Lazy futures

I wonder, how much does the same critique apply to Lazy Utopias and—more crucially for many religious folk—Lazy Apocalypses?

Why is the dystopian future always literally dark? Why is it always raining or overcast? Why is the architecture always a mix of hyper-modernism, brutalism and squatter slum? Why is the politics always so transparently totalitarian, so fascist-plus-rebels? Why is it so retro and abstract?

Why doesn’t the dystopian vision ever include sunshine and children playing in its ruins? Why does it not include the constant, untiring efforts of most people to do what they can with what they have to improve their situations? Why are most people in the dystopian future always powerless to change anything? I could go on, but you get the point.

The biggest problem with dystopian fiction is not its pessimism. I do think there’s a serious issue about who’s interests are best served by making people fear the future, but I think the biggest problem with most dystopian fiction is its laziness and derivative quality. Lazy futures act like visionary static, crackling and dirtying the signal-to-noise ratio, making it harder not only for truly insightful futures to be found, but corrupting the ability of normal people to see why those visions are worth understanding.


from “Lazy Dystopias,” by Alex Steffen, Worldchanging, 29 December 2008

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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