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Tolu Oloruntoba | Klo4

Neal Stephenson wants sci-fi writers to stop creating dark worlds, and reach within them to find the molding clay utopias are made of. He’d have us craft more imaginative tales, with less negativity, and more invention. I agree that sci-fi can, should, and does lead the way forward… just don’t touch the dystopia, bro.

We like our dystopias just fine. Those beautiful, dark, crumbling worlds that show where we are going, where we could be going, given that most fantastic and dangerous of things- human nature, with a singularity or two thrown in.

Yep, give us those visions choked in volcanic ash, smothered in nuclear winter, peppered with survivalists… give us rank oceans overflowing coastal cities. Give us grey goo. Give us green goo.  Give us the surveillance state, the police state… give us thought police. Give us the sublimation of our inhumanity… let our humanity shine through, irrepressible.  Our humanity can still survive the squall of existential crises, survivalists, cannibals, zombies, rogue sentient AI, cyborgs, glorious extraterrestrial invasions, and worst of all, the betrayals of our neighbours. Our best can survive our worst. It must. Always.

Give us the logical ends of our book burnings and censorship, give us the resultants of tyranny, or anarchy. Show us too much of a good thing. Show us too much of a bad thing. Perhaps, then, we can learn- simple can be happy.

Cant those scriptures for the discerning: V for Vendetta. Terminator. 1984. The Book of Eli. Blade Runner. The Road. The Matrix. Brave New World. Alan Moore. Cyborg. Fringe. The Dark Tower. Minority Report. Elysium. Phillip K. Dick. The Children of Men. Matheson’s I am legend. Cloud Atlas. Asimov. Prometheus. Equilibrium. Judge Dredd. Fahrenheit 451. Resident Evil. Ballard’s The Drought. Wall-E. Let us Remember It For You Wholesale.

Show us at the end of our depleted resource- water, oil, wood, knowledge, food, space…. Show us scramble and kill for a morsel, a drop, a square inch, a smidgen of heat. Show us war, as it reveals our basest selves- our most selfish, our vilest, our most apathetic, most hateful. Show us our devolution within destruction- our descent into feral selves with sticks and stones and nukes. Show us how freedom will enslave us. Show us how political correctness will gag us. Show us how free will won’t allow anything of the sort. Show us the us we refuse to confront- our shadowy, shifty alter egos.  Show our pretensions of goodness for what they are. Show us the pterodactyl, not butterfly, effects of time travels gone horribly wrong, or of our simple decisions. We must see where our roads lead.

Ray Bradbury famously described himself as a “preventor of futures, not a predictor of them”, and while we must remain visionary, that, friends, might be the conclusion of this matter. Apocalyptic, pre or post, we like our dystopias just fine. Fling reactor meltdowns and terrorism and global enslavement and forced automation at us. Show us overrun by contagion. Show us become caricatures of ourselves. The hero is still us, and how we can, we should, we must. The hero is us, and how we will. Grant us this periscope, while we may yet see. Grant us the exhilaration of vicariously flinging our protagonists where no human has gone before. Let them save, even die, for us. Perhaps then, we can live. But don’t touch the dystopia, bro.

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