I’ve grown up on Dystopian science fiction. I am a huge fan, but I’m becoming more convinced that we need less dystopian fiction and more futures where we make it. SCIENCE—FICTION. It’s fiction, based on science. There is lots of science that shows how we are going to mess up our earth. Indeed, we already have: Oceans rising and acidifying, fish dying. Food becomes increasingly expensive and difficult to cultivate. Our children will scrabble in the mud like prehistoric beasts fighting over every last resource: clean air, water and food. As much as I want to keep reading books based on these ‘futures’, I find them increasingly depressing and hard to finish.
The science is clear. We are headed to this future, if we do not turn around. We are already there. It is no longer fiction. It is reality to a large extent. We, collectively, have f&$ked up.
Yet there is also science that shows how we can still turn around. How we can use and share earth’s resources more equitably and responsibly. It is an EMERGENCY that we start using this other science yesterday, for our own survival because, let’s be clear, our mother Earth will survive, even as we all starve to death or die of heat exposure.
Identifying the location of your limited resources is literally a critical aspect of ‘worldbuilding’ because it’s assumed that your characters have to fight over those resources. I dare to say this is cliché. It’s been ‘done’. We should be building worlds that show better futures where humanity leans in to our better instincts. I’ll admit, there is much evidence of humanity being terrible right now but I believe there is more evidence of humanity making altruistic, selfless choices. Sometimes in dire circumstances as in the war in Ukraine and at other times, only after sustained pressure and lobbying from citizens organizing for change.
Obviously we must throw in conflict and tension into our stories, because a story where there is no poverty, disease or violence in the world and everyone has what they need will probably not sell. I believe we can still find that conflict, because humans will always be (flawed) humans. But can we please start creating some settings where we survive by fixing our problems the right way?
We seek out the macabre for entertainment, but I do not believe that any one of us wants to actually LIVE in that macabre future, or on Mars, or anywhere else but this beautiful, amazing, glorious earth. Why would you live on Mars when you could run up a mountain in the Rockies and swim in the bluest turquoise Caribbean sea? All while breathing unassisted, without a helmet? It’s insanity to think that ANYONE (including the billionaires who say they do) ACTUALLY wants to live on Mars?!?
I have my doubts we’ll ever find a planet as perfect as earth, but I’ll concede it’s possible we could eventually find another earth-like planet. Although, we may not find an alternative before we destroy this one, and by then we’ll probably all be dead, so?
What if there are superior alien life forms out there? They may be deliberately avoiding contact with the dumpster fire that is human selfish, short-sightedness and destruction right now.
I am a HUGE fan of science fiction, and of dystopian fiction, but, in the daytime, I am a mom of two young men who does not want to leave them an earth worse off than the one I inherited. This miraculous gift, that we abuse and rape every day. I am desperate to fix it for them. It is my duty to start that work.
I believe as writers we have an obligation to show hopeful futures as well as dystopian ones, so people can start imagining better and we can start growing into that reality. We don’t have to finish the work, we just need to be a catalyst. We’ve already done/are doing ‘Dystopia’, thoroughly.
Our culture needs us to represent all types of science – fiction, even that based on hopeful science (which is out there).