Kyle W. Abshire
Narratives of the Future: Three Forms of Story Telling
The Future is complex. None of us knows what, when, where, or why the future will take place. The answer to these questions has led to the speculation and excitement of story tellers throughout time. There are three definitive narratives commonly used to tell future-bearing stories. They are known as apocalypse, evolution, and alternative narratives. Although these three narratives have tendencies to cross over at times, they each have distinct differences. The apocalypse narrative tends to run from point A to B; a beginning and an end. Evolution narratives retain a more cyclical pattern, which leaves more room for change and often rebirth. Alternative narratives focus on the possibility of multiple situations, leading to a much more abstract story.
Apocalypse stories are often set up with a beginning and rush along to their end. The beginning of the story usually revolves around a creation of some type and ends with a destruction. The Bible uses this type of narrative to convey its story. The linear fashion in which the Bible runs is a perfect example of an apocalypse narrative. We begin the Bible with Genesis and end with Revelation, while everything in between carries us from one end to the other. “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” (Revelation 1:11). The bible plainly states that God is the Creator and the destructor of time. Leaving little room for interpretations, that might lead people to believe, that time will conclude after the events in the Bible. Many ancient texts use this form of narrative because like Marion Johnson stated in 2016, “This narrative is very commonly employed, as it is usually the easiest to follow.” The simplicity of the narrative lends the story authority. The beginning and the end, Good Versus evil, Open and close.
Genesis is used as the Creation or beginning of the Bible’s time line. Genesis depicts the creation of earth and time. God is imagined as the sole provider for this astronomical achievement and viewed as a caring father that watches over his creation. “1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). The powerful image, depicts God as the only being in existence, as he watches over his handiwork. The power laid upon God in the Bible gives him the ability to be all knowing. God is the only thing that will outlive this world and therefore the future is in his hands. Readers of this type of Narrative are likely to see only God as authority. If God is as all powerful and all knowing, as the Bible states that he is. It is difficult for us to accept the authority of other men over our lives.
Evolution narratives are considerably much more complicated. The movement from beginning to end is not as direct as that of an apocalypse narrative. Many time’s evolution stories rely on dramatic or subtle changes in the story itself, to either advance the story along or bring us back to a similar idea or situation from the beginning. Parable of the Sower begins with a young woman whose father is a preacher. The young woman has decided that she does not believe in the same god as her father and sets out to create her own community centered around her own understanding of what god is. God is Power— / Infinite, / Irresistible, / Inexorable, / Indifferent. / And yet, God is Pliable— / Trickster, / Teacher, / Chaos, / Clay. / God exists to be shaped. God is Change. ( Parable 3. Verse2.1-12) Lauren’s verse, shows us how she views God. She has disagreed with the apocalypse narrative that the Bible teaches and believes that change is a fundamental piece to God. The evolutionary pattern here is expressed in her wanting to escape a religious ideology. However, through her soul searching that led her to denounce her father’s god; she has found her own.
Bears Discover Fire is an evolution narrative due to its reliance on physical evolution. The title implies that bears have crossed an evolutionary threshold just as man once did. “A climate ecologist said that the warm winters (there was no snow last winter in Nashville, and only one flurry in Louisville) had changed the bears’ hibernation cycle, and now they were able to remember things from year to year. Bears may have discovered fire centuries ago, he said, but forgot it” (Bears 21). The implication that bears would be able, to create and control fire gives us a sense that we won’t always be the dominant species on Earth. We are pushed to contemplate what might happen if evolution caused us to drop in the food chain. How would we survive if another species became as smart or smarter than us? Stone Lives deals with evolution similarly to Bears discover fire. However Stone, uses technology to advance evolution. “They emit charged beams of energetic electrons at relativistic speeds. If the scythe of the beam touches you, the kinetic energy imparted blows you apart like a squashed sausage” (Stone 180). Stone Lives takes place in a futuristic world where technology has advanced in a way, that empowers those who can control it. Those who have no access to technology are treated as inferior. The evolution cycle of man has been interrupted and morphed by the advancement of technology. The cyclical nature of the evolution narrative winds us down a pathway that doesn’t have a clear direction. The alternative narrative tends to have an abstract form of storytelling, that can jump around and change direction as the story moves forward.
Alternative narratives give us an entirely different style of storytelling. Alternative narratives are able, to take us back in forth in time and affect our present simultaneously. Mozart in Mirror Shades is a perfect example of how an alternative timeline is used. The main character Rice explains, how his actions in the past won’t affect his present. “It’s this way. History is like a tree, okay? When you go back and mess with the past, another branch of history splits off from the main trunk. Well this world is just one of those branches” (Mozart 227). Alternative narratives often use time travel, to solve an issue of the present. Mozart In Mirror Shades depicts people traveling backwards in time to extract valuable resources. However their interference with the past is only affecting a new version of the future; Not their own present. Instead of traveling into the past, to fix the present, The Time machine Travels into the future. The time traveler goes forward, hundreds of thousands of years into the future, to warn us about what is to come. ”for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made—thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile [accumulated building] of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end.” (Time Machine E2). The time traveler comes back to the present with a word of warning. The future is not great for mankind. The idea that our current trajectory could eventually lead, to the fall of humanity causes alarm in us. We are now inclined to find a way of preventing this dire outlook on our future.
All three narratives of the future have different style of telling us what may come. The apocalypse narrative uses a straight line to depict itself. The story must begin with a creation like Genesis’ creation of the Earth and end like Revelation’s destruction of it. The creation in Genesis only serves to establish a placed to be destroyed in Revelation. Evolution narratives don’t have an apparent beginning and end. They more often exhibit a change so that the story itself can continue in a different way. The Parable of the Sower and Bears Discover Fire don’t end with destruction. Their stories allow for a change in the way life is lived so that a new way of life can come forth. The Parable begins in a small walled in city surrounded by danger. Lauren then introduces a philosophy into the world which allows her and a small group of people to be able, to settle together in peace. Alternative narratives often rely on time travel to solve a present issue. Mozart In Mirror Shades travels to the past to obtain more resources for the present. Along the way the past is destroyed because of the influence from the future. However the time travelers are not worried because the destroyed past will not affect their present. The Time Machine uses time travel to warn us that we might not leading our society to live in the most prosperous fashion. It raises warning that our constant goal of making life easier might eventually harm us. The three future narratives have completely different styles of depicting the future. Which lead us to have different outlooks on what may happen.