There have been dystopian views of the future and descriptions of them as such that go way back. Nineteen Eighty-FourBrave New WorldErehwonLogan's RunSilent Running - and that trend has been accelerating ever since the late 1980s when dystopias went from just fashionable to practically a requirement and optimistic views of the future few and far between.

Now, go ahead and envision a quasi-utopian future in which people walk away from a corrupt society that has ignored climate change and allowed inequality to rise, making new lives in the forgotten spaces of the post-industrial world. I mean, what do you do if you don’t have to follow the current paradigm?

This is such an important thought to follow. The reason for both utopian and dystopian extremes are that both are part of human nature. We are not all fearless or all cowardly. We have both in us. In fact, it doesn't matter so much what I believe, as how other people really ARE. Their existence trumps my belief system. However, if we all choose to believe until given a reason not to believe, then we are looking at the basis for amazing cooperation and giving ourselves the only way out of a bad situation. Check out game theory for why and when people cooperate.

That being said - "every man for himself" when disaster strikes does tend to create fodder for dystopian tales. However, these are extensions of our survival instincts. Selfish? Absolutely, but arguably necessary to life. Dystopia to me, is a utopia on the surface where that survival instinct is weathered down in the face of our technological and societal progress. To borrow the Titanic example - that the confidence in the "unsinkable" ship would be so strong that a simple "all is well, no need to panic" announcement from the captain would have doomed every single person on the ship.

Yes, helping others in the face of disaster to put things right is great, and necessary. However, I think the very essence of selfish self-preservation, and even self-elevation, is the unfortunate price we pay for continuing as a species. A dystopia of 'every man for himself' sucks yes, but it implies a possible level of survival until the storm passes - it implies hope. The dystopia I fear is that when the world unwinds, humanity simply surrenders, lays down and simply stops living, for each other or even for themselves. And from that, there is no coming back.

These are some of the thoughts and ideas I had AFTER I read ‘Walkaway: A Novel’ by Cory Doctorow. I guess you could say it sparked my subconscious or something. I spoke to Cory Doctorow at the Denver Comic Con. It was everything I thought it would be and more. Give it a listen...


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Tags: Science Fiction , tor books , cory doctorow , denver comic con