It should be written on a t-shirt, made in a sweat shop, shipped from a country were people are subjugated through religion, politics or the colour black. Dystopia is a clarion call in literature, less and less a cracked mirror held up to society and more and more the truth writ large so people will act upon it and don’t. In the growing age of misinformation and fake news does dystopia fiction have a role? Many readers, including one I spoke to at work today, love a good dystopia. That sounds like madness but dystopian futures and alternative time lines from Robert Harris’s Fatherland to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 remind us what we could lose. They fascinate me. They fascinate many readers as we have seen with the publishing phenomenon that has been Atwood’s The Testaments this year.
When I talk science and the future, I do so from a nerd’s point of view. A nerd in the long grass leaping up and down and getting a little too excited about possible futures. I may burst some bubbles here. There is every chance we will colonise the moon and Mars, very rich people want that and what rich kids want, they tend to get. There’s every chance your great grand kids will be Martians if we don’t fuck up before we get to the rockets. There’s a slim chance we will get to Europa and possibly beyond and in the event we discover valuable metals or minerals in the asteroid belts that surround our solar system, we’ll be there with pick axes and cheap labour. Then, that’s it. No interstellar travel. No warp drive. No faster than light spaceships. By then there will probably be a trillion humans spread across the solar system but no further. There is a simple reason why. You’re sat in it now. You have only one thing to blame and that’s your body. A frail, limited thing with a shelf life of three score and ten, if you’re lucky. Sure, you could argue that you could send generations into outer space, people who are born there and die there but that would be akin to you telling your kids they’re going to be born in a penal colony that could rupture into a void at any time. It’s a tough sell and in a capitalistic system has very little in returns. Very few people will willingly sign up to that. So, how do we go beyond our system? That’s a question I am trying to answer but it isn’t pretty and it is, as always, subject to corruption because we know from our colonial past that we always carry greed and jealousy with us.