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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Doug M.
    September 7, 2023 @ 8:42 am

    While the shopping mall was uniquely American in its creation, it has spread all over the world. I’ve been in shopping malls in Germany, Moldova, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Dubai (honestly it’s hard to shop in Dubai except in a shopping mall), the Philippines and Zambia.

    This was much less true in the late 1980s, but it was already starting to be a trend. Britain’s first indoor shopping center was the Birmingham Ring in 1964; its first no-kidding shopping mall was Brent Cross in 1976. I don’t know how many shopping malls existed in England by the 1980s, but it wasn’t some alien novelty any more.

    Anyway. In Big Numbers, Moore sees the mall as a sort of invasive species — a superior predator, with catastrophic consequences for the local ecosystem. That’s… true-ish? But it’s not unique to England!

    This is from The Onion, back in the days when it was consistently good to great:

    — and it covers a lot of the ground in just a thousand words or so.

    (Were the mall builders in BN explicitly American? It’s been 30+ years, I honestly don’t remember.)

    Doug M.


  2. Ross
    September 7, 2023 @ 12:57 pm

    Well it was a heck of a surprise when the Featured Image for this post was of “my” mall. A picture from decades ago, before I lived here and when the place still had some semblance of character, to be sure, but as close a mall can be to “my” mall, given that all the malls of my youth have long since closed.

    The mall became the central feature of the Public Commons in much of America – despite being pure refined capitalism, it was also a public space where people could go and just be for a bit; one needed engage in capitalism only in the most minimal sense to be granted the use of the space. The mall was where friends would go to “meet up”. Where young people would go on dates. Of course, capitalism has grown loathe to support such a thing. The Mall in Columbia is in the process of transition, like most malls; its anchors are declining and the mall is accreting an open-air plaza where all of its growth is on the outside, the way an artificial reef might grow around a shipwreck. It is large enough that it might survive, but only as a vestige of its former self. I never thought I would miss shopping malls, but I am at heart a child of the 1980s. Leave it to capitalism to find something even more bleak and dystopian with which to replace them. The four big-box retailers on the edges of town are doing fine, of course, high-ceiling’d cubes of corrugated metal designed to maximize throughput and discourage lingering.

    Rouse’s neighborhood centers are a mixed bag. Half of them lost their grocery stores, though I think the village center in Long Reach has done a good job of reinventing itself as an arts and cultural nexus. The former Safeway there is now some kind of art museum that bills itself as “A Department Store for Intergalactic Travelers and Supernatural Beings”.

    Columbia is fortunate over many communities that it was designed with a lot of public outdoor space, but of course, you can’t use that at night. Or when it rains. or snows. Or the increasing number of months out of the year where the wet bulb temperature is incompatible with human life. Columbia is a nice place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there. They have become slightly more relaxed about the regulations over the years; newer chain businesses are even putting up their own trademarked signage rather than the uniform, nondescript sans-serif font that matched the rest of the strip mall.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      September 7, 2023 @ 3:45 pm

      I haven’t been to Columbia since… ooh, probably 2009 or so—my ex-spouse’s family is from there. So I’m sad, if unsurprised to hear about the decline of the neighborhood centers. Columbia always fascinated me, though, largely because it plainly worked out far better than it had any right to.


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