I’m also counting future versions of our world, not just fantasy-worlds-created-from-scratch.
A lot of choices this week. Emily from Reading as Female was just commenting on twitter yesterday on the lack of sci-fi set in a pleasant future, especially in YA. As she very well put it, “Can someone please write a book where the future isn’t a pile of shit?” :) and “I just find it worrisome that the only future we seem to be able to imagine is a terrible one.”
Nice futures don’t sell? No intense social commentary arising from successfully tackling climate change? An interesting challenge for authors.
1. Oceania, 1984.
“If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”
No privacy, no freedom, no love, no independent thought. One thing bothered me in particular: Newspeak. If you don’t know the world for freedom, can you image the concept?
2. World State, Brave New World.
“No social stability without individual stability.”
The sex, drugs and rock&roll of Huxley’s world might not seem so bad compared to other dystopias, but the use of genetics to create a social hierarchy soon becomes the stuff of nightmares. This was one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read: order and predictability are so easily appealing! The scene with the babies and the sunrise still haunts me.
3. Other World, Coraline.
“My twitchy witchy girl I think you are so nice, I give you bowls of porridge And I give you bowls of ice-cream.”
I’ve no doubt I’d be traumatized if I’d read Coraline when I was a kid. How can something as innocent-sounding as buttons for eyes become so scary?
4. Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland.
“You would have to be half mad to dream me up.”
Any book with a surreal vibe make me anxious. I’d definitely not like to live in a world where all rules are off and anything could happen. Wonderland seems so much fun yet I’ve always seen it as ruthless. Also, everyone has a laugh at your expense!
5. Future America, Fahrenheit 451.
“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”
Do you need any other reason to fear this world apart from their hate of books? It’s one of those scenarios that feels too close for comfort.
6. Republic of Gilead, Handmaid’s Tale.
“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
And talking about a possible future. For me, scarier than a government-controlled world, is a religion-controlled world. Is what’s done today to women in the name of religion and morals that different from what’s done in Gilead?
7. Earth, The Windup Girl.
“We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it.”
This one really brought home what raising oceans really means, in practical terms. It’s also a future full of deadly plagues caused by GMOs and mutant pests and viruses. Basically, the (eco-)system is breaking down.
The book is set in a Bangkok below sea level, protected by a complex system of levees and pumps. I read it while in Thailand and let me tell you, I could almost feel the threat. I don’t know how the Dutch do it.
8. Libria (Equilibrium,the movie)
“Happiness is the most insidious prison of all.”
Equilibrium is very similar to 1984, but here even war was eradicated. Everything that’s negative no longer exists, as well as its possible sources: love, friendship, humor. With a little help from artificial emotion-suppressors, humans are now perfectly content machines.
9. Earth, Never Let Me Go.
“We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.”
It’s not so much the twist that’s scary as the peacefulness and niceness of this future. People and gentle and care about you and your well-being. It’s all for the greater good. *shiver*
10. Earth, The Lottery.
I know everyone will include Panem in their list, but before Panem, even before Battle Royal, there was Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short-story (“A chilling tale of conformity gone mad.“). Its realism beats anything similar out there.