Finding good LGBTQ-friendly genre stories can be tough, especially ones where the experience of being gay is interwoven into an entertaining escapist diversion. Sure, we've seen fiction like Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage trilogy, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and more recently, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, but it all comes so sporadically, especially in films and television. Even when we get something like Sense8, it's always in limbo.
And yet, while LGBTQ characters were and in many ways still are tokens, that's changing. Every year, more stories with LGBTQ characters are the forefront break through. These stories are finding their audience, and they've grown beyond the LGBTQ demographic. Look at the IDW comic The Infinite Loop. It's a science-fiction, time-traveling, pulpy and dreamy adventure on the surface, but beneath lies a complex and universally passionate romance. Pierrick Colinet wrote a mature, issue-driven narrative that focuses on heavy themes like civil rights and advocacy, but there's a brisk air to it, a lively energy that comes through with Elsa Charretier's (Marvel’s Unstoppable Wasp, DC's Bombshells and Harley Quinn) art. It was honored by the Virginia Library Association Graphic Novel Diversity Award and it was one of the more underrated genre comics of 2015.
The book focuses on Teddy, an intelligent, independent and defiant woman who occasionally falls victim to the lure of love. Teddy is a time-traveler who must fix anomalies so that they don't alter the time stream. Then she encounters an anomaly that is a beautiful woman named Ano ... and instead of fixing it, Teddy protects her at all costs.
The Infinite Loop is getting a second four-issue mini-series due out in September 27 called The Infinite Loop: Nothing But the Truth. It picks up a few years after the initial story's conclusion: Teddy and Ano are continuing to fight the good fight, but internal conflict arises. SYFY WIRE spoke with the co-creators of The Infinite Loop, writer Pierrick Colinet and artist Elsa Charretier, who is moving to co-write the new arc as new artist Daniele Di Nicuolo joins the team.
Philosophically, there's a difference in how the both of you (Elsa and Pierrick) view the system, laws and institution. Was this difference helpful in being able to deal with Teddy and Ano’s divide?
Elsa Charretier: It did have an impact. We bring our own sensitivity and opinions to the process, and our differences shaped the book and the characters. But it wasn't as rigid as "you do Ano, and I'll do this other character." It was a much more organic process that mainly took place during the initial plot development and issue breakdown. We had a lot of talks on politics and philosophy – the fact that we were electing our new president right about that time played a part in how involved we were on these talks – and tried to combine all this in a story that'd delve into tough subjects without leaning too heavily on one side.
Will there be a third dissenting or opposing voice in Nothing But The Truth?
Pierrick Colinet: We had a good idea of the feeling and opinion we wanted to convey on Vol. 1. For this volume, we chose a different approach. We wanted to have a talk with characters that are not necessarily like us. That felt like the right thing to do in this political climate, instead of hammering on a single opinion. We attributed to each character a different philosophical current about Truth and how (un)important it is, and confronted their views. From that, will automatically result in conflict, and that's the heart of the book.
To give a little bit of context, basically, Teddy finds herself in a town where people are addicted to head-sets that project a life of fantasy, a life of lies. Teddy's view on truth is close to the philosopher Rousseau's view, who believed that there is such a thing as an innocent lie. Lying when you're trying to preserve someone's feelings is not so bad, because your heart is in the right place. Ron, Teddy's ally on this volume, is closer to (Immanuel) Kant's view. Truth is sacred, it's what establishes equality between people. It can't be sacrificed, ever. Doc, which will be Teddy's antagonist (in Nothing But the Truth), believes that truth is not that important. It's not really possible to really get to "the truth," so lying can't be bad, which is closer to what Nietzsche developed in his books.
Even if we have our own personal thoughts on the matter, we tried to open a dialogue between these people, that are so deeply different. Or at least allow them to have a place in the debate.
Were there unexpected challenges to writing a time-travel story?
EC: I think we can all agree that writing science-fiction and specifically time-travel means you can't stay away from all the paradoxes. We did try our best to stay away from them ...
Volume 2 is much less about time-travel. We didn't want to repeat the same book, so we're focusing on the dystopian aspect of science-fiction. Not a blockbuster dystopia like Blade Runner (which is to me one of the best films ever), but something much closer to us, on a human scale. The technology we've developed in the book, the American Day Dream head-sets (that allow people to live a life of fantasy or lose themselves into memories) is a technology that could be available in a not-so distant future. You take a VR head-set, push the concept just a little bit further and you're in science-fiction.
Your characters traipse into a dark period, much like the one we are in today, which feels like we've taken a step backwards. That’s a lot of what Infinite Loop is about, isn’t it? Breaking that cycle and making permanent and lasting difference.
