Last night I started watching The Matrix for the umpth time, and was struck by the colours of its future: grey, black, and green–just like the computers of the late eighties (grey steel cases and green screens) and early nineties (black plastic cases and grey screens). The new Star Trek‘s future, of course, is blue and white, like an oughties Apple store. (True cultural zeitgeist or very sophisticated product placement? I don’t know.)
A few years before The Matrix was released I wrote an essay, “Layered Cities.”
Fiction generally embodies that which a culture knows to be true. In the thirties and forties, American writers knew that the world was getting bigger, brighter, and more reasonable. There was new class mobility, the Depression was over, and a world government of rational, impartial scientists would soon be completely in charge. Future cities imagined in these times, then, were utopic visions of science-based meritocracies: well-fed white people bustling across clean-looking pastel-colored sky bridges with their slide rules sticking out of their pockets.
By the eighties, on the other hand, writers knew everything was falling apart. The economy was fueled by junk bonds and the government was going broke; more and more people were out of work; and homelessness was the new epidemic. More recently imagined Cities of the Future are in decline: rain-wet streets are neon-streaked and full of piles of dirty clothes that turn out to be brain-burned refugees from various corporate wars…
This week, I’m writing the first science fiction story I’ve tried in years. It’s not set in the future. It’s not about outer space or computer space, it’s about inner space: perception and emotion. Specifically, it’s about love: what is it, and how do we know it’s real? When we’re in love, our executive decision-making centres becomes subordinate to the hormone tide; we flow through our lives on an intuitive tide, knowing all will be well. It got me wondering if–perhaps in some future novel–I could use falling in love as a metaphor for public and civic trust.
When a country is at war (or at bay, economically), does the body politic and its irrational fears/hopes overwhelm the executive decision-making centre? If that’s the case, should we trust the government?
Eh, but I’m just playing. Here’s my real question for you: what will the next future look like on screen? A Kindle (16 shades of grey)? Twitter (turquoise)? Blogger (orange)? Tell me what you think.