Riso, Riots, and Sci-Fi —Tomorrow Today Recommends Five Books That Explore Activism and Revolution – Eye on Design

Riso, Riots, and Sci-Fi —Tomorrow Today Recommends Five Books That Explore Activism and Revolution – Eye on Design

Graphic Design

Riso, Riots, and Sci-Fi —Tomorrow Today Recommends Five Books That Explore Activism and Revolution – Eye on Design

Image by Beatrice Sala

Tomorrow Today is more than a bookstore. The shop, located in downtown Los Angeles, sells books, magazines, and other printed material, but it’s also home to a rapid response press that community members can access.  We asked the shop’s founders to recommend five books that they’re currently excited about.

“We (Geoff KixMiller, Gus Depenbrock, and Zoe Axelrod) opened Tomorrow Today in September 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. The three of us ran High Tide gallery and project space in Philadelphia, along with a few other good friends and collaborators. When High Tide closed in early 2020, the three of us had already moved to Los Angeles and were eager to start something new. We were looking to carry over the ethos of open-ended collaboration but wanted to offer something more explicitly political and connected to everyday life. Our friends Sam Margherita and Kris Chau were closing up their shop and clothing label Day Space Night and suggested we take over their lease. Obviously, it’s been a strange time to start a new project in a physical space, but it’s also given us more room for trial and error, and a chance to build community in a time when we’ve all been largely disconnected. 

Tomorrow Today offers books, a rapid response press, and objects for everyday life. Often when people enter the store, their first question is, “What is this place?” The space doesn’t fit into any one mold. We offer free posters and propaganda related to local politics and ongoing campaigns. We carry new and used books at the intersection of art and politics, with the goal of making these topics approachable and bringing people into the conversation. We also offer a selection of art and home objects, including things like t-shirts, massage tools, tapes and records. We like to place things next to each other that might not be obviously related at first, to offer various entry points and allow people to draw unexpected connections. Our book selection isn’t as large as many other book stores, but we want our collection to feel considered and accessible. 

We offer books that we would want to read. In addition to books about art and politics, we also sell new and used sci-fi, poetry, fiction, history and philosophy. We are especially interested in archives and histories of leftist propaganda and agitprop, under explored radical histories and speculative fiction through which we can better understand our current moment. We are not experts in these areas, but much like our customers, we are learning through the process of discovery. 

We think often about propaganda and the book as a visual object. In thinking about used books, it’s interesting to come across different editions of the same book and think about how one copy might capture the essence of the subject matter better than another. We love finding a book we didn’t know existed that opens us up to a new path of exploration. We also want to remain open to what our community is looking for or offering to us. Ultimately our space and this project is flexible and we are excited by the idea that it can change and react to new phenomena or demands.”

Underrated science fiction novel

We’re very inspired by the cannon of radical science fiction developed over the last 50 or so years. Writers like Octavia Butler, J. G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin have shown us how science fiction or speculative fiction can be utilized in different ways to create radical, overtly political works that offer cutting critiques and warnings but also remind us of the potentials that lie within ourselves and our present moment. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler are some examples of books that helped shape our perspective on the potentials in the sci-fi genre. Joanna Russ and James Tiptree Jr. (the male pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon) are both pioneers of feminist speculative fiction in that same tradition. Some of their works have aged better than others, but we think revisiting these visionary works is really valuable. 

This is a “Tor Doubles” book that puts both authors together in one paperback and offers two very different examples of revolutionary feminist speculative narratives. The two authors had lengthy correspondence during their lives, though they never met in person. In fact, their correspondence began before Alice Sheldon’s true identity was known to the public or to Joanna Russ. This book came out two years after James Tiptree Jr./Alice Sheldon’s death and it seems only fitting that the works were married in the unique pulpy format of the sci-fi double.

A recently released favorite

This book offers a fascinating investigation into riots, their causes and political utility, and how they have functioned in modern history. At just over 400 pages, the book takes the reader in many different directions, through critical essays, poems, artworks and interviews, casting a wide net while offering untold, under-examined histories in impressive detail. An interview with Vaginal Davis connects the Zoot Suit Riots of the ’40s to the Chicano Moratorium of 1970 (which was on our mind because we recently printed a few posters for the 51st anniversary) all while weaving in stories about artists, performers, and activists critical to these moments. In “Built to be Torn Down, Fed to be Starved: Capitalism is Riot, A Riot from Above,” Gal Kirn and Niloufar Tajeri focus on the fact that the conditions leading to social unrest are embedded in the physical and social landscapes of capitalism. 

A book that experiments with the format of a book

From publisher Childish Books: “Inspired by, and dedicated to, artist, educator, and social justice advocate Corita Kent, Slow Looking: These Views Are Our Tools is an invitation to practice a different way of seeing our world. In this artist book, Lukaza Branfman-Verrisimo offers us prompts, coloring pages, and two die-cut viewfinders, as tools for slowness.” The spiral-bound construction allows readers to take the book apart and use the viewing tools to interact with their surroundings with a fresh perspective. As Riso printers and fledgling publishers ourselves, we are always inspired by innovative approaches to Riso printing and book-making. This book was created for kids, but can be appreciated by all ages. 

A self-published title you’re excited about

We are so excited about June Little Soldier’s Situationist project. They create amazing Riso-printed posters and publications focused on abolition, tenant rights, and illuminating radical histories. This publication is beautifully Riso printed in a 3-color process with Sunflower, Scarlet, and Midnight ink. It documents the occupation of the Wisconsin Capital in opposition to the Act 10 bill and the right-wing attack on Union labor in 2011, specifically highlighting the art and humor of protest signs and costumes at the action. Photos taken by June at the time tell the story of an imaginative and determined majority standing against an outrageous attack on organized labor and the rights of public sector employees in Wisconsin. 

A history book that feels contemporary 

In this series of essays originally published in 1902, Kropotkin explores the concept of mutual aid. Countering Darwinist ideas of competition and “survival of the fittest,” Kropotkin looks to the natural world and human history to build a case for communal support systems. The pandemic has emphasized how harmful and unsustainable our socioeconomic status quo really is, and it’s become clearer than ever that mutual aid is critical for the survival of our species and the world. Kropotikin makes the case that mutual aid is so deeply woven into our collective history that we have a tendency towards it even when tyranny, fascism and capitalism is the rule. The chronology presented here is a radical departure from the history we learned in school and the dominant American narrative. Kropotkin’s perspective is essential for understanding our present moment and envisioning a path forward.

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