Posts Tagged: dystopia

Sep 17

Everything is so yellow.

The sky is yellow, like you’re wearing lightly yellow-tinted sunglasses, here, the sun is a red disk, and the air is hot, in the upper nineties, unusual temperature for September in this area. There is yet another enormous wildfire here in the pacific NW, this one about 40 miles from me on the Columbia Gorge, and it’s snowing ashes here. They’re much the texture and size of cigarette ashes tapped into the wind. You can feel them in your lungs and must clean them from the windshield before driving. About every fifth person on the street is wearing one of those white ten-a-penny face masks. I see them schooling their children on wearing them, keeping them on, during this. One wildfire is tamped down, another flares up, and they’re all big, thanks to the ubiquity of dryness in the countryside. I wonder if the local libertarians understand that only government infrastructure, subsidies, emergency funding, stands between us and our houses burning up? Is this what it’s like? Climate change accelerating? We were warned that big, out of control fires would be more frequent. Our glib dystopian writing seems quaint now, blandly real. The future has caught up with us, in our old age, as time seems to go faster, and it’s laughing, mockingly–the future is always young.

Looking out my office window, right now, everything is so disturbingly…yellow.

Aug 11


As a science fiction writer, I didn’t anticipate flash mobs–though I should have when the internet first started up. Originally flash mobs were benign. They were, say, people meeting in some chosen public place all dressed in the same costume–harmless, amusing stuff.

But as soon as I heard about the first flash mobs I did imagine the flip side–which has come about in places like Philadelphia. Here’s a quote from a New York Times article:

“…these so-called flash mobs have taken a more aggressive and raucous turn here as hundreds of teenagers have been converging downtown for a ritual that is part bullying, part running of the bulls: sprinting down the block, the teenagers sometimes pause to brawl with one another, assault pedestrians or vandalize property.”

Every technology has a dark side, and every variation, every wrinkle, of that technology, has its own dark side.

The “flash mobs turn violent” scenario is exactly something we’d see in dystopian fiction. It’s about a technology introduced with a presumption of its harmlessness, inevitably showing its dark side. The inspiring demonstrations in Egypt, leading to Mubarak’s downfall, were helped along by the internet. They were, more or less, political flash mobs. And they were a good thing–though its unclear whether Egypt’s new governance will be a better one, governmental change helped along by new media does show the socially transformative power of that media. It offers empowerment to the underclasses. That’s a wonderful thing, and something we should never lose.

But it comes with a price–the recent riots in England are partly spawned through social media, instant messaging, texting. However you feel about them, businesses wrecked by the riots feel that the riots are all “dark side”.

The violent flash mobs in Philadelphia feel eerily like something from a science fiction scenario. They’re a dystopian tale come to life.

The next phase will inevitably come along–violent flash mobs versus rival violent flash mobs, multiplying the violence…

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