Dystopian Sci-Fi of the After Time
“What was a restaurant, Grandpa? What was it like to go to school with kids who weren’t in your pod?”
If you are tempted to write dystopian science fiction set in the After Time, start now. In the tale playing in my head, food shortages from perpetual fires and hurricanes have driven the United States into a rigid caste system, with the ruling class leaving the rest just enough food to perform essential labors. As loss of habitat increased human-wildlife interactions and resultant pandemics, extended family groups within each caste have withdrawn into fortified pod-housing. Story line: Teens from different castes form a forbidden friendship and scheme to cross the militarized border into Canada.
This is fiction, not prediction. We could just as well emerge into greater compassion, personal and economic security, freedom, justice, and mutual respect. It would be welcome but not the basis for a page-turner. In that world, you might prefer to write historical fiction about the Before Time and how so much, temporarily, went so wrong.
10/5/2020 08:51:27 am
I love your idea for a dystopian sci-fi. So many possibilities for interesting details, like maybe the lower castes are only fed beans-- https://youtu.be/RYsTlfhDSDY. I'm currently reading a series of young-adult novels by Lois Lowry (e.g., Giver, Gathering Blue, etc.) They each set up a different dystopian future.
10/5/2020 11:04:59 am
Just watched the Human Bean video. Fascinating! The fictional lower castes would probably eat beans off the floor less introspective and more in the spirit of Steinbeck. When Geoff was on his Ayurvedic diet, for weeks (felt like years) he ate mostly rice and lentils. His diet also didn't permit leftovers, and so as not to waste food, I ate endless leftover rice and lentils. Grumbling the whole time!
10/5/2020 11:04:38 am
We are truly walking a knife edge right now, with your first scenario all too possible if we fail to retain our balance. I wish I had greater faith that your second image is the direction in which we jump to get off that knife edge. I've become cynical in my old age, I guess. I once believed we were moving forward into better times, but that was before 2016.
10/5/2020 11:16:59 am
Yes, the challenge for a fictional dystopian scenario right now is to keep enough distance between imagination and reality. Where the classic dystopias (1984? The Hunger Games?) might suggest a trajectory toward a far future scenario, the After Time could be just a few years around the corner. I truly hope the arc of history bends toward justice - and kindness and the rest - but I don't see any inevitability to it. History rises and falls. Thoreau wrote that our inventions give us improved means to an unimproved end.
10/17/2020 06:10:43 am
Taiwan did such a good, effective job, how would you build in enough drama to keep the reader turning pages?
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.