To call Visions science fiction wouldn’t be entirely accurate – the journal is full of non-fiction investigations and well founded predictions, too.
Visions is described as ‘a science fiction magazine where writers, designers and researchers of the past and present come together to explore the future’. But when the future is swallowed by the present at such an unprecedented rate, essays about AI, ‘empathetic’ robots and online communication are just as surreal as speculation about space exploration in the coming decades.
The journal is a chunky, text-heavy read, simply designed with a black, white and flouro red colour palette with occasional bold typographic openers. Visions is edited, typeset, designed and published by Mathieu Triay, and the journal is a credit to him – it’s so different from the expected ‘look’ of a science fiction publication. The fiction/non fiction features are loosely categorised by the typeface they’re printed in: a bookish serif for stories and poetry (above), sans-serif for essays (below).
There is also an essay on typeface itself: investigating how the simple addition of emojis in our quotidian language is inherently challenging traditional methods of communication. Communication is a popular theme in science fiction – and while its usually of the Amy-Adams-in-Arrival variety, emojis are a fitting topic for this issue of Visions, subtitled ‘Visions of Humanity’.
Studying communication techniques within our own species is arguably just as interesting observing our alien neighbours conversing, especially as humans are a) actually observable and b) perpetually in flux. Spaces like twitter are an incessant pit of misunderstanding, but in Amy Papaelias’s essay on emojis (above), Paul Hunt (a typeface designer at Adobe) explains that emojis ‘promote empathy in the way we type’. Hunt goes on to say that, for him ‘on the most personal level, the adoption of the gender-inclusive emoji by unicode has removed the personal anxiety I feel when having to choose between masculine and feminine emoji… through all my communications’.
It’s a worthy investigation for Visions to print, a perfect illustration of ‘looking at the past to determine the future’, something echoed in the retro headline fonts referencing sci-fi paperbacks, used throughout the issue (above, below). Ornaments in print aren’t new, but the way they are used now certainly is. Communication reflects the rate of progression, and ‘the rules for typesetting emoji are being made up as we type.’ A recent issue of Literary Review included a disparaging review of a book investigating emojis and language. It’s great to see indie mags like Visions going above and beyond more mainstream publications, taking an open-minded approach to subjects commonly perceived as trite.
Visions is loaded with more content than I could possibly relay in this review: the sign of a great magazine. Triay and his team have sourced a remarkable range of writers and professionals covering myriad ‘visions of humanity’ – typeface designers, google search software designers, ivy league professors, acclaimed authors and AI developers.
It’s hard to believe that this is only the second issue. The next theme is yet to be announced, but this issue has convinced me that whatever it is, Visions will take an extraordinarily varied and thoughtful approach.