No, it’s not the first time a national magazine has sent a writer thousands of miles to write a cover-the-waterfront story about the largest state in the U.S. But with California more of a symbol than a state, Joe Hagan manages to coax a few sharp edges out of the well-worn trope, combining marquee politicians with some surprising characters (comic Shang Yeng, Abbot Elementary writer Brittani Nichols, a firearm instructor to the stars) to help compensate for the most eye-roll-inducing dinner party ever committed to print. A commendable piece of macro reporting that’s sure to infuriate everyone.
Octavia E. Butler was asked, seven years after the publication of her uncannily predictive 1993 novel, Parable of the Sower, whether her visions of an environmentally ravaged Los Angeles, circa 2024, where the elite barricade themselves in walled fortresses surrounded by poverty-stricken encampments of drug addicts and illiterate poor, was something she really believed would happen.
“I didn’t make up the problems,” replied the writer, who grew up in Pasadena. “All I did was look around at the problems we’re neglecting now and give them about 30 years to grow into full-fledged disasters.”