May you live in interesting times.
It’s an old, oft-quoted curse (though probably NOT of Chnese origin) that turns something good on its head and makes it something decidedly bad. And one that seems particularly apt for our own time.
We’re hurtling headlong into the future with many of the things sci fi always promised us – computers that fit into our pockets, cars that drive themselves, and a global connection through social media that surpasses anything Asimov or Clarke ever imagined.
Tthough I’m still waiting for my flying car, dammit!
And yet instead of a futuristic utopia filled with leisure time, we seem instead to be entering the pages of The Handmaid’s Tale, or maybe Bladerunner, as each new advance brings more things to fear.
Somehow all these inventions that sounded fricking amazing in the far future are downright terrifying when they happen in the here and now, especially knowing that the corporations who control them and sell them to us often have a spotty track record on both safety and privacy.
Even early into their roll-out, self-driving cars have already had their issues, including a fatality and some really funny (and yet strangely sobering) You Tube videos of owners summoning their Teslas via an app, with disastrous results
Our phones and smart devices listen in on us (and sometimes cackle maniacally), and are used to track us, with our data often sold to the highest bidder.
And don’t get me started on the mess that is social media, and how governments and bad actors have learned to manipulate us through it and to both change the course of elections and of Western Democracy itself.
How different the future looks now than it did even ten years ago. The future’s so gray, I don’t need my shades.
To top it all off, there’s climate change, which seems to have missed the memo about starting in earnest around 2030 and instead has arrived a decade early, with floods and fires and famine the likes of which we haven’t seen since biblical times.
In the midst of all this, somehow we have to find a way to keep going. To live, and love, and hope. To keep the faith in a future not filled with blood and pain and fear.
And as writers, to illuminate the way forward.
It falls to sci fi writers, especially, to plot out an alternate course – to pull back the future gray and see what else might lie behind.
I know this. And yet, some days I’m just not up to it. I’m so beaten down by the world that I just want to curl up in bed and pull the covers over my head.
I’ve been in my own gray space these last few moths, in limbo after the completion of my last novel and tossed on the rocky shores of life by politics and personal events.
I’ve spent more than my share of mornings a few more minutes in bed, under the warm and comforting covers, putting off the moment when I’d have to get up to confront the world again.
But sometimes, even there, a little light creeps through. A glimmer of possibility, of what might yet be to come. It’s a precious thing, this bit of hope, and it must be nurtured and grown and shared.
So I search for those bright sparks of hope and writerly inspiration, and get ready to pick up my quill dive back in.
Maybe I can help peel back the gray for all of us, just a little.
To my writer friends – what future tech that’s arriving now scares the bejeesus out of you? And what are you doing to help paint the way to a brighter future?