is a graduate of Vassar College and the MFA program at the Columbia University School of the Arts. He is the author of We’re All in This Together: A Novella and Stories
, as well as the co-editor of Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories
. His writing has appeared in Fairy Tale Review
, One Story
, Prairie Schooner
, and Subtropics
, among other publications. Owen has also taught creative writing at Columbia University and Fordham University and is a working screenwriter with a script in development by the producer of Winter’s Bone
. He is married to the novelist Kelly Braffet.John McNally
is the author of two novels, The Book of Ralph
and America's Report Card
, and a short story collection, Troublemakers
. His next book, Ghosts of Chicago
, a collection of short stories, will be published this fall. A native of Chicago, he lives with his wife, Amy, in North Carolina, where he is associate professor of English at Wake Forest University. The first word he ever spoke was "Batman," who has remained, in his darker incarnations, his favorite superhero. John's first creative work, a play written in the fourth grade, featured an overweight superhero who gets stuck inside a phone booth while changing into his costume. He is happy to return to the genre, albeit thirty-four years later.
In 1938 a gawky, bespectacled man walked through a door, and when it opened again, a benevolent giant in red and blue tights emerged, gave a wink, and lifted right off the pages of ACTION COMICS #1 and into the sky. As the years have gone by, countless other champions have joined this remarkable gentleman in the firmament of the popular imagination, and created a mythology for the twenty-first century.
However, in the sixty years since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, our collective story has grown a good deal more complex. The black-and-white conflict of World War II is a speck in the rearview mirror, and the road ahead is a smashed causeway north of Baghdad. Racial and sexual politics have been radically transformed. Technology has made our planet miraculously and terrifyingly small. It's more apparent than ever that the worst of the bad guys don't wear spandex and live in underground ice palaces in Antarctica, but can generally be found in three-piece suits at the head of gleaming boardroom conference tables.
The raccoon-eyed purse-snatchers of the Golden Age comic books are the least of our problems. We have suicide bombers, dwindling oil reserves, global warming, and an international community in complete disrepair. Not even the biggest and broadest bulletproof chest could stop all these out-of-control locomotives.
To put it bluntly, Superman just wasn't built for times like these. The antidote? You're holding it in your hands!
Within these pages, you'll find twenty-two brand-new stories about men and women whose amazing abilities reflect and address our strange and confusing new conditions. These superheroes are different from the Technicolor do-gooders you remember from the rack at the drugstore. These heroes are conflicted, frustrated, freaked out, and desperate; they're brave and afraid and not sure; they're a little nuts. In other words, you're going to recognize these people -- they're a lot like us.
And the supervillains? We've got them, too. And maybe they're even more familiar, those carnival glass reflections of our murkiest compulsions.
Who Can Save Us Now? introduces a plethora of origin stories (How does a girl with bad luck come to shape the events around her? How did a band of Quick Stop drones become an unlikely team of superheroes?); stories of heroes whose powers derive from nature's most peculiar creatures (A flock of flying orphans, anyone?); stories of the sinister draw that unbelievable power has on all-too-believable men and women (Why is it that this little town never had any trouble until that band of superheroes showed up? What becomes of a man whose soul has been lit on fire?); and stories in which the extraordinary is used to help the ordinary and protect the innocent (What awesome power is capable of manipulating televangelists into assisting those truly in need? What vast strength empowers the hero of this city's disregarded streets, the defender of its disregarded people?).
You'll meet the Big Guy, the Rememberer, the Meerkat, Mr. Big Deal, the Silverfish, Bad Karma Girl, Ghetto Man, and, yes, even Bob Brown. You'll see submarine monstrosities, fiery conclusions, reporters searching for answers, and neighborhood taverns destroyed. Whether your own origin story includes an obsession for comic books and a penchant for the darker worlds of graphic novelists like Frank Miller and Alan Moore, or a love for superhero-inspired literary fare like The Fortress of Solitude and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, we promise that within these pages you'll find stories that suspend your disbelief without insulting your intelligence.
How are we going to stay alive in this world of trouble?
Can anyone save us now?
We repeat: Read on!
What use is all this fancy in the face of so much real darkness?
If we're honest, we have to concede that it's probably no use at all. The sky is falling. And yet if we're courageous enough to see things as they aren't -- to believe that a flying man can catch a flaming satellite before it destroys the city -- then maybe we can summon enough heart to see things as they could be. This is just a book, a few hours' diversion, but we believe in heroes, and we need them now, like never before.
...And look! There's one now -- Copyright © 2008 by John McNally and Owen King
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.