“But What if I’m Wrong?”: Rethinking Speculative Fiction

What if eyes are eyes that wonder why this was said or that was done, which is both refreshing and somewhat unnerving.  Also, I realize that I curse a lot, even in a fictional context.  What if eyes are of course native to the genre of speculative fiction (not in precisely the way I describe above, but I think you know where I am going).  I think they are what makes the genre so attractive to expansive thinkers, to forward lookers, and those who are habitually dissatisfied with the now–I believe I may be all three.

But I think, through the vision of what if eyes, there’s a good bit of smugness inherent to the genre of speculative fiction. It just happens to be well-obscured by skillful practitioners of the craft.  Some of my favorite examples of the genre (insert usual suspects here) aren’t the products of random speculation, but of great minds making arguments.  In their cautionary tenor, the exploits of Offred and Crake, Anderton and Decker,  Montag and Genly Ai, are all fantastic, luridly-detailed, impeccably-nuanced, “I told you sos.”  For everything else that these stories are (and this obviously includes a LOT), they are examples of brilliant thinkers crafting spaces where they can be unassailably right about the world. And oh how right they are!  I have no reservations about admitting that this is for me one of the biggest draws of writing in this genre.

But, I am unfortunately not gifted with the skill of an Atwood, a Dick, a Bradbury or Le Guin, and I am afraid my smugness will no doubt be smeared across the digital pages of these little ebooks I plan to put out there. I am, however, making an attempt to mitigate this inevitability by keeping one question in the front of my mind.

What if I am wrong?

In Independence Cycle and WITHOUT LIGHT, I tackle a number of the ideas, discourses, institutions and movements that I have made the center of my personal and professional life–new urbanism, environmental sustainability, the corrections system, social stratification, and (most importantly) food justice.  I have strong (understatement) opinions on all of these topics, impassioned ideas about the future consequences of certain types of change or failures to change.  But I am asking as often as I can tolerate, “what if I am wrong?” What if organic farming has disastrous consequences? What if new urbanism leads to hyper-regionalism and isolation? What if environmental protectionism leads to profound alienation–pristine wild lands no one is willing to touch?

Though I have not given up entirely on being right (where would be the fun in that?), I am having a lot of fun exploring being wrong. Crossed fingers, I hope that my current and future readers have some fun with it too.