Ashanti Fortson writes about kindness. Her stories embrace a gentleness I rarely come into contact with anymore. Fortson is an illustrator and cartoonist whose fantastical colors provide her stories with a beautiful whimsy. The one-shot comic smallness follows the tale of Akma, a young engineer who has recently been fired after a tragic accident. Akma is in search of an escape, a way to avoid herself and her loved ones. She isn’t ready to face the cost of her failures. She decides to take off and travel across the farthest galaxies to numb her pain. Along the way, she finds something much different.
With smallness, Fortson builds off of her queer space fantasy webcomic Galanthus. Though the story is set in an unknown sci-fi future, it’s easy to place yourself within Akma’s world. Failure is a universal story, every one of us has faced it in our lives. So often the stories we engage with try to wrap up failure with perfectly tied bows. That’s because it’s uncomfortable and unsettling. The nature of failure leaves us with a sense of matters being unresolved. If there’s one thing humans believe in, it’s in their ability to fix problems and mistakes. Accepting that there are some failures and problems too big to solve is one of the most challenging lessons humans have to confront.
I had the privilege of reading smallness earlier this week. It’s a story I’ve reread twice since then. Being present in a moment is something I struggle with, it feels especially tricky in this current space-time we occupy. It was easy to see myself as Akma, running away from my mistakes, avoiding reality by setting off somewhere new where I could pretend like the bad stuff didn’t happen. Where smallness succeeds is the subtly of its story and message. It is within that subtlety that Forston gives us the chance to test the edges of our emotional landscapes and scar-tissues regarding failure.
Fortson has given us a gorgeous 32-page story fit for all ages. There’s something for everyone to reflect on here, but I won’t say more. Ultimately, smallness is about your journey and what you make of it.
Here’s a preview of smallness:
Full color throughout, smallness will be in print at SPX for $15, and available afterward in print at Fortson’s Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ashantifortson) and PDF on Fortson’s itch.io page (https://afortson.itch.io). SPX will be held September 15 – 16 in Bethesda, Maryland.
Andrea Ayres writes about comics, video games, and representation in pop-culture.