I enjoyed my time at FogCon, and I ended up on more panels than I expected. Two in particular, “Focus on Ferguson”, and “Wash Your Hands Before Attending,” (the added panel in which we talked about epidemics, and the “big one”) made me think a lot about dystopia.
As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve never written a dystopia. There are bits and pieces of dystopia in a couple of novels I’ve written, but I’ve largely avoided the topic. There are plenty of dystopic narratives out there, from Parable of the Sower to Divergent to The Hunger Games to the zombie apocalypse. I hardly think I can add anything unique or interesting to the wide variety of narratives out there.
Frankly, the world is dystopic enough. As we march toward climate disaster, historic income inequality both here and globally, totalitarian repressive regimes, wars, etc., what kinds of stories about the future do we want to tell? And, more importantly, what kinds of stories should we be telling? As a progressive science fiction writer who cares about how this society turns out, I find myself asking this question.
I love writing space operas, and stories of human space exploration, but those futures look less and less likely. I have a hard time seeing how we are going to manage to get through the calamity of the current era. I have written two narratives about how we did it – in The Casitian Universe Series, human aliens with the advanced technology of hundreds of older species comes to the rescue. In The Cassiopeia Chronicles, I used “handwavium” to talk about how humans got through the climate crisis. Those are easy. Really getting through it is going to be hard.
So I’ve been thinking – what if we wrote stories about how we can get from here to “there” – that being a place of harmony with the planet and each other? I wrote a flash fiction story recently that alluded to this, a little. What can we imagine about that process? There are precedents – Starhawk’s, “The Fifth Sacred Thing” soon to be a movie, comes to mind. But utopian narratives are not quite the same as a narrative of how we can actually manage to move from where we are. I’d love to hear great examples of this that people know of. And that’s what will be on my mind in the coming months and years. Perhaps there will be a novel or two out of it.