It would appear that when I’ve had a drink or three I can get a bit ranty. It is at these times that I tend to stay away from social media to avoid getting myself into trouble, but this morning, contemplating what I’d felt so cross about the night before, I realised a blog post needed to happen to explore those thoughts.
Science fiction often has a way of becoming science fact, just as dystopian literature frequently looks to real life for inspiration. It’s very rarely a fully accurate representation, but it’s clear to see that life frequently mimic art, as art mimics life. The things our grandparents were sold as merely fiction have come to fruition, with technological advances surpassing even their wildest dreams. It has been a mere 50 years since we first put a man on the moon, and now almost every adult in the western world carries a device in their pocket boasting a CPU over 1000 times faster and with 3,500,000 times more memory than the first computer. The voice-activated, facial-recognition, remotely-accessible domestic appliances we saw in the Jetsons (and Star Trek) are now a reality.
But despite all that, the world is failing. We are at risk of catastrophic climate disaster. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether we are or not. We are operating in a state of emergency. We know, deep down, as a species, that we are in big trouble. Banning straws and single-use plastics is a noble intention, but most certainly is not enough. What I felt very angry about last night, while nursing my bottle of beer, is that not enough is being done to look ahead, properly and realistically, to devise answers to impending problems which we absolutely cannot evade.
Living a zero-waste and carbon neutral life is commendable, but simply not possible for many. It assumes you have the privilege and the finances available to swap to sustainable resources. Shopping at local markets and using wax wraps and buying ethically produced clothes is simply not an option for many, despite how much they want it to be. Much of how we live in the world has been devised to keep us in the powerful grip of a consumerist status quo. We need our cars to get to work, to earn money to pay for our cars. We need supermarkets to get our food, because we don’t have time nor space to grow our own, and much of our food is transported thousands of miles from where it’s harvested, wrapped in plastic to keep it clean. We have expectations and responsibilities. Mortgages, bills, standards and structures. There isn’t often an easy ‘opt-out’ button. Life – real life – frequently does not afford us opportunities to make the changes we want to.
What I’m equally curious about and interested in, is how current writers of speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy and horror – are approaching this? What narratives are they adopting to address the reality of the world, and what future do they envisage? I’ve been dabbling a little lately in drabbles and micro-fiction, a lot of them with a science-fiction or dystopian theme, and I notice just how bleak they appear. How little hope I seem to be injecting into my writing. When I look to the future, I can’t seem to see one full of life or hope, I feel ground down by real life events. In my stories, the human race prevails but is not necessarily victorious; they survive through luck or dogged stubbornness rather than team work and active problem solving. If I try to write something more positive, it feels too far-fetched or naive.
I’m looking for authors who can write us a solution, who can describe a path to progress rather than ruin. Who will show us a scenario where humans can finally untangle those grey, twisted threads which make up the blanket that smothers us. Or which we choose – unwisely – to hide under. I want to read of a world where things are better, not a new one, but the one we have already which we have nurtured with kindness and brought back from the brink. Because I believe, just like those science-fiction books our grandparents read, we can re-write the world by imagining a hopeful future, where all the good we dream of comes to pass.