Friday, July 3, 2009

"...Into the Future..." - Excerpt; Attitude; Comment and Theme

"...Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law....
"Locksley Hall," Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Happily, some of us got off the planet in time."
"Notes of a Traveler," Otha Sisk
Don't bother looking up Otha Sisk. He won't be born for quite a while yet.

Visions of the Future: Doom, Gloom, Vistas of Wonder and Fast Food Stands

As I wrote the other day, I think the doom-and-gloom vein has just about been mined out, as far as science fiction is concerned. (June 30, 2009) I'm sure someone could write a fresh, compelling story about a devastated, post-apocalyptic Earth where mutant frogs and humanity's survivors battle for survival. But I'll let someone else try.

That excerpt from Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" is part of a longer section that starts with these lines:
"...For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be....
All things considered, I'd rather write about "all the wonder that would be."
No Utopias, Please
Which isn't to say that I prefer stories set in futuristic utopias where all of life's problems are solved, and people don't have to work if they don't feel like it: You get the idea.

For starters, that sort of setting would, in my opinion, make a monumentally boring story to anyone who wasn't enamored with whatever model of human culture is being extolled.

And, I'm quite convinced that a society composed at least partly of human beings wouldn't conform to that lotos-eater ideal. Not without some rather drastic alterations to the human beings. ('Now that you've had your lobotomy, and all your fears and neuroses are gone, along with most of your personality....')
Utopia, No: Optimism, Okay
There's nothing wrong with the youthful optimism expressed in Tennyson's "...the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe...." I think that one reason that democracies have endured for over two centuries is that, by and large, most people aren't the hapless fools that some 'experts' think they are.

I don't have 'faith in the masses,' any more than I have faith in princes: and I've known some remarkably daft people. But I've also known many who do have "common sense."
"The Federation of the World" - Eventually, Maybe
As far as "the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world" goes, I've noticed that, over the last few millennia, there's been a trend for the largest administrative units to get larger. Sure, there are times when large units break up: like the meltdown of the Roman Empire about one and a half millennia back.

A Future That's Plausible Enough for a Story

I'm not trying to predict what will happen, although I'm trying to be plausible. My goal is to create a future world that's plausible enough to allow the willing suspension of disbelief.

The setting I'm working hardest on is about one and a half millennia in the other direction. It's in the period mentioned I mentioned earlier:
"In ancient times, after humanity reached the stars, but before the Mandate of Heaven was restored to the Middle Kingdom, there were heroes." ("Prologue" (June 23, 2009))
My intention is to make the Earth, and other places where humanity has made a home, interesting. And, where appropriate, show "all the wonder that would be."

But perfect? No. I'll be getting more into how I see people as this blog develops.

As for "the Federation of the world" - that may happen, given time. But I don't see it as a slam-dunk certainty. My Earth of 3450 or so has around a dozen or so more-or-less independent administrative units - including a few nations, in the contemporary sense of the world.

I don't see why not: we've still got a few city-states, although they're not the biggest thing around: and haven't been for thousands of years.

The Association of Terrestrial Authorities is about as close as I'll come to Tennyson's "Federation of the world" - at least for this setting.

What's the Point?

"Theme is the dominant idea that a writer is trying to convey to his readers in a work of literature...." ( So, what's my point?

At present, I'm not entirely sure what I'll end up with. Right now, I'm working around the idea that in the far future, with humanity spread among the stars and Earth a place of towering cities, vast open landscapes, and multi-story farms (more about that later): People are still people.

There will be awe-inspiring monuments and fast-food stands, great thinkers and shallow minds, everyday routines and journeys into the unknown.

At least, that's the plan.

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