August 17th, 2012 | Published in commentary
Dystopian fiction is everywhere.
Why this would be so isn’t hard to figure out, anyone who pays attention to the world beyond their big-box commerce node will tell you that things are not going so well out there. We are on the brink (quite possibly already over it) of ecological collapse; the cheap, relatively clean energy that we used to build 20th century civilization is dwindling, rapidly; we are something like four years into the largest economic catastrophe of our generation and no serious changes that would address the root of the problem have even been proposed in the private airstrips of power; social media is being harnessed to watch us ever more closely ;meanwhile the media is obsessed with celebrity rather than reality. Naturally, this sort of environment is going to produce dark, dystopian fiction.
And what’s so wrong with that, you ask. Isn’t part of the job of fiction to reflect the human condition? Well, yes, but the answer is contained within the question. Part of the job of fiction is to reflect, the rest of the job is something else entirely. Writing dystopian fiction is only natural when there appears to be no end in sight to our problems, problems that many do not even seem to notice. To a degree, it is necessary. After all, it is difficult to deal with a problem that you don’t even know you have. On the other hand, I think that it is safe to say that anyone who doesn’t yet realize that we have a problem will not be made to understand, no matter how rational or compelling the argument, for them, only experience will suffice. Furthermore, the continuing drumbeat of despair has outlived its purpose among those who do realize there is a problems, and simply adding troubles onto those already extant will more likely serve to paralyze than to galvanize.
We need to have the second half of the conversation. There is a problem, what is to be done? And what better place to have this conversation than in fiction?