * culture

One white glove: $350K. Time travel: priceless

When I returned from the lake, my husband had one piece of news for me:Michael Jackson’s signature white sequined glove has sold for three hundred and fifty thousand dollars at auction. “Somebody must have read your story,” he said.

This is what he means:

Slipping on the glove, I felt a heady rush of temptation despite the way the fabric wilted from my too-short fingers. I suddenly understood Joe’s speedy conquering of time. His desire to leave his mark on every important date was completely natural. History spread out like a puddle begging to be splashed in. Grinning, I drew a door.

— “In Which Joe and Laurie Save Rock n’ Roll” Tesseracts Eleven, edited by Cory Doctorow and Holly Philips

An Amazon review summarizes it best: “A pair of high school students experiment with what looks like Michael Jackson’s glove. It can create portals in time, but the catch is that the portals only go to famous dates in rock and roll history, like the days that Kurt Cobain and John Lennon died.”

Note to Hoffman Ma, the businessman who won the auction: to my knowledge, Michael Jackson’s glove will not actually grant you the power to visit important dates in the history of music. If someone at Julien’s tried to sell you on that idea, you have every right demand your hundreds of thousands of dollars back. Unless it works, of course. In that case, happy trails. Try not to fuck up the timeline.

…On a somewhat related note, I should add that when Jackson died, I was sincerely tempted to re-release this story in some way. Then I watched as his death overshadowed major news events like the revolution in Iran, and I decided that I didn’t want to participate in that. I still feel a little ambivalent about the issue. Jackson’s death lends a note of irony to the story that wasn’t there at the time that I wrote it, but I never intended for Jackson’s fictional involvement to be the central focus. I chose his glove because it was a kitschy, easily-recognizable fetish object from music history that was imbued with multiple layers of meaning (and therefore, power). The fiction is that it can transport the wearer to specific points of history, but the reality is that some objects always have this ability. Dig through that forgotten box at the back of your closet, and you will inevitably be transported to some other time or place in your own history.

If anything has changed for me with regard to the story, it’s that every performer who’s name-checked in the prose is now dead. When I wrote it, that wasn’t true. It was a quiet little realization I came to as I watched the non-stop coverage of Jackson’s death, especially speculation about what would happen to the Beatles catalog that Jackson outbid Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono for. I find it fitting that, in my story, Jackson’s glove was used in an attempt to save John Lennon’s life. I thought of it as retribution for a champion dick move on Jackson’s part — namely, buying Lennon’s songs (and their value) out from under his best friend, his widow, and his children, then using those songs as equity to maintain the very lifestyle and career stagnation that Lennon himself sought to avoid. But the purchase of the Beatles catalog is simply another moment in music history; perhaps if Mr. Ma travels back to see it, he can report back here and tell us how it all really went down.

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  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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