A Dozen Brave New Worlds

Gail Williams proposes a theory...

There are as many visions of the future as there are visionaries, but there are several very well known ones. Taken individually these visions are fine and dandy and fun to watch, but what if there’s more to them than that? Well of course there's more to each one then just the world sprung whole and complete, they have their own history, their own future.

Or do they?

What if they don’t have their own histories or their own pasts, what if they are one another’s past and future?  What if it’s all one time line?

Okay, even I know that sounds a bit weird, but stick with me for a mo and I’m going to try a little string theory - the theory is, I can string this supposed time line together.

So we all know what life is like now but let’s start looking for what might happen tomorrow. Well given all the genetic engineering that goes on these days there are more than a couple of possibilities but here’s what I think could happen.

(1) Technological advances of the last century or so have been hailed as the greatest achievement of mankind, and I’m not here to argue either way, but along with this achievement, come a lot of risks that had never been an issue for mankind as a whole before. The proposition is that this technology could actually be our Achilles Heel. Here’s how - an EMP.  I’m sure a lot of you know what an EMP is, but for those who don’t it’s an electro-magnetic pulse. Accepting that the majority of technology relies on an available electricity supply, and even knowing how resilient the power supply system is, and EMP can shut all that down because of one of two factors, the first is that an EMP of sufficient size can fry the connections of unshielded microchips, wipe any data held on magnetic data storage, and an EMP can also cause an over- load in electrical charges and blow the connections of the electrical charge carriers (pylons, wires, whatever).  The effect of which would be full electrical breakdown of the system, millions of homes and businesses out of power, and not in the way that it is when we lose a couple of villages from the Grid these days. An EMP of sufficient magnitude would wipe out the power supply across the whole country and it would take decades to get that back.  In case anyone is wondering, weaponry that does this has been developed on a small scale, but the most likely cause would be something like a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun. Sorry - don’t mean to be a dooms-sayer, just using a few published facts and my imagination, after all as a writer that is what I do.

(2)  If we did lose all the power, that in itself has consequences, no matter how quickly the power comes back. The papers are good at throwing up a lot of nonsense about Frankenstein crops, but let’s go with that, and do the what-if that without knowing it, the splicing of genes from animals to plants creates a new species of sentient plant life that is capable of attacking man in some way. 

(3) Once we’ve figured out how to eradicate the killer plants (let’s hope they didn’t get any Japanese Knotweed in the mix). There’s another less visible killer that can come get us, just like it got Well’s Martians - the germs, bacteria and/or  viruses. The things that wipe us out from the inside. Plagues may spread across the face of the planet.

(4) For those that survive that, there is the question of how are they going to maintain the race going into the future. In the aftermath of a world where overpopulation has been a problem, pensions and medical expenses for the elderly were noted to be crippling economies, what choice do they have but to restrict population growth?  There are lots of way that can be one, but one that’s been purported is the agreement to euthanasia at 35 years old. My personal belief (or hope since I’m already over 35) is that this will be a temporary aberration as eventually people will work out that this doesn’t actually work as they need the kind of knowledge, skill and experience that only comes with age.

(5) If mankind is just going to keep expanding, then it makes sense that we will ultimately look beyond the restrictions of Earth, hell, let’s face it, the world already is.  A moon base has already been proposed.  As has a manned mission to Mars for terraforming purposes.

(6) All that spreading out of humanity into inhospitable places will doubtless lead to an expansion of certain nefarious activities, after all, protection rackets are much easier if all you have to do is push someone into an airlock - and there goes the evidence. Which in turn means that there will be need for a police force to ensure the safety of the population.

(7) Of course, the existence of a police force can lead to the creation of a police state.  And if the population starts to resent this, why not just start drugging them into submission?

(8)  As the human race expands out into the universe, it will be difficult, maybe not the place that a humans with all out frailties should be. So maybe the initial terraforming would be better done by those not human, but machines made to look, act and work like humans but not necessarily requiring a breathable atmosphere to do that work. 

(9) Eventually this will be sorted out and the planets ready for colonising.  It is to be assumed that anything of this nature will fall under the new frontier, trailblazing type of experience, rough and ready is to be expected.

(10) As these worlds develop there may be a break away from the old police state, but there may be a reason for the independent worlds to come together in a amalgamation of some sort so they can work together for trade and security reasons.  A new empire/coalition/whatever would arise.

(11) Of course as empires rise, they also fall.

(12) And more empires of various size, shape and success, will rise and each will fall, and eventually the universe will end, though there’s still a not one view of how, whether in Fire or Ice (odd short poem, so check it out). 

Well there’s my theory, here’s the shows that fall into step with the idea:
  1. Dark Angel [Cameron, James/Eglee, Charles H]
  2. Day of the Triffids [Wyndham, John]
  3. Survivors [Nation, Terry]
  4. Logan’s Run [Johnson/Levine]
  5. Space 1999 [Anderson, Gerry]
  6. Space Precinct [Anderson, Gerry]
  7. Blake’s 7 [Nation, Terry]
  8. Blade Runner [Dick, Phillip K - keep it clean]
  9. Firefly [Whedon, Joss]
  10. Star Trek [Roddenberry, Gene]
  11. Andromeda [Roddenberry, Gene]
  12. Red Dwarf [Grant and Naylor]
You might, or might not, be wondering where this article came from and where it’s going. Well it originated from an argument that I had years ago about two particular writers.  Well to be total honest, it originated in an argument about two programmes, the original series of Star Trek and Blake’s 7.  I’ve specified the original series of Star Trek for one very good reason.  This argument happened in a playground when I was in school after series 3 of  Blake’s 7, the one that ended with the Liberator exploding, and therefore, before ST:TNG had been created. 

Can’t remember who the argument was with or how it started, but the point was which vision was more realistic. What I definitely remember is how the argument ended - and no I did not punch someone in the playground - the bell went and we had to go back to class. The argument never really ended, so why I remember it all these years later, I don’t know. 

I’m fairly sure that my part of the argument was that Blake’s 7 was more likely than the almost utopia-type vision of Star Trek. And all these years later there’s still the question of an unfinished argument, so here’s the end of it.

We were both right.

I would very much love that the near perfect vision of the future presented by Roddenberry is the way we all end up, but I still strongly believe that we’re going to have to go through the painful and unpleasant visions that Nation presented. With hindsight I also see that Wyndham, Anderson, Dick and Whedon, also had a valid view. What’s interesting here is that if you ignore Dark Angel for a second, as this was a relatively late addition to the list, what it tells me is the Americans do Utopia well, but we Brits have got the Distopia down pat. Not sure that’s a great thing, but moralising aside, there are always lessons in defeat. So, whatever the Trekkers or Trekkies may say, I’d argue that we are not a Roddenberry-Nation, but that we’ll go through being Nation to Roddenberry.

Gail lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!

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