What If?

Spring begins officially today. Outside the sound of lambs bleating and duckies quacking is deafening. No? You live in a different headspace than me, then. My spring break is in the rearview. Bryon and I took a small junket into Chicagoland with a couple of friends for an overnight and an eating tour. We had a great time at some places we knew were good, and discovered an awesome little Greek place we’ll be sure to visit again.

There has been a little bit of writer action. On Wednesday last, I read the first draft of a new short story, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It will be critiqued tomorrow, and then sent off to the anthology it will appear in later this year thereafter. If you’re interested in seeing me read, plus hearing another wonderful writer, Juliet Kemp, you can go right here.

Now, finally, some discussion of Marvels’s What If?. For those of you not interested in animation, What If? is a cartoon anthology that takes its cue from the Marvel anthology comic of the same name. Because the show was created on Disney +, it riffs on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The star of the cartoon series and the titular comic is Uatu, the Watcher. And of course, I’ve borrowed this image from Marvel.

Uatu is a super cool character. He is a member of a powerful alien species, but they’ve taken vows to not interfere in the manipulations of the multiverse. That’s right. One of the cooler powers of Uatu is that he can see all the multiverses AT THE SAME TIME. Sort of like a Netflix streaming super power.

In the comic, Uatu would usually see something cheesy, like WHAT IF Tony Stark had been evil, or WHAT IF the Fantastic Four all got each other’s powers. The answer to these questions in the comic was often a). Nothing would change or b.) The world would be destroyed. I was a little skeptical that this series would yield contemplative fruit with the comic as its template, but I was happy to be wrong.

Two episodes of the What If? anthology were my favorites. The first one was when Peggy Carter gets injected with the super soldier serum herself, and becomes Captain Carter. Steve Rogers ends up with a very big version of Stark armor called the Hydra Stomper, and the two of them become the darlings of the Allies, fighting the Axis, until Captain Carter is whisked away to the future by interdimensional exploits. the second one is when Dr. Strange gets this idea that saving Christine Palmer is worth any sacrifice, including super dark magic. Predictable results? You betcha. BUT character growth? You betcha.

There are other interesting turns. What if Prince T’Challa became Star Lord is great, and the most significant event in the universe IS NOT that Yondu gets to keep all his teeth. What if Ultron beat the Avengers? What if Uatu could no longer just watch?

The good news if you haven’t watched What If? yet, is that you can easily fill in a few spare moments with an enjoyable 25 minute episode. And no previous knowledge of Marvel is required to enjoy it, although you can enjoy the twists better if you’ve at least seen the movies.


In case we’ve forgotten what it looks like to be really brave, we have before us the bright and shining example of Ukraine.

As an citizen of the United States, I have been bitterly disappointed in our inability to pull together during the crisis of Coronavirus. I have been unhappy with our inability to see how Black Lives Matter isn’t embraced, because too many see it as an attack on themselves. In Iowa, I have become more and more sad as censorship moves into our classroom, people accuse teachers of teaching Critical Race Theory, and transathletes are banned from sports. Voter fraud is created by people with an agenda. All of these things are divisive, petty, and patently a manipulation by those who have something to gain from the gullible, from exploiting others. I am disappointed and ashamed of what my country is becoming.

And then there is Ukraine.

In Ukraine, where there are differences of viewpoints and ideology, the people pull together to protect their democracy in the face of despotic odds. The leadership of Ukraine, in the face of great personal danger and unlikely odds of victory stand up, and then the people of Ukraine stand up, because they all have the love of one thing to pull them together. They love Ukraine, and they wish to protect their country.

I would not wish the situation in Ukraine upon anyone. The attack of a Russian autocrat for his own private purposes is one of the most catastrophic events I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. What I am saying is I doubt very much my own country could face these circumstances with an iota of this bravery. Pockets of us would. Other pockets of us, right now, embrace the autocrat.

Witness Ukraine. An old woman tells a Russian soldier to fill his pockets with sunflower seeds so when he dies, sunflowers, the Ukranian flower will grow. The Ukranian president tells the United States he doesn’t need a ride, he needs ammunition. Children make molotov cocktails. Teachers weave nets to camoflauge tanks. Baristas make caltrops and metal traps. Highway signs tell Putin to fuck himself, and roads point to the Hague. President Zelinskyy is everywhere, telling Russian soldiers to surrender, making applications to the European Union, begging for aid, enlisting private fighters who want to fight for the cause. Witness Ukraine, its incredible bravery.

The sanctions we have against Russia are helping. The process of pressuring the Russians is helping. The protests in Russia, the arrests, these are all instrumental parts. Humanitarian aid. Border assistance. We cannot invade without widening the conflict, which in turn widens the danger. Zelenskyy could be right. This could be the beginning of a spread across Europe unless something is done. We are back up, the United Nations and the NATO Alliance.

But the Ukrainians, by necessity and design of Putin, are the frontline. Strangely enough, as dark as it is in the world, as horrible as this situation is, the bravery of the Ukranians has gone a long way to reinstating my faith in humanity, that we can stand for something more than petty principals and inconveniences. In the US we protest not wearing masks. In Ukraine, eighty year old grandfathers show up to fight for the future of their grandchildren. Ukranians are afraid, but they continue.

I too am afraid, but I have their example in front of me. The least I can do is follow their example