The following was originally published in the March 10th issue of The Washington Comet. It is reproduced below, with the permission of all the parties involved.
The Crisis Command, the world’s most mighty, the champions of tomorrow, the super-team of America. Every day, we watch them save our world — a team of diverse individuals who fight off the absurdly abnormal with impossible ideas. They’re a busy bunch, and they do difficult work.
But the Crisis Command has graciously agreed to take some time to sit down with us here at The Washington Comet, so that we may all better get to know the people who walk among us with such tremendous talents.
Over the next few months, we’ll be covering each and every single member of the team closely. From what they’re enjoying on their off-time to their stance on what they believe their super-team represents, we’ll be digging into all the details. This month, we speak with the wondrous wordsmith of the Crisis Command, The Mystic Marvel herself, Originator!
A lady sits comfortably, surrounded by a mountain of books. The library in Fishtown, Philly, is her regular hangout spot. She’s been known to spend most of her off time here, so it’s certainly not a surprising sight for me as I get there. But the sheer number of works she’s seemingly going through, and their wide variety, blow me away. Clearly, she’s a passionate reader. But then again, I suppose one has to be, to do what she does.
She notes my presence and nods, beckoning me to take a seat. She then whispers a word, which I only manage to catch the end of.
A rush of energy moves through me. I blink, unsure of what’s just happened. The lady smiles, speaking properly at last. “I’ve just made it so that anyone in this specific zone of the library can speak freely, without being heard by anyone beyond it for the next 24 hours.”
I tilt my head, still taking it all in. It’s a response she seems to be familiar with, as her smile deepens. “Well, all right!” I manage, taking it in stride. “Let’s get to it!”
“Indeed.” she responds, tapping the little clock on her costume.
TWC: How would you prefer to be addressed? Sumaira or your official title?
I am perfectly happy to be called Sumaira, or Sumaira Shamsie.
TWC: Alright! Sumaira it is! Now, I have to ask. How did you even find out you had this power? I imagine it must’ve been one hell of a surprise.
Every word we use can have enormous potency. Take, for example, the word “series”. It can mean a sequence, a distribution or an arrangement, as well as a half a dozen different meanings. It originates from Latin, Serere, to join. Now it is a word we use to interconnect. That is the case for all of language. I interconnect words into physical manifestation, but directly.
My mother and father were well versed in language and instilled it in me at an early age. They studied Magical Linguistics before I was born. I was very fortunate to be versed in such trainings as a child. When I began to invoke my unique skills, I already had that baseline. The way we speak shapes reality, always, so I learned to be even more deliberate.
TWC: No kidding. How do you even manage after that? Knowing any set of words you smash together, even as a joke, could maybe launch something out into the world. Picking and choosing what you say more carefully than ever. How has that been for you?
You understand what it means to be polite and when to be measured with phrases. I must always carry with me consideration. There’s so much potential in language to carry hurt. There are so many phrases we use that can foster misunderstanding. For me, a misunderstanding can be even worse. I act so that, hopefully, others don’t bear the burdens of my mistakes.
TWC: So why superheroics? Why not something else? I imagine that power of yours has a lot more applications in numerous other enterprises.
I must once again thank my parents. Let us go back to the word “series”. Another meaning of series is a total or sum. When words are crafted, we are always adding to what has come before and reforming reality anew. This is true whether you are commenting on the weather or explaining something new. It is imperative that in a changing world we have language to deal with the new. We live in imperfect systems; a word that changes finance will spread to every market. Can we do that for what we define morally as good and evil? This is what I try to do.
TWC: I have to ask, that pocket watch you keep on your costume at all times…family heirloom? I’ve never seen you without it when you’re out there doing this stuff. I assume it’s of personal significance in some way? Or is it one of Frontier’s much spoken about super-gadgets?
It is a gift from Frontier. Watches were premier technology in their time and have had a part in what is possible now. It is the same as words, the past being built upon in service to the future. I do have a sentimentality to it.
TWC: Does the tuning fork have some symbolic meaning? I’m sorry, but I’m really fascinated by your lovely costume. How’d you put it together? I know a great number of readers are dying to hear about it.
The tuning fork is focus. Vibrations are resonance of the heart. This world is as much a living being as it is a place. When I put on the tuning fork, I am reminded of why I am so careful with words. Words are useless if there is no thought behind them.
TWC: On top of the tricky powers, you’re out in the open, under the spotlight, as a brown woman. And as someone who understands the impact of words, you know what they largely say and write about our people, the assumptions they make about us, which they never would with white folks. How has it been, managing all that, navigating what you do, while seeing things like The American Individuality Act be even considered?
I am reminded of the Hippocratic Oath, these two tenets in particular:
- I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.
- I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.
I would not stand here in this world without my own dedication to humanity. Without it I cannot imagine any purpose. The first tenet is the standard I seek to embody with my powers. We are all imperfect in unique ways. But our own inequality cannot be solved with inequity. The American Individuality Act is a pathway that ignores that we, all people, and we as a country, have a deeper commitment to one another. It is a direct refutation of the second named tenet.
Our way through strife is never going to be to cordon ourselves off. Neither is it to ceaselessly compromise. In unity is where we must progress, and I must use my own voice first. My hope is that by leading with my voice others will also learn to use their own voices to serve in their own unique ways.
TWC: Clearly, you’re a big reader, so do go on, what are some of your favorites? Any creators you always find yourself coming back to? Who’re the voices that you most admire?
I find one reading leads me to my next. Recently, I’ve recently been revisiting Socrates and Plato, which sent me to Diotima of Mantinea, then to Iris Murdoch. That was stirred by a recent reading of Mulla Sadra and Rumi. “Morphology of a Folklore” by Vladimir Propp was the narrative examination that allowed me to enjoy fiction, literary or not, and I believe it is time I revisit it also. It is how I learned of Hilary Mantel, and I am 100 pages from completing her Cromwell Trilogy.
TWC: Beyond the reading, who is Sumaira Shamsie when she’s not Originator? How do you spend your time and catch a breath?
I am not particularly artistic, but I do know how to play the piano. The arrangements of other people contain a wealth of imagination that I love to tap into. At libraries and cafés I enjoy people watching. There are countless conversations and interactions. I hope that is not too strange. I will put in noise cancelling headphones and play white noise whilst doing yoga, or I will visit a museum.
Disengaging has been how I re-engage and work best in a superhuman-filled world. There is seldom time for that, but I always want to sit and read and learn so I am best prepared. I always want to be ready for the next series, be it a summation or a development.
TWC: Now, for one final question. Favorite drink, go.
As you may imagine, I do not drink: I cannot even imagine what would happen if I were to slur my words or say something that changed the nature of gravity.
And that was Sumaira Shamsie, Originator! Join us next month, as we speak to the most powerful of the Command, Frontier!
Commanders In Crisis #6 is out now!
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