I’ve been thinking a bit lately about, what fundamentally is “dystopian,” and one possible idea I’ve landed on is that it has to do with the accumulation of errors within a society. Wrongs that are not righted. Mistakes never corrected. And that large scale anti-phenomenon just building and building, cascading on to the next set of mistakes and shortcomings and little gaps and big imperfections. And that lack, wanting, wrongness, getting passed along, hand to hand, mouth to ear, heart to heart.
Dystopia is distinct from post-apocalypse as a genre, because the system might be permanently broken, but it never ends. It cannot end. It is what is, and whatever will be. There is no hope of change, only surrender, or brief flashes of resistance leading never to overthrow, never to real change. The wheel grinds on and on and on.
It’s interesting seeing conversations develop around my AI lore books, on Newsweek, Reddit, and elsewhere. There seems to be a general malaise about the approach I’m taking, which I can empathize with. But in fact for me, the approach itself IS a central component of the greater story I feel I’m telling, and a participant in, LARPing.
Dystopia is the product, I guess you could say here.
As a writer and artist first and foremost, I can certainly feel myself falling into the vast abyss and chasm and chaos of technology and of society mediated through technology. Only seeing each other through these small strange mirrors, addicted to the sounds of notifications. Dystopia resonates with us because we’re already living in a time which shares all its characteristics, no matter what side of the spectrum you sit politically.
I’ve always liked this quote from Philip K. Dick, from VALIS, that “the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum.” I don’t consider my work divinely inspired, but all true art is a striving towards a something. I do see my work as giving a place within something that’s considered by many to be a “trash stratum” of art, things that tread the line between the uncanny valley and the reality-fluid, things where AIs were incorporated intentionally in a dystopian way to comment about the reality of our current and our coming dystopia. (Probably the best more conventional entry point into that part of my fictional multiverse would be Conspiratopia., btw)
It’s this that I’m seeing left out in the reactions to the Newsweek piece. But it’s the story only I can tell, I suppose…