Sometime back, I was hanging out with some fellow writers, discussing some of the truly abhorrent sides of literature. Not the awful or the shocking, but the just objectively terrible. The Asylum Films of literature. The books like ‘My Lover is a T Rex’ or ‘Take by my Vacuum Cleaner’. I’m not sure if these titles are fake or not, to be honest. These books are every bit as insane as they sound and there are a metric ton of them.
So, we were goofing off and contemplating writing a few of these ourselves (because, holy hell, do they sell!). Writers, even top-shelf writers, make a lot less than you might realize and cashing in isn’t something sell-outs do, it’s something all of us want to get in on at least a little bit. One idea we batted around, one that got to be too insane for words was a love (…wink, wink…) story where a woman is impregnated by politics.
No, it doesn’t make sense, but we were at our wits end, trying to think of some way to outdo what had already been done. The absurd had become mundane by comparison.
Ever one for a writing challenge, I took up this task. I began to tackle a narrative (…wink, wink…) where a protagonist had a variety of paramours, each one representing different sociopolitical structures. I juggled the idea of having the protagonist herself be the sociopolitical concepts, with her parents transforming her by way of their connection (…wink, wink…). Regardless of who was the politics and who was the normative person, I wanted to tell a tale that guided the evolution of society from hunter-gatherer (which is the earliest form of civilization I know of) to the modern times.
Then things took a turn.
I reached the modern era of politics, with Capitalism and Democracy and whatnot. And I tried to imagine what would come after…and I couldn’t. I couldn’t envision what a post-democratic society would be, or a post-capitalist society might be. I suppose a form of socialism, maybe a new breed of communism, but that doesn’t seem like the natural evolution. Principally because socialism has been running largely in tandem with capitalism. In either regard, neither suggests what might come after Democracy.
An author famously talked about how writers needed to stop writing for money, that it was the pursuit of money and the control of money that was ruining literature and the art of writing. She said that the arts needed to be taken from control of the publishing houses (I want to say this was Madeleine L’Engle, but I can’t find any attribution). She said something akin to ‘centuries ago, kings ruled absolutely and no one could imagine any other system’. Again, she meant this in the context of publisher-domination (and more esoterically, monetary-domination), but it has resonated with me.
We are, perpetually, on the forefront of history. With every passing moment, we move towards a new world. That world always has the potential to be like nothing we have ever imagined. The term singularity, often reserved for physics, is applicable because a singularity is an instant where everything after is totally different from everything before. There is no reasonable comparison because of how different things are on opposite sides of the singularity.
Now, in social matters and in politics, things work a little slower. There is no ‘go to bed one day and wake up and things are totally different’ (unless you are East Germany). But things can move fast (just ask Venezuela). And they can move fast anywhere. Here in the United States, we like to think we are imagine from a certain level of degradation. Believe me, we aren’t. Compare the worst places in the third world to the worst parts of Appalachia and you’ll be surprised how similar they can be.
Back to the bill-paying smut above, I continue to mull over what will come after Democracy and Capitalism. Something will. It always does. It may evolve slowly over time, or it may spring to life in the wake of revolution. It is on topics like these that I look to science fiction. Ever on the forefront of human thought, sci-fi gives us ideas of how the world my develop. And sometimes, the craziest of concepts may become reality. Once, sci-fi was the bastion of hope and idealism and, especially on these topics like the evolution of society and politics, I hope it can be again.
The world is a beautiful place, despite what a sadly powerful few do to it. Society is about enjoying that beauty, and politics is about protecting that beauty. And through life and living, as a culture and a world, do we refine the means with which we do both.
What do you think is coming next?