730DC just launched (as in like, TODAY) a new, futuristic, fictional newsletter with the help of local journalist and cartoonist Josh Kramer; it’s a a six-part series set in D.C. (called Douglass in the future) in the year 2120 (aka 100 years in the future), and each week it’ll explore what regular, daily life in D.C. would actually be like a century from now: housing, transportation, food, art, local politics, bike lanes…you name it!
We spoke with Kramer about this incredibly cool concept over email yesterday, so internet-eavesdrop on our full digital Q+A below, and be sure to subscribe to 730 if you haven’t already:
This is such a good idea! How long has it been in development, and how has it evolved?
We’ve been working on this since before the pandemic, in the beginning of 2020. Last year I did a comic about the future of transportation for CityLab, and I thought it could be a lot of fun to do something like it but much longer and more complicated. I’ve written pieces for 730DC before, and we all liked the idea of reading something just like their newsletter, but set 100 years into the future.
What was the most challenging aspect of developing the series?
Keeping it all straight! There are six newsletters with lots of narratives and characters and organizations. It took a color-coded spreadsheet, a story “bible” and a bunch of drafts to get everything right, and to make it as fun and interesting as possible.
What was your creative process like? And was there any source of inspiration, or scenario where you felt particularly inspired, that qualifies as unusual? (Example: “I was riding my bike when I saw a weird-looking dog and had this AHA! moment!”)
Occasionally, over the course of months, I would stumble across something, in the news or in my everyday life, and wonder “what would THAT be like a century from now?” This would range from small things, like babysitting or food trends, to the obviously world-shaping events like the pandemic and protests for racial justice.
Whether or not you worked on this during the pandemic, or if it was already finished, do you have any advice for people who are feeling jaded right now? Any tips for staying creatively motivated?
This is a good question — there was early planning but I wrote everything during the pandemic. The last thing I would want to do is make anyone feel bad or unproductive. We all know how weird this time has been. What I found helpful was recognizing in the moment if I was excited about an idea or in the mood to write and then starting immediately. I often found that when I started a draft it was easy to just get carried away and keep working through it, but sometimes, as I’m sure most people can relate to, it’s just tooougggh to make yourself start. But there are ways to trick yourself. Playing nostalgic music from high school really loudly tends to do it for me. It hacks my mood just long enough to get going.
You’ve said that this representation of what the future could hold is not purely optimistic or purely cynical, which is a good and diplomatic approach! But for funsies, let’s say we examine the two sides of the coin; for you, personally, what would your ideal future hold, assuming you were alive and kickin’ 100 years from now, and/or what would your absolute nightmare scenario be?
The George Floyd protests have really shifted my priorities. A few months ago I would have went on and on about free, lightning-quick public transit that reaches deep into densified suburbs and nuclear fusion tech that unleashes unlimited, carbonless power and slows climate change. But now I can’t stop thinking that what I want from the future is a city where everyone has a safe place to live, access to the internet, a job and a way to get work, a good education and plenty to eat. Let’s start there. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a little burnt out on nightmare scenarios these days.
An illustration of D.C. area wildlife that have gone extinct between now and 2120, drawn by Lily Strelich
There’s a new Seth Rogen movie called An American Pickle that’s actually slated to come out on HBO Max tomorrow, and it’s basically about this guy who falls into a pickle vat and wakes up 100 years later (in our present day) perfectly preserved. (Science!) He’s introduced to his great grandson and hijinks ensue. If one of your great grandparents (or equivalently old ancestors) were to magically time travel 100 years into the future show up on your doorstep, what do you think they would be most impressed by and/or disappointed by re: your current situation, and/or the global situation? (I feel like my great grandparents would be combo disgusted-amazed with how I’m living, and I’m fine with that.)
Like Seth Rogen, my pickled-ancestor would also be coming right out of the shtetl, so we would probably kibitz about some of the objectively good living standards that Steven Pinker is always yelling about. It’s great that in the US the infant mortality rate has plunged, and that consumer goods are cheap and that women are half the workforce. He would probably be confused about why I pay so much to live in a city, and why my wife makes much more than me and why we don’t have children. I suppose the freedom of movement, including car and air travel, would seem pretty amazing, but this moment we’re in, of plague and fear, that might seem all too familiar. And all the diversity and multiculturalism would probably seem overwhelming and insane.
And now that this project is completed (at least I assume it’s completed!), what other things do you currently have going on (or will have going on soon) that you’d like to mention?
Yes, it’s all written, but I’m still working on the companion comic that we are posting to the 730DC Instagram for each edition. It’s improvised, and kind of a light rom-com with a real story, but set in the same 2120 universe. On 8/17, at 7pm, we’re going to do an Instagram live Ask Me Anything (@730DC) where I’m going to show how I draw the comic, which should be really fun. Finally, we are seeking contributors! If you read the newsletter, and if there’s a corner of the universe you’d like to define, we want you to come up with what it would be like, in whatever format — song, video, design, poem, essay — you prefer.