They say that truth is stranger than fiction. But it seems to me that lately, truth has become the dystopian fiction that sci-fi writers warned us about.
- A handful of megacorporations acquire a complete lockdown on every major market in the world, including the media, access to books, our food, our water, and the air we breathe. Corruption at the highest levels of government, general apathy, and a determined propaganda campaign prevents humanity from doing anything to stop it. Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth – The Space Merchants; Various Authors – Shadowrun RPG novels.
- A man is asked to “volunteer” to opt out of a service he paid for with a major corporation. When he refuses to “volunteer,” he is forcibly removed and beaten up by police. Bonus points: The corporation continues to contend that since the man refused to “volunteer,” they were forced to follow their policy, and what a terrible person this man is for disrupting the social order. How rude! (Hint: When you are given no choice but to do what is demanded of you, especially when force and violence are a consequence of not doing it, you do not get to call that “volunteering.”) George Orwell – Animal Farm; George Orwell – 1984; Kafka – The Trial; Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games.
- A compound is discovered in common fruits and vegetables that, when given to laboratory mice, literally reverses the physical aging process. But said news never gets more than a passing nod in the media. Why not? Is there a conspiracy to keep the information on the down-low so that only a certain elite will hear about the treatment until only they can afford to get it? Robert Sheckley – Immortality, Inc. a.k.a. Freejack (movie); Orson Scott Card – The Worthing Saga (mostly the background info).
- A world hegemony routinely breaks its own privacy laws and ignores civil liberties to spy on people that they simply don’t like and think might be suspicious. The hegemony continues to expand its influence to arrest people in other countries and to permit anyone in the world to be killed by the executive order of its leader, because they say so. Hegemony successfully convinces its citizens that it is “unpatriotic” to criticize this. Bonus points: Hegemony owns an army of flying killer robots that they can send anywhere in the world to spy on or murder anyone they like. (Hint: if you have flying killer robots, you are most assuredly not the “good guys.”) Yevgeny Zamyatin – We; George Orwell – 1984; P.D. James – The Children of Men.
- In a bizarre twist, the “election” of the leader of said hegemony is influenced by hackers in a major cyber misinformation campaign. An incompetent, possibly sociopathic man becomes the leader of the hegemony, advised primarily by religious cultists and fascist opportunists. William Gibson – Neuromancer; Sinclair Lewis – It Can’t Happen Here.
- But don’t worry, because in the final twist, the whole hegemonic election scheme turns out to be the lynchpin of an operation by which a cabal of corrupt billionaires rob the treasuries of two of the most powerful nations on earth blind in order to expand their own influence (and coffers). Jack London – The Iron Heel.
Seriously, is this real life? Why have so few noticed that we’re in the middle of a dystopian novel? Or are they too scared to point it out (or maybe even to think about it)?
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Originally published on Diane Morrison, Speculative Fiction Writer