How often has it been remarked that writers of Science Fiction envisage the science future without the science facts at their fingertips.
But should we marvel? For a thing to become real, surely we must first be able to imagine it even if that thing is destruction. Who can imagine things outside the now better than writers and artists.
It was with an uncomfortable sensation that I read about the UNs latest report on climate damage and what that may hold for the human race. James Lovelock, who rocked our world with his Gaia principle (earth as self regulating organism) has been a climate change guru for five decades (though showing his age in supporting fracking - see my cartoon 28th January by clicking on the orange Amanda Baker in the right hand column).
The UN’s depressing conclusions are stark. However, Lovelock’s notion of humans huddling together, ‘termite-like’ in scientifically modified cities, as real earth world becomes uninhabitable, so closely resembles the end-of-days vision in my short story The Remainder as to give the sensation of personal nightmare brought to life.
The Remainder was first penned in 2000. Shelved and then redrafted ahead of publication last year, the story focuses on the character of Laura. She is an emotional ‘throw back’ living in a technologically controlled, multi-occupation, environmentally ‘safe’ building who regrets her inability to remember a real garden. Laura also has an irrational fear of living in an outlying single unit and is guiltily glad that,
“There is only reliable energy for the large multi-occ units now.”
The human population has fallen to unsustainable levels so that while lives are artificially extended by scientific advance, Nature won’t play ball; there are almost no births of viable infants and every death is globally significant.
As Laura awaits the same critical news as everyone else, she tunes in to reports of the death of Kay Adams. She considers how her world has been reduced to the walls of a safe cell by global environmental devastation.
Here is a short excerpt....
(entry - 223)
I hoped the false lavender would trigger a sensory memory of the real thing but it’s too long ago. The small pouch containing the precious flower-remains had been made of cotton, like Kay Adams’ dress. The material disintegrated even though I tried not to handle it. During the great plagues of 2103 when a cloying, fetid stench fouled the air for months, I forced my precious lavender pouch to my nose even though there was only the faintest trace of its aroma. I tried breathing through it, ignoring the muggy brown air which was like my own fear. In those days the air was always adulterated with some chemical or other. Every year the food developers created new seeds to keep ahead of the mutated crop diseases. I vaguely remember a seven-year cycle. But eventually the developers found they were only two seasons away from earth zero. That was when the super-plagues arrived. Also the nightmares that I still have. Millions were already weakened from unwholesome synthetic nutrition. It was in 2103 that we took our biggest hit. Food supplements could not prevent starvation, even in the Priority Nations. The Sub Nations ceased. I can hardly visualise a Sub Nation now. They are a shameful footnote; areas bombed for their oils and natural resources by coalitions controlling the peace weapons. Even in grandmother’s time it was accepted that there was little practical purpose in shoring up the fragile populations of countries that, in the pre-plague years, failed to hand over resources to the Democratic Council of Nations. We were taught at school that areas of the globe historically suffered from famine and various economic and geographical crises. There was an unspoken understanding that it was the natural order of things that these branches of the human tree be allowed to whither for the benefit of The Remainder. Lots of things are unspoken now. These are the things that hurt my head. The ‘natural order of things’ isn’t much used as an argument the rest of the time.
Un-tagged genetic engineering led to plant and human infertility. Allied with the fashion prevalent in the late 2000s of delaying parenthood until fifty plus, The Remainder plummeted to unsustainable levels.
For no reason, I’ve been thinking of Rory. Do I miss him or am I bored? How can you know? We met through cycling. Having a common interest is important but when we were alone, things became odd. I wanted him here but his presence irritated me. Maybe there was just no point to it. We had sex, obviously, but it became an absurd activity to me. Neither of us had the means to reproduce and if one wants body-pleasure, there are so many other less messy ways... In the end it was sensible Rory who pointed out that we’d only achieved seventy percent match test. It was a kind tactful way of ending things. I don’t know why I thought of him.
The Remainder is published in
(New Stories from North East Writers)Iron Press 2013