There are, of course, any number of people who have created or are creating science fiction. From H.G. Wells to Alex Raymond to Octavia Butler to Cixin Liu. And those who have worked in longer, sometimes serialized formats, frequently develop a world, or even a universe, that’s very complex, taking various aspects of our own world and extrapolating any number of what if scenarios. Most of the time, this is done via straight-forward storytelling. Whether it’s a book or a movie or a comic or a video game, we’re presented with characters that follow along a prescribed plotline, eventually coming to some dramatic resolution.
But Curio & Co. are doing something different. They’re creating a science fiction world of their own, but doing so by creating its artifacts. They’re more like anthropologists than writers or artists in a lot of respects.
Imagine that, as a kid, you helped your dad restore a 1953 Chevy Bel Air. The two of you spent years rebuilding it and refinishing it, and it was how the two of you bonded over a shared interest throughout your childhood and adolescence. Now, years later, the car is long gone and you’re raising your own kids but don’t have the time or money to attempt something similar. But you stumble across a copy of the Bel Air owner’s manual, and buy it to remember the great times you had with your dad.
Imagine that, as a kid, you got up every Saturday morning to watch cartoons. If you got up early enough, you could catch the translated Japanese cartoons (because you didn’t know the word “anime” yet) and then you’d spend the rest of the morning until lunchtime watching Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and Tom & Jerry. And you watched that so religiously that when you were old enough, you tracked down some of the original model sheets animators used when they made those cartoons.
Now imagine if that 1953 Chevy Bel Air was a Gadabout TM 1050 time machine and Scooby-Doo was Spaceman Jax. Imagine that everything else about that manual and those model sheets looked and felt 100% authentic, but for the fact that they were made for something that doesn’t exist in our universe. That’s how Curio & Co. are doing their world-building. They’re creating these objects that you might find in a yard sale or at a flea market, but for things that never existed.
Vintage ads for Bunchy soda. A 1970s pocket paperback collecting a comic strip called Frank & His Friend. Roger Believe, a 1980s Italian comic book. The official space cadet fan club pin from the Spaceman Jax cartoon.
Curio & Co. are creating a world that is largely parallel to our own, but instead of having us follow a character through their adventures, they’re making us a character. Someone who’s lived a perfectly normal, ordinary life, collecting the detritus of this new world as we collect it in our own. With ephemera that has no real intrinsic value, but is valuable to us because of the memories we attach to it. Memories that we have to invent since these trophies never existed before in our world. “Automatic nostalgia” is the term they’ve used, I believe.
Their latest venture is a field journal of Verdie Z. Goodsey, a robotologist studying the feral robots on planet AZR. The project is a little different than previous ones in that they’re more in the science fiction fantasy realm than before. They’d either been simply doing alternate universe pieces or more hard science fiction, and this takes a more soft sci-fi approach. They are also trying to fund this project via their first Kickstarter campaign.
To the best of my knowledge, Curio & Co. is the only group doing science fiction world-building exclusively through that world’s artifacts. It’s a unique approach, and one they’ve been putting an extraordinary effort into to make everything feel as authentic as possible. Whatever project they have lined up next, you can be sure the attention to detail they’ll put forth on it will make it a remarkable one.