Science! is building a way for us to install pig parts into ourselves. To be healthier.
On the other hand, maybe if human DNA is slowly and deliberately integrated with porcinity, we’d get a little bit f-ing smarter.
I recently binged both the TV and book versions of The Man in the High Castle. Thatsa lotta Nazis.
I started to blog about these particular alternative histories–both the Asian-centric original and the Nazi-centric contemporary. But then I picked up a minor Philip Dick work, published 2 years after TMitHC, The Simulacra, and it was like TMitHC took acid, watched a bunch of Marx Brothers films, and foresaw a future in which Nazi evil takes the form of corporate oligarchy subduing the masses with HGTV and an ornate, comprehensive bureaucracy of citizenship.
As can happen when you pick up a Dick novel.
From the misty distance of zero years, it’s time for us to revisit, once more, the Iraq war era.
Battlestar Galactica: your ending disappointed me. I mean, you were no Lost. But you were pretty much like Lost.
Still, your attempts to treat science fiction like the provocative genre it should be—your realization that stories about the future (or the past) are always about now, and that now is pretty interesting—and your respectable effort to spread the beefcake around (but, come on) have led me to rewatch you like you’re Star Trek, or something.
I finished Maddaddam in a plot-fueled daze. Then I immediately began rereading Octavia Butler’s “Xenogenesis Trilogy,” which is conveniently/frustratingly published in one volume entitled “Lilith’s Brood” with cover art that looks like it’s soft core porn.
The thing is, the trilogy is bona fide SF. Aliens, apocalypse, ethics, science. The “nature of humanity.”
If that publisher thought for half a second about how bullshit that cover is, they’d realize that if they pretended Octavia Butler were a dude, and put some flipping aliens and stars on the cover, and a big blobby spaceship that itself is alive, to more accurately represent the book’s actual content, maybe they’d DOUBLE THEIR CUSTOMERS.
DOUBLE. THE SALES. DOUBLE THEM.
Instead, they made the book look like it’s about a skinny black woman having sex.
Which, technically, happens in the trilogy. But only through a gender-neutral being who mediates between her and another’s nervous system in a mandatory threesome, and no one touches anyone. Etc. Science fiction sex. You know how we do.
Recipe for a Post-Apocalyptic Novel
Apocalyptic Technology: Pick one. Any current ones could wipe us out, given the right combo of corporate, economic, and political forces. Margaret Atwood picked genetic engineering.
Protagonist: Anti-hero, to make his (usually his) salvation of humankind more literary. Atwood made three, so far, across these two books: A boy whose mother’s depression and abandonment gave him a Complex, a young woman who moved from an eco cult into pseudo-elite sex work for totally logical reasons, and an older woman who survived both her parents’ death and the deprivations of a horrifying rapist and torturer (even reviews by Noted Feminists tend not to call this dude a rapist).
Smug Scientific Genius (optional): But how optional is it, really, since the whole premise of the genre is that scientific hubris will do us in? Sometimes (I’m thinking of Butler’s xenogenesis trilogy) this role is played by an alien. In these books, he’s a lonely hacker resolved to engineer humans back to the state of animals, reversing much of what evolution gave us in terms of frontal lobe capabilities etc. Because human emotions are too painful. That sounds like a cliche when I type it, but it didn’t feel like one when I read it.
Impediment to Human Survival: Conflict, right? Something has to happen after the world has ended, because we’re too convinced of our own power as a species to really think that apocalypse is the end. In these books, there’s Blanco, that rapist/torturer/murderer/subhuman, and a few of his co-rapists. There are pigs with human brain tissue. They hold grudges and mourn their dead. There isn’t much food left.
But the biggest impediment to human survival is the potential inability of humans to override decades of programming by the corporate technocracy into creatures of pure consumption.