PC: There is no permanent change. Teddy realizes that at the end of Volume 1. You either fight relentlessly for progress, or things will go back to the way they used to be. First of all, because the people you are fighting against don't intend to stop. They fight back!
So breaking that cycle is not an option, unless you eliminate all opposition, and that's not a good option either. That what makes social change so hard. It takes stamina, and when you think you've finally achieved what your generation and the one before you has been fighting for, someone more powerful comes in and destroys it all. Just look at how a single president in just a few months into his term can go back on rights that felt acquired for good.
Like you said, tensions and the frustration of the population build up, and most of the time all it takes is one single person to change everything.
What was more difficult, coming up with a fresh science fiction angle or building a central love story that felt genuine, something readers can truly rally behind?
PC: The thing is ... a high-concept, you either have it, or you don't! And developing a concept once we have it comes rather naturally to us. The most challenging part is definitely human relationships, making interactions feel organic and meaningful. That's what we've been focusing on this volume, because when you rely on Philosophy to develop a concept, it's pretty easy to fall into the trap of giving a course about your subject.
And obviously, that's not what we want. So we worked a lot on that–trying to understand how a specific point of view would have an influence on someone's behavior. How would it shape them? And from there, have it influence the course of the story without them ever stating word for word their motivations and core values.
The Infinite Loop comes at a time when there’s a starving need for inclusive stories, especially in genre. Did you feel that gap when you were coming up with the series or did it naturally fall to this place?
EC: When we first pitched the first volume, more than three years ago, we actually thought that having a lesbian couple as lead characters could hurt the book. It was right at the time of the gay marriage in France, and there was lot of backlash from people that were against it. And when the book got released in the U.S., we were overwhelmed by the support. We had no idea the LGBTQ community was so large and active in comics and they welcomed the book with open arms.
But we also realized that, overall, there was a real need for diversity. Like you said, readers want new perspective, they want books and characters they can relate to, and I think the last couple years have proved that there is a growing audience for a new generation of book. Not that books with LGBTQ are a new thing, but it's much easier to get your hands on them nowadays.
As one of the bolder design choices I see with The Infinite Loop is clothing. For a time-traveler, I have to say Teddy’s attire is more casual Friday than wearing some tactical soldier or space suit. That was an interesting choice.
EC: Although it may seem all science-fictiony and cool to us that she's traveling in time, it was just a job to her. Something she did everyday, not exceptional. And her original job description didn't require specific gear, she was just sent someplace to correct an anomaly, but besides the occasional T-Rex (which makes for a cool scene in Vol. 1), it was a pretty relaxed job. She never intended to run away and reboot time-lines, but Ano entered her life, and Teddy left everything to protect her and be able to love her freely.
Talk about those character designs and what Daniele Di Nicuolo is adding to it to make it his own.
EC: Teddy has evolved a lot between the first and second volume. She is older, and has embraced her rogue nature. That had to be translated in the design, so Daniele gave her a new cool vibe, something that'd, like you said, make you know just by looking at her that she's doing her own thing, and not really caring about what you think of it.
Let’s talk deeper about Daniele’s art and Sarah Stern’s colors. First, why the switch? Because it does have a different feel, a different cinematographer if you will.
PC: We really wanted Vol. 2 to be a new story, a book that could be read even without Vol. 1. The mood is different, there are new characters, and we're set in a completely new environment. That's precisely because the book was supposed to be so different that we wanted a new artist. Daniele has a delicate touch, and a fantastic energy that fits this story perfectly.
Did that art switch allow you to do explore creatively in a different manner, especially Elsa since you are now focusing on co-writing and having your own visualization as opposed to what Daniele comes up with?
EC: It did require some time to adapt, to be perfectly honest. Not because of the art, because Daniele and Sarah's work are fantastic. In terms of storytelling, I had to learn to let go of my own vision of a page to let Daniele do his own thing. That's a whole new experience and I'm glad we were able to share it with the both of them.
Pride, agency, history, and hope were big themes of the first The Infinite Loop. What will readers find in Nothing But The Truth?
PC: As the subtitle states it and as I said above, this new volume is about truth and perception. We somehow intersect these theoretical themes to the much more pragmatic opioid epidemic in West Virginia, and delve into this specific question: Is it okay to lie to people to create hope?
Infinite Loop: Nothing But the Truth is written by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier with art by Daniele Di Nicuolo and colors by Sarah Stern. It is published by IDW Entertainment and ships in September with two covers by Elsa Charretier and Cliff Chiang. See below for a closer look at covers and interior art.
If you’re interested in trying the series out, tell your local retailer to order you a copy as the final cutoff date to order is September 4.