Dark Streets and Shadow Paths? Ok, so it’s not the happiest title in the world for a blog, and it’s all a bit probably-going-to-rain. This isn’t intended to be a Gloomy Patch of the Hundred Acre Wood but it is intended to be a place that looks at the future with a skeptical eye, and the streets of London, a place I know well, seemed like a good place to start if I wanted to contemplate a dystopic future.
Why dystopias in the first place? Well, I’ve always found them attractive. There’s something oddly compelling about the way they take our present concerns or worst imaginings and project them on to a usually-not-so-distant future. Of course, I’m not alone in this. You only have to look at the success of so much recent popular fiction in this genre. ‘The Hunger Games’ and now the new bestseller ‘Wool‘, both deal with hyperbolically unattractive futures in which entire populations are living in a world of many external controls and few personal options.
I think they’re attractive to readers because future dystopias are a way of seeing the present in extremis, and they are particularly appealing during times of rapid and significant social and cultural change. They allow us to look at the worries of today and think about the consequences that we may have to live with tomorrow. They give us a place to voice our concerns about the future that we may inherit.
And why is that future always so gloomy? It is almost a sine qua non of fiction about future societies that it be dark and gloomy. Otherwise, where’s the entertainment value? The only people who write about the future as a brighter, happier place are company CEO’s and politicians, and we all know how much fun it is to read company prospectuses and political speeches. And so, Dark Streets, it is.
My own views on the future are coloured by the rapid advances in technology that we are seeing, many of them made in the last couple of decades. Like many of my generation I am living in a period when much of the technology that existed before I was born and that I grew up with has become obsolete. More than that, we are living in a period when technologies appear for the first time and become obsolete in the space of years. It is the societal impact of those technologies that interests me, and the possible future paths that are already being charted.
So what do my future dystopias look like? They have varied shapes., but the first one that I’ll be self-publishing is a short story about a world of information and prediction, of what can happen when the entire population of the planet is fully connected and everything that can be known about that population is known.
As well as that, I’m close to completing the umpteenth redraft of a novel-length story of London in the near future. It started as a collection of short stories, and evolved into a more complete story almost by accident, but the city was always the focus.
In a comment attributed to William Gibson he is reported to have said: “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. If he did indeed say that, he’s right, and the place where it is most concentrated and where it first comes out of the shadows is in the city.