Back in 2011 when I first published Any Tomorrow I was concerned that the publishing environment wasn’t right for a dystopian epic, even if in the end, there was a glimmer of hope for mankind. For many of us, hope was in the air and there seemed at least the slightest chance that the world might become a better place.
Fast forward to 2017. My current novel—tentatively named ‘Clarice’—while I was hoping for a simple sci-fi tale about a girl and the alien symbiont living inside her, the story has turned darkly dystopian. Although I didn’t intend it, I think that the dystopian turn is particularly appropriate in light of the current global political/economic/social atmosphere .
[And that’s as far as I will take that… I have made a commitment that, although it might fun to fuss and fume about the current political anarchy, that discussion needs to take place elsewhere.]
For long time readers of this blog, I believe that I have mentioned in previous posts that I have an exercise I find particularly helpful when trying to envision the dystopian future. As I drive along the highway or back roads, I imagine the trees stripped of foliage, the houses in shambles, and the road emptied of traffic. My dystopia is one in which the world is in a slow burn. Desolate wastelands encroach upon the few remaining cities where the inhabitants adapt to living in hell.
I perform the same exercise with people, surprised? As I talk to them or watch them, I strip them down to their lowest common denominator. I try to imagine them in the worst of all possible worlds, because it’s only in that situation that the facade of normalcy is sheared off. Remove all the world’s expectations, all the cause-associated false fronts, and what’s left? There is only the need to eat and sleep, to survive from one horror to the next.
Does this mean that in a dystopian future, there won’t be love and kindness and self-sacrifice? Of course there will. It’s almost a requirement of humanity that someone in the future have some redeeming qualities. And while it is certainly possible for a novel to portray human nature as it truly is, who wants to go down that path? We all get enough of real life in real life.
For the writer, the importance of writing of a dystopian future—and I know this is true for me—is that writing about that the endless pain, the darkness that never ends, and the debilitating nothingness of the wastelands helps me to get that part of my life out of my life and into a fantasy world.
Writing about the terrible aberrations of a serial killer or sexual excesses of a sociopath assures me that while I can see those things in my mind and even, perhaps, take some visceral pleasure in both their crimes and their punishments, I know that’s not me.
As a writer, I hope you can understand the genesis of my stories and as a reader, I hope you can empathize with my need to share my dystopian fantasies.
© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh.