Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: the immanent dystopian future

It’s the End of the World as we Know It…

Who loves dystopias? Me, clearly, because I wrote one, but still. A good dystopia story is totally cathartic, the ultimate act of schadenfreude.

Holy crap. Too many big words. To review:

Dystopia: a “negative utopia,” i.e. a supposedly perfect world gone horribly wrooooong.

Schadenfreude: A German word meaning “happiness at the misfortune of others.”

…Anyway, dystopias. I’m sure you were forced to read one or two in school, if you went to school in the US…in any case, here’s a few of my favorites, in no particular order (with Amazon links for your convenience):

Utopia by Sir Thomas More

This is worth a read for sure, even if it does mean putting on your Literature Hat and slogging through some archaic language. A traveler is describing this perfect land of Utopia that he’d visited. I was interested in what parts of the society actually seemed like a good idea (women working) and what sounded like utter crap (people will stop caring about gold is we make our toilets out of gold and don’t use gold for money).

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

This is a rebellious book. It was first published in Russia in 1921, and immediately banned. While it was available in other countries, Russia kept it banned until Glasnost in 1988. I think anything worth strict government quashing for 67 years is worth reading! Really, We is a Classic Dystopia, in the vein of 1984 and Brave New World. The society in We is authoritarianism complete with names-as-numbers and lack of emotion. It wrestles with the question “How do you break out of your own mental prisons?”

Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I admit it: I have never seen the movie. While I intend to, I think I’ve been putting it off because film can never capture the voice of the book. The story is told in first person from Alex’s point of view. For those who aren’t familiar, Alex is an insanely criminal 15-year-old in a dark future England whom the government tries to “fix” with mind control. The entire book is written in dialect, a strange Russian-based language to which you don’t know all the words and have to pick up as you read along. The language removes you a bit from the visceral violence of the plot, and allows you to read with more of a cold, Alex-like mindset. Whether or not you liked the movie, the book is absolutely worth reading.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Yes, you probably had to read it in middle school. Here’s what I appreciate about The Giver: While most dystopias are a conservative or authoritarian society gone wrong, The Giver is a liberal society gone wrong. When I read it again recently, I was a little embarrassed to admit that I really liked a lot of the things in their society…the lack of cars, the open sharing of emotions, the coherent role for young adults… of course, there’s a lot about it that is Horribly Wrong as well. Lois Lowry actually wrote two sequels, Gathering Blue and The Messenger. They were good, but not as genius as the original. I think the ambiguous ending was one of the great things about The Giver, and its sequels make it a little less ambiguous. Nevertheless, they’re interesting enough to read and draw your own conclusions.

Y: The Last Man (series) by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, et al.

In 2002, a mysterious plague wipes out any animal, embryo, and sperm with a Y chromosome. The only survivors of the plague are a man named Yorick and a male capuchin monkey…and, of course, all of the females in the world. Perhaps this series is a little more “post-apocalyptic” than “dystopian,” but in either case, its vision of what the world would look like if all the men died is pretty damn fascinating.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I’m about a third of the way through this so far. I am reading it in small doses, because it’s depressing as hell. I think it’ll actually have a redemptive ending, but good lord. I have to be in a masochistic mood to read it; it’s set in a grim and horrible future America where crime and corruption are so rampant that people live in these little walled enclaves, growing their own food and trying not to get robbed/raped/shot.

In another post, I’ll touch on dystopian film, which is a delicious subject too big to be broached here. Lately Mikeatron and I have been doing double feature movie dates, where each of us rents a video that the other one hasn’t seen. So far I’ve managed to pick out weird and disturbing movies (Cube, eXistenZ), and he’s managed to get heartwarming 90s films (Enemy Mine, The Professional). I don’t know what this says about our respective personalities. Perhaps he is a big softy at heart. Perhaps I am not. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

An exquisite tidbit.

This came out of a blind pass-the-paper exercise I did back in my class with David Wagoner. It’s an exercise a lot like exquisite corpse, except more aimed at prose than poetry.

The structure is to write a male character (pass), a female character (pass), a location (pass), an activity (pass), what he says (pass), what she says (pass), what society says (pass), and the moral of the story.

This was my favorite of the bunch:

Robert Pattinson and Sylvia Plath are at a beachfront resort in Hawaii, holding each other, weeping.
“You’re cheating,” he says.
“That’s right. I’m working on my standup routine.”
We all know this is a foolish idea.
Moral: It’s a huge world.

The Lady Gaga/Captain Hook one was pretty good, too, but instead of posting it I’ll leave it up to your imaginations what those two would do together. Post your ideas. I’m morbidly curious.

I told you.

It begins.


So, we are all hip to the Kindle*. Or if not hip to, at least we are aware of e-book readers of varying brands. And that they are a)pretty cool in concept and b) so far, I hear, mediocre in execution. Turns out Steve Jobs is probably on it. He may or may not have said something about Apple making a compeditor to the Kindle, zomg lolz commence with the frothing. He also said chilling words that haunt my soul:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Damn you, Steve Jobs. While I don’t totally buy into them, I fear the truth behind them. Readers of my blog! Go cuddle a paper book now, I demand it! Keep ahold of your humanity by reading, please! I fear what this world will become when people stop reading books….more than they already have…sigh.

Really, if any company pioneered the Device, I think it would be Apple. Buying books from iTunes leads to buying everything from iTunes leads to iPeople equipped with iDevices that eventually cause the doom of humanity.

Okay, maybe I’m taking it a little far. But does it strike anyone else as a little ironic that the apple, a symbol of original sin, is (possibly) pioneering technology that will (possibly) lead us into the horrible dystopian future??? Eh?

I promise I don’t actually hate technology as much as I pretend to on this blog. I appreciate netbooks, blogging, and my new cell phone which is pretty shiny, even if buying a cellphone is creepy….Seriously. The fact that I have to wait in a virtual queue to buy a thing that’s actually described as a “Device” (as in “Device Only: $49.99”) from someone with a bluetooth headset in is a little off-putting. Although I bought my new cell from a woman, and I honestly think she’s the only woman I’ve seen working at a Verizon store. Like, ever. That’s creepy enough in and of itself.

Crap. I originally started writing this to prove I’m not a turbo Luddite with a fear of all things shiny and digital. I suppose the fact that this post is uploaded to a blog is going to have to prove it well enough.

And thus it is so.

*Actually, apparently I am not yet hip to the Kindle, as although you can download Freedomland as an e-book, it will not yet go on the Kindle. I may actually pay Amazon to make it so.

My Dystopian Future Is Coming To Pass du jour

So, one of my buddies sent me a link that proves we are all going to technological hell in a handbasket. It’s about how kids perceive technology and how quickly that changes…today’s high school students outrank me in terms of texting and myspace, my preschoolers are going to grow up thinking that the Kindle is the same as a book…

Anyway, here’s the article.

I’ll go off muttering to myself in a fit of neo-Luddite ire now, thanks. I mean, not all technology is bad or anything. What with it saving lives and allowing me to write this blog and making insane amounts of cute cats available to me a on a daily basis. I’m just sayin’.

Internet Literature of the Day

Have you ever, in the depths of a bad night/drinking binge/watching “Ten Things I Hate About You” thought, “My god! What if Shakespeare had written the Big Lebowski?”

Never fear, the internet is here for you.

THUSLY: Two Gentlemen of Lebowski

Really, if you ever want to crush your delusions of originality, just Google your brilliant idea. Someone’s done it, and has already uploaded it to youtube or has a nice blog about it. Not that I have the urge to Bardify Coen brothers movies or anything, but…It’s a little absurd that there are already people who’ve been making a symphony based on the tones assigned to numerical values in pi or writing up the Star Pants game.

And thus it is so.

My Dystopian Future Is Coming To Pass Of The Day

The estimable Chris Bachelder once said, “Five years. I just want five years before my dystopian future comes true!” He was referring to his book, Bear V Shark, and some TV series on at the time where animated bears fought animated sharks. (And if you Google “Bear V Shark” you can see that the debate rages on. Thanks, internet.)

Pah! I think. I am writing science fictiony things that will take ages before they come to pass!

But then I read stuff like this…

I know it’s speculative, but…the Device is coming. Mark my words. 🙂

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