The Future Duo: The Links Between the Two Narratives
At the start of this course, I was introduced to the two narratives of Literature concerning the Future: Evolution and Creation/Apocalyptic. Both narratives, in different forms and fashions, suffuse a great deal of the literature we have so far studied in this class. Both narratives overhang and directly motivate the storylines of this genre. For Creation/Apocalyptic, we are given a definite beginning and a foreseeable ending. For Evolution, we are also given a somewhat unspecific beginning (which, is at times, shrouded by speculation) and the Apocalypse is supplemented by a continuous chain of evolutionary events that have either furthered man’s progress (or the reverse) in terms of technology, government, biology, etc. Both narratives, interestingly, coincide on a single point: they both promote an anxiety toward what lies ahead. This point is the driving force of both narratives, as it serves as the vector through which the readers can explore the possibilities, both optimistic and frightening, that lie ahead.
For the Creation/Apocalyptic, we were first introduced to this narrative in the story of Genesis from the Bible, along with its Apocalyptic counterpart, Revelation. As Genesis begins with the infamous “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV), we are immediately given a framework from which the Creation narrative grew. God has created the universe, and thus begun a cycle, for as implied with every beginning, there must also be an end. That end comes in Revelation, where God unleashes his judgment upon the earth and its inhabitants. And this narrative is followed closely in Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. At the beginning of this novel, as was pointed out in class, Lauren, the protagonist, begins her journey in a walled community, seemingly safe from the dangers of the world that lie outside the barriers. This is much like the Garden of Eden, for Eden was a haven: a sanctuary that preserved innocence and kept its inhabitants safe, much like that of Lauren’s town. But, as the serpent crept into the Garden, danger and destruction finally violated Lauren’s home. And, so the Creation, with its initial promises of Edenic peace, came crashing down in a Revelation-style hail of fire. Throughout the first half of the book, Lauren constantly voices her concern regarding this eventual destruction of her home. “It’s getting worse, Dad.” she says on page 66. The anxiety for the future and the terrors it might bring resonate here in these few words, as they do throughout the whole of the Creation/Apocalyptic narrative.
A similar feeling emanates from the Evolution narrative. “Stone Lives” by Paul Di Filippo represents this well. The titular character, known only as Stone, lives in world that has evolved (or devolved, depending on you look at it) into a world run by corporations who have divided the known world into FEZs: Free Enterprise Zones. Man has also advanced further in technology. Stone, for instance, begins as a blind man; by the middle of the story, Citrine Technologies grants him a pair of fully functional, artificial eye replacements with capabilities that our own eyes can never hope to replicate. But do these advancements truly represent an overall positive progression for the human race? That seems to be the question. In his essay, Timothy Morrow notices this tendency in the Evolution Narrative: “Many Future Narratives actually have the outer shallower perception of progress, but when truly analyzed, it could be argued that there is the underlining theme of decline.” Decline underscores this world without any question; and it seems contradictory. For so much time to have elapsed where humans can replace entire body parts and organs with more-improved substitutes, one would think they would have advanced in the area of humanitarian treatment as well. Zach Thomas notes this when speaking of human attitude toward change: “Humans accept change as progress or decline.” No matter the advancement, humanity’s flaws still warp our future’s promises and turn them into utter nightmares. As Stone profoundly summarizes of the world around him: “Beautiful, gaudy, exciting at times—but basically unfair” (196). The world has evolved in some respects, but, to the core, is as unfair as it is now.
Both the Evolution and Creation/Apocalypse Narratives touch on similar themes. Both have a starting point and slowly progress with trial and time, and eventually reach a transforming climax. For Creation, this is the Apocalypse. As outlined in the Bible, Creation started off good, then worsened as time went along, and at last reaches the end of its rope with the Apocalypse. For Evolution, things only have a tendency to get worse (or stay the same) even as they progress. Both outcomes succeed in evoking questions regarding the end of all. For Creation, will there be an Apocalypse? For Evolution, will things ever truly progress? The supposed answers seem to be as numerous as the stars; nonetheless, both questions represent anxieties toward the future and allow for the exploration of such fears. And these fears, which permeate Literature of the Future in much the same way gravity does so for reality, motivate the genre entirely.