When we go back to stuff I wrote in the past, moving forward, I think we’ll call it “From the Vault.” That’s the sort of thing we’ll do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, on those Tuesdays and Thursdays we actually do something.
This is a fragment — an incomplete chapter one of a book never written, dating back to the early 90′s. As with pretty much every science fiction writer who was once twenty, this was the beginning of my dystopia novel. Back in the days when I figured I was going to graduate school as a matter of course, I had seriously considered Utopia and Dystopia as a concentration and field of study. I was considering that alongside 19th and 20th Century American Poetry, of course. It never entered my head to go for a Ph.D. in the Modern Superhero Story, which is a pity since that’s what I’d clearly be able to nail.
To that end, I started writing my dystopia. I called it America the Beautiful, because I was very, very earnest about it. This was going to be a call to arms — a warning for the ages that would rank with Brave New World and 1984.
You know. Just like all the other dystopias out there.
Well, I never got out of the first chapter. But rereading the first chapter I’m a little amazed — as unsubtle as the title was, the opening, the establishment of tone and character… it’s better than I expected when I went back to reread this. I’m actually moderately interested in what Thomas’s story would turn out to be.
Not that we’ll ever find out. At least, if I ever pick this up, it’ll be significantly different than whatever I intended fifteen years ago.
There is one thing I like in this, as well. To me, a good dystopia — I mean, a really good and scary one — had to be compelling. You had to get the sense that the people living in that society were perfectly content to live in that society. I didn’t believe 1984 would ever happen for the sheer fact that if the entire world was uncomfortable and unhappy, someone would do something about it in a power bid. Brave New World was far more likely, because as scary as that would was, you could believe the people living in it enjoyed themselves. And when people were happy, they weren’t rebelling against the social order.
Anyhow. Here it is. I hope you like it.