Change and Choice
Hearing for the first time the sub-genre of futuristic literature, I thought of a sci-fi story where high-tech alien drones attack humanoids who take over their world. As the course progresses, I have become familiar with the sub-genre, and see that although that is an example, there are many ways to depict the future in literature. Some types of futuristic works of literature are millennial, evolution and alternative futures. In A Gift to the Dead and a Warning to the Living, Tom Britt explains that futuristic writers use events of the present to create their stories. Although I do agree that the present is a factor in inspiring literature, I feel that the past is also a factor. Science fiction writers bring a deeper meaning to the story by connecting their past and present experiences to their imaginations. They choose their future in the story. Like most literature, themes can intertwine beautifully. Future literature’s themes of millennial, evolution and alternative futures are not mutually exclusive. In the course texts, we have seen that all these themes intertwine beautifully.
Reflecting, the narrative I was most familiar with was the millennial or creation/apocalypse theme. Most of us in American society are familiar with stories from the Bible, specifically the books of Genesis and Revelation. In these books, “God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV Gen 1:1), and then, God reveals an apocalyptic prophecy, in which he says, “I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (NIV Rev 22:12-13). The wicked will receive a wicked reward and the faithful a faithful one. The bible evidently shows a beginning and end, which is symbolic of the millennial narrative.
In Parable, the creation narrative is more like an origin story. Lauren, the protagonist, creates her own religion (Earthseed) and becomes the saviour/prophet to people in the world they live in. The apocalypse narrative is also prevalent. Lauren’s world is an environmental apocalypse. Lauren believes that her religion is the only way of surviving. I believe that Lauren's religion is based on what she has experienced. Her preacher/ father and her avid knowledge of survival books have created Earthseed. I feel that her religion is an evolution of Christianity. In Parable, we can see the millennial narrative intertwined with the evolution narrative.
Evolution is defined in many ways. The theory of evolution is what most people link it to nowadays. In Parable, Lauren goes through an evolution in the way that she depicts God. “All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth Is Change. God is change” (79). She believes that God is what we create it to be and that God is moldable and can evolve into what we want God to be. Because she is constantly evolving, so is her depiction of God. In the essay titled, The Three Narratives: Hand in Hand, Nikki Jones writes that Lauren “is always growing, evolving, and adapting to the steady changes that happen in her life.” The Judeo-Christianity, God has created our future and although we have free will, God’s plan for us has already been set in stone.
In Bears Discover Fire, we see that evolution has taken a more scientific meaning. Climate change, diet and lack of hibernation have caused the bears to evolve to discover fire. The mother even says, “What’ll they think of next!” (20). She believes that they may evolve to do other things. As the story progresses, we see that Mother, because of her age, is the bridge between the bears and humans. The bears do not seem to be the only ones that have evolved. Bobby describes the scene after they wake up to find out Mother passed away while sitting by the fire. “The troopers stayed behind and scattered the bears’ fire ashes and flung their firewood away into bushes. It seemed a petty thing to do. They were like bears themselves, each one solitary in his own uniform” (28). Bobby uses the bear as a way to call the troopers savage. Humans seemed to have evolved into solitary-like creatures. They do not connect as they may have back when Mother was younger. In this story, we see evolution as both progress and a decline.
In Time Machine, we can also see how the human race has devolved. We read about the future of the human race. The time-traveller has determined that time is the fourth dimension and decides to travel far into the future. He discovers that “Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals” (5.33): the leisure class (Eloi) and the working-class (Morlocks). The Eloi have evolved to become dumb, lazy and pretty creatures, and the Morlocks smart, nocturnal and ape-like creatures. Although the time-traveller goes hundreds of thousands of years into the future, he returns and tells his friends of his adventure. In the end, we find that the time-traveller decides to travel again, “and, as everybody knows now, he has never returned” (12.33). I see this part of the story as a hint of the alternative future narrative. If there were no time machine, his future would have been different. His final journey would have never happened and he would have possibly invented other things. Since he is gone, his future and the future of the others around him have been altered.
Unlike millennial being linear in time, and evolution being cyclical in time, alternative futures is branch like. As I became more familiar with the narrative of alternative futures, I see that time-travel is common, but it is not limited to that. In Better Be Ready ‘Bout Half Past Eight, we can see that both the evolution and alternative future narrative intertwined. Reading this text in 2019 compared to when it was published in 1993, the views of the readers can be different. In 1993, the thought of having a shower for someone that had gender reassignment surgery was considered taboo. If someone were to have read this story then, they would have considered this an impossible alternative future. In 2019, I could see myself going to a gender reassignment shower. Although society has a long way to go with inclusivity, times have changed dramatically in two decades.
Both narratives merge within the story through both Byron’s change from being close-minded to the acceptance of Zoe’s transition, as well as Zach’s physical transition to becoming Zoe. In the beginning, best friends Byron and Zach are working in a science lab, when Zach opens up to Byron about his gender reassignment surgery. Byron, in shock, shuts down and becomes uncomfortable around Zach. Throughout the story, Byron battles with the fact that femininity and masculinity are in both men and women. Eventually, by talking to his wife, a therapist and with his deceased mother, he finds that he himself has feminine characteristics and that his profession is what has given Zach the opportunity to transition. “Byron, it’s wonderful what science has done for your friend…This modern world! You should embrace change, son” (37). Byron evolves into a more accepting friend and Zach evolves into Zoe. Byron and Zoe, as well as everyone near them, have now become part of an alternative future. If Zach never transitioned to becoming Zoe, Byron may not have ever been accepting to the transgender community. He also may have raised his boy to the old-fashioned values he had.
The connection of each future narrative to the other is prominent in science fiction literature. Millennial, evolution and alternative future narratives have diverged in the literature of the future. In Parable, we saw that Lauren’s key to survival in her apocalyptic world was Earthseed, an evolved religion from Christianity that believed that God is changed. In Time Machine we see that the time traveller has seen the evolution of the human race become two separate races and that in the end, his disappearance from his own time has altered his future and the others in his life. In Better Be Ready, we find evolution in the advancements of science, and the changed views of Byron toward Zoe, and the alternative future Zoe has created for her and everyone around her. If we dig deeper into future literature, we find deeper meaning. In the end, we are changing our own futures by reading ideas that we may have never thought of before.