Michelle Tea is a prolific writer in fields ranging from keenly-observed memoir (Valencia, Rent Girl) to young adult fantasy (Mermaid in Chelsea Creek); she’s got toes dipped into several pools. One uniting thread in her stories is queerness, and another is the bittersweet sharpness of her prose. The most recent book—Black Wave—straddles those genres and tones, though: a startling, engaging, and incisive novel, it explores a metafictional alternate past with a protagonist also named Michelle. As the brief flap copy says, “It’s 1999. The world is ending.”
The experience of reading Black Wave is immersive and eerie, a version of our own world that feels abruptly and dangerously close to home in its coast toward oblivion. It’s a fantastic mélange of tropes and techniques: the observation and intuition of queer fiction, the cutting praxis of science fiction or alternate history, the intimacy of memoir, and the experimentation of metafiction. In short, it swept a hand down the keyboard that is my emotional range.