Last month over at Electrolite, there were some observations about how suddenly the premise of Kim Stanley Robinson’s first novel, The Wild Shore, seemed much more likely than it had previously. From Messr. Nielsen Hayden’s colleague, Beth Meacham:
...I had a big problem with the basic premise—that the United States had been devastated, forced into economic and technological primitivity by a sudden, overwhelming, tactical nuclear attack, and was now interdicted by the rest of the world. It seemed to me to be an unbelievable premise, the kind of thing where you just had to hold your breath and jump in for the sake of the story and the writing. How could we possibly get from here (20 years ago) to there?
This weekend I read a story in the Los Angeles Times, and was overwhelmed with the sudden knowledge that I now knew the answer to my question so long ago.
I had something of a similar reaction when I read Pacific Edge, the utopian third of Robinson’s Orange County books. Don’t get me wrong, it’s on my rather promiscuous list of favorites, with one of the most heart-breakingly funny suckerpunches of a last line ever; along with Red Mars, it helps define the point on my conceptual map to which I want somehow to muddle through, some day—the lighthouse towards which I’m sailing, to borrow Woody’s father’s metaphor; the hypothetical home at the end of my personal road to utopia. —But the mechanism by which Pacific Edge’s utopia came to be was obscured—rather appropriately, perhaps (the underlying hows of it being more important to Robinson’s point than the superficial who-did-whats-to-whom), but still frustratingly; apparently, We the People finally just got fed up one day and told Them the Corporations to stop with the bullshit, already. It all seemed (not unlike Green Mars’s constitutional carnival: realpolitik as science fiction convention) to spring fully grown from the forehead of some Zeus ex machina.
Until this weekend, when I started to see the numbers come in, and was myself suddenly overwhelmed with an unexpected surge of something that’s been in rather short supply, these days. —War may seem inevitable (in a very real sense, of course it is: we’ve been at war with the Iraqis for 12 years running), but it is already providing a focal point for something unprecedented, rich and strange, something altogether larger: an object lesson for more and more people around the world of something we’ve all found too easy to forget of late—how we can get things done together that we can’t get done alone.
So just, you know. Stop with the bullshit, already. We the People are getting testy.
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