Picture a skyline, and it goes on for as long as possible till it’s cut off by the edge of the horizon. Even at that distance you can see great buildings and towers rising up like giants to worship the rising sun. The buildings, the skyline, is not pristine and beautiful. It’s dirty and grimy, and in that sky you can see bridges, little specks of life moving about, cables hanging, things moving. Platforms and odd-looking vehicles. Signs everywhere, a suspended sea of architecture and neon extending for what seems and feels like forever.
The future is not something I view with much hope in terms of progress. When I see the future I imagine in some cases a mere continuation of all the crap and garbage we have to put up with now only on a larger scale. Sci-fi authors, in the 40s and 50s seemed to have some sort of uptopian delusion wherein they pictured the future full of chrome and high-technology complete with self-cleaning houses and flying Cadillacs. My grandfather used to ground me a lot when I lived with him and as a result the only things I could spend time with were old sci-fi and western novels. Believe me, when I tell you he had a lot of them. Apparently he’d buy whatever the public library would be phasing out of their book stock at the little store they had for a huge discount. Most of these books were not classics by any means, don’t get me wrong some well-known works were in my Grandfather’s library. H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Some various works of Issac Asimov. Tons of Louis L’amour westerns, which, from what my grandfather says, is basically the most accurate western fare you can find. The rest was all stuff with corny titles and features such as hilarious cover art depicting some dude with a mullet on mars holding a ray gun with a fawning space-babe on his shoulder.
So you can imagine me, grounded for something stupid, curled up in a ball in the back bedroom reading nothing but old dreams of the future day after day during most of the year. A lot of these books were from the 40s through 80s. Almost nothing current but I made due. When reading these books some were surprisingly good, some were utterly forgettable. The future was a shining place, filled with high technology and adventure. When I was older this stuff could be real. I could leave earth and go into the space fleet, scour new territories, explore the stars. As time went on and I kept reading westerns as well. I began to see romantic parallels between cowboys and space explorers. Rough and tumble types always using thier meager resources and thier wits to save the day and get the girl.
As I grew in awareness of the outside world around the age of fifteen to sixteen the vision of the future that so intrigued me began to wear and stain. Within the outside world I saw a lot of things that wouldn’t allow this future that I had known to become a reality, at least not any time soon. So then when I started reading the more current sci-fi futures it was all mega-corporations and life on the surface. Sometime between the 40s and 60s-70s with thier dreams of flying cars and moon cities there was a shift in point of view from looking up to the stars to looking down the barrel of a gun here on Earth. The future that was seen in the late 70s and early 80s trash sci-fi novels was all about surviving in a post-nuclear, or post-industrial, or post-modern society. It was a world of neon and high tech but no regulation. Much like the westerns that I had grown up reading these heros and villains of these worlds would often be put in situations where all their choices could be bad ones. Where technology and money ruled and things like justice or honor were dead and if you adhered to them you’d probably end up dead too.
I think this is where, those that paint a dark future in dystopic fiction got it wrong. George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Bradbury. Many others, as well. Huxley pictures a world of science and control. It may be the closest, but the way it’s implemented is much too organized for a world of corporate power and scattered decentralized wealth. Too many people would be fighting over resources to allow one group to remain in any sort of control. Orwell pictured a future where the government ruled with an iron fist. A world that, seeing the ineptitude of government and it’s power waning worldwide, seems increasingly unlikely. We avoided a bad future in exchange for an equally shitty one. Bradbury pictured the world being destroyed in nuclear fire. Those in power want to keep their power. Nuclear weapons exist nowadays as a long-term mexican standoff. Just around in case someone draws. If those in power want to remain in power they sure as hell are not going to end the world. These are just the most popular existing visions of the future. They are all great books, don’t get me wrong. 1984 in particular really made me think about a lot of things in my life and the outside world I may never have considered before. I just don’t think it’s likely to pan out that way. Not anymore.
The future and the past were all things I thought about a lot as a child and teenager because I hated my life. I hated school. I hated my family. I was so full of hate and anger that the only thing I could hope to do was either get lost in the past or think about the future and how things may turnaround for me in time. The thing I didn’t realize then was that the nature of society and life never really changes that much. Therefore, I realized that the shining future, was just a dream. It’s not for this generation or the next, or the next, or the next to see. At least I don’t think so. What I see happening is a terrestrial future. The cyberpunk vision seems increasingly more likely. We won’t be exploring the stars, we won’t colonize Mars. We won’t fly-by Europa on our way to Alpha Centauri. I think our future is going to be much darker, but maybe a hell of a lot more exciting then our present prepackaged lives.
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