Almost all infants live to adulthood. Women own property on an equal footing with men. All children go to school. We have time to be outraged that chickens are ill-treated. Not only do we strive towards utopia over generations, our lives are filled with acts of everyday utopianism. We help strangers with luggage, offer seats to disabled people, cook meals for neighbours in crisis.
We are warned that when we work together, we become a monolithic machine of repression; and that, if we were given true liberty, we would instantly become a primitive, cannibalistic mob. The rule of the cynics and nihilists has led us to a dangerous place.
Democracy around the world is being eroded by brutish demagogues. Inequality is on the rise, and even basic provisions for the poor are being dismantled.
Dark Mirrors: Dystopian Tales by John Walters
It is time to reject this dangerous falsehood. The rest of the stories are excellent as well, especially the titular story about the drudgery of working in a caveman exhibit in a dystopian theme park. The first Black Mirror episode to win an Emmy is also the only episode to portray a positive technological future. The episode follows a shy young woman named Yorkie who falls in love with party girl Kelly, following her from one dance club to the next in different decades.
Soon we realize that they aren't part of our reality, but a digital world where the living can interact with the deceased. It's a sweet, melancholic episode that gives fans a little breathing room between the sci-fi horrors. While the characters in "San Junipero" travel freely through digital decades, Clare Abshire is forced to live a sequential existence while her husband, Harry, is thrown through time randomly.
Yet their passion for each other survives the tangled timelines.
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Like "San Junipero," Niffenegger weaves a memorable and unconventional love story out of a science fiction idea. It takes our world as we live in it, but introduces one new piece of technology and sees how that one change might affect how we live, work, and love. In this case, the technology is the "grain," an implant that records everything a person sees, allowing them to replay their memories in perfect detail.
This year's Nobel prize winner, Kazuo Ishiguro, wrote one of the most moving science fiction novels of recent decades in Never Let Me Go. Like "The Entire History of You," Ishiguro's world is our banal reality with one science fiction element thrown in Exploring the memories of a "carer," Kathy, as she reflects back on the friendships at a mysterious boarding school in the British countryside, the novel's terrible conceit slowly dawns on the reader. Modern dating lives are already ruled by apps like Tinder and OkCupid, but in "Hang the DJ" the dating apps have become tyrants.
Here, singles are told exactly how long their date can last. Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole have great chemistry as two people getting along swimmingly on their first date… until the system tells them they only have twelve hours to be together. Alissa Nutting's novel explores the intersection of love and technology in a novel about a woman fleeing her controlling tech bro husband. Sex dolls and dolphin attacks are also involved.
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It's both a weird and wacky thriller and a clever meditation on relationships and techno-surveillance in the digital age. Although it's hard to forget Black Mirror 's opening pig-fucking episode—and lord knows we've tried—it was the second episode, "Fifteen Million Merits," where the show really hit its stride.
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The people of Earth are losing a war with aliens that they themselves provoked. Every able-bodied person is being called up to fight, even prisoners. A battle-hardened general enters a prison to recruit a woman who refuses to fight, but who may have a most unusual special ability that can turn the tide of the war. These and other tales offer terrifying glimpses of Earth's future gone wrong. From the author's afterword: "When I postulate dark futures it is not to get you to despair. When I hold up dark mirrors before your eyes it is not so that you will see the worst in yourself and do yourself in.
Far from it. Some of our greatest illuminations come from deep dark prose. Dark literature is not meant to overwhelm us. It is meant to purge us, to provide catharsis. It is a cleansing and purifying process. We must be aware of the evil within before we can clean it out.
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