ENVISIONING THE FUTURE AS A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL

As a writer, I depend on my imagination (and books and discussions and movies and articles) to come up with ideas for plot, characters and descriptions. This leads to some interesting searches to support a concept. I’m currently working on a science fiction novel set 200 years in the future. You can guess what a challenge it is for someone who never enjoyed the sciences to sketch out a logical and plausible story.

Not now. We seem to be living in an actual dystopian novel. Certainly the stories we hear via social media and actual media make it seem so. All are talking in superlatives despite our true perspective of ants in an ant hill being stirred by a big stick. From the viewpoint of the ant, total chaos reigns! End of the world conditions are looming! Phrasing for estimates and projections exist only in extremes, such as “as many as (insert scary statistics),” or “skyrocketing estimates.”

This situation is great for me as a writer. In the early days of our lockdown, streets and businesses were deserted, as if an alien force had zipped all humans out of sight. Now when I jog, people jerk masks into place and cross the road to avoid me, illustrating what an outcaste might experience. The prevalence of masks helps me imagine strange, distorted space travelers behind them. Even government incompetence, infighting and brangling serve useful purposes because my novel has political and social themes.

The truth, however, is that we’re stunned by our circumstances. We’re so accustomed to American privilege, we can’t believe we have no control over COVID and that we, like every other living thing, can die. A woman I met recently, an immigrant from Asia, used the term “entitled,” thinking we’re so special that we deserve privileges or special treatment. Perhaps that’s the reason we all sling accusations in every direction, desperately trying to find someone or something to blame: the Chinese, non-maskers, old people, drug companies, scientists, elected officials. I wish we’d wise up and realize everyone’s in this situation together and life is just life.

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