Joseph Barber is an illustrator and cartoonist based in Agawam, Massachusetts. He took visual inspiration from early anime and pulp science fiction, as well as American comic books. From a young age he was a fan of early speculative and science fiction, and owns many short story collections which have inspired his love of visual storytelling. He combines 3D modeling with digital painting to create believable settings for any story.
In my early teens, I had picked up a habit of reading speculative and science fiction anthologies – Asimov and Sterling, Vonnegut and Clarke, and dozens more. These tales, whether they were tragic or triumphant, imprinted upon my brain the idea of storytelling of worlds that beyond our own or could never be. However, out of all of the stories I’ve read, one has stuck within my mind unlike any other. This story, The Only Neat Thing to Do, written by James Tiptree Jr. (a pseudonym of a Miss Alice Sheldon), was no two-fisted tale nor star-spanning epic. Indeed, it held more in common with an ill-planned road trip than Star Wars.
This story tells the tale of Coati Cass, a go-getting teenager in an idealistic future, who dreams of exploring the farthest reaches of the cosmos like those before her. Given an old spaceship, she sets out to the stars. She befriends a benevolent brain parasite, but as circumstance and biology collide, they are forced to sacrifice themselves in order to prevent a disaster of unprecedented scale.
This story, for all the grandiose description I give it, showed the characters’ humanity both in their bravery and irrationality. My childhood experiences gave me a view of Science Fiction not full of zombies and war, but shining cities and kindly scientists. I wish to reflect a work that inspires optimism, even in the face of tragedy.