‘A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction’ (The New Yorker)

“Dystopias follow utopias the way thunder follows lightning. This year, the thunder is roaring. But people are so grumpy, what with the petty tyrants and such, that it’s easy to forget how recently lightning struck. “Whether we measure our progress in terms of wiredness, open-mindedness, or optimism, the country is moving in the right direction, and faster, perhaps, than even we would have believed,” a reporter for Wired wrote in May, 2000. “We are, as a nation, better educated, more tolerant, and more connected because of—not in spite of—the convergence of the internet and public life. Partisanship, religion, geography, race, gender, and other traditional political divisions are giving way to a new standard—wiredness—as an organizing principle.” Nor was the utopianism merely technological, or callow. In January, 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech in New Hampshire, about the American creed:

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can. It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can. . . . Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

That was the lightning, the flash of hope, the promise of perfectibility. The argument of dystopianism is that perfection comes at the cost of freedom. Every new lament about the end of the republic, every column about the collapse of civilization, every new novel of doom: these are its answering thunder. Rumble, thud, rumble, ka-boom, KA-BOOM!”

Link to full article in The New Yorker:

A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction

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