While I’m a great fan of science fiction, I am no scientist. Very few of my highschool science experiments ever worked out, scientific report writing was too constraining for my imagination-centric brain, and my university level Psychology 101 rat (who I fondly named ‘Rat’) hated me from beginning to end, so much so that by the end of the semester I was glad to hand him over to the vivisectors from the biology department. I hope they made the savage bastard suffer.
Anyway, a writerly blog today, which arises tangentially from my discovery (belated, as always) of Wayward Pines the tv series, and the gripping scifi / apocalyptic / dystopian theme behind it. Maybe it’s just me, but there appear to be more than the usual number of apocalyptic scifi series out there at the moment, along with some really interesting post-Earth ideas. If scifi precedes and prefigures reality, then it looks like humanity is ready to take to the stars! Maybe that’s the answer for all the unhappy Americans once Canada and Mexico close their borders.
Anyway x2, I am writing a dystopia of my own that began as my NaNoWriMo project, but has outgrown it. In other words, I won’t be done in eight days, and it will be bigger than 50,000 words. One of the ‘things’ I am tussling with is the shape of future-Earth. It’s led me to reassess some of the unscientific tropes out there with a view to making my world as plausible as possible, notwithstanding the fact that I am, as I said at the start, no scientist.
Firstly, regarding computers, I’d prefer to imaginatively populate a world that has regressed to ticker-tape machines and rooms filled with whirring spools doing all the math. Poised as we are on the precipice of discovering the thing that ruins our lives after virtual-reality has ruined it, and with our actual futures seemingly headed down a bleak and lonely computer-generated road, I’d like to step back a little from all this ambient connectivity and rediscover some humanness. I suspect part of it is not wanting to be alone. You won’t find your future wife on Oculus Rift, kinda thing.
Secondly, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, nuclear anything is a lost technology to the inhabitants of my world. Instead, they’ve been consigned to a high-industrial world of diesel engines and heavy pollutants, that is perpetually dim, dark and grimy. Nuclear produces nothing in reality except a midnight sun of endless energy and a potential radioactive wasteland, both of which are already too well-imagined by countless other writers and auteurs. That said, a world filled with buzzcut Charlize Theron’s, that would be utterly terrible.
Third, there’s no time travel whatsoever because time-travel (spoiler alert) is bullshit! Sorry kids, I’m not just safeguarding my mojo, it’s just that I can’t imagine any valid reason for anomalies of the space-time continuum (whatever trope that is). On top of all the very good reasons why I can not permit reality-bending temporal hijinks, I don’t want to come back and realise I accidentally fathered myself. That’s a thought so repulsive, actually, that I need to stop now and wash my hands…
Number four: while I’m in the mood for party-pooping, there can be no teleportation / faster-than-light travel / warp-speed, or any of that other bullshit as a means of getting around the fact that, even at maximal speeds, physics says it would take many lifetimes to travel anywhere even vaguely more interesting than Earth. If that seems unduly limiting from a creative perspective, then can I suggest you haven’t read enough books, perhaps? to begin with, the world cannot endure another overly-talkative Gungan from the planet Naboo, especially when we can just substitute any of the innumerable other fuc*knuckles out there that won’t shut up.
Five: no monsters except of the human kind, because if there was a monster under the bed then I reckon we would have noticed by now. Also, the whole extraterrestrial invasion scenario schtick just makes my bumhole pucker. Unless the aliens look like one in ‘Alien’, then no aliens. The ‘Alien’ alien was cool. She just kills people dead and lays her pupae in them. That’s what I would do.. I’d begin with all the stupid people and work backward from there…
Finally, number six for keepin’ it (scientifically) realistic, people need to eat, shit and sleep. While our imaginations are unfettered, our biology shackles us to the mundane. And just on that, if I go way back two years and more to my very first post, I was of the view then (and still am) that the greatest horrors arise from the everyday. We’re already living in a dystopia. Even Margaret Atwood couldn’t make up this shit.
So that’s it. The six points aren’t rules per-se, just markers. Glowsticks in the dark spaces of my imagination. I’ll overstep a boundary if I need to, but it will have to be plausible and justified for me to begin dicking around with physics and/or the laws of nature. I won’t have some transgendered chick in a mylar bikini being rescued from a loathsome Democrat-voting space-octopus by an ex-billionaire property developer wielding a plastic raygun. Nor will I endure the face-palm of a guy somehow surviving a thermonuclear explosion by hiding in an old refrigerator. And it sure as shit won’t be another ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ (2010).
Oh god, let there not be another Hot Tub Time Machine …