It’s a good time for speculative fiction in America. We’ve come a long way since the trashy dime novels and pulp magazines of the early 20th century, when sci-fi was the sole province of nerdy adolescent boys, and the guilty pleasure of the men they would become.
It is still the province of nerdy adolescent boys, but there is less guilt attached to the pleasure of adult fans in a world where Fahrenheit 451 is taught as literature in school, where Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, where dragons and space ships alike take their place on the big screen or the bookstore windows day in and day out.
The “genres,” as we like to call the trifecta of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, Continue reading
(Originally Published in the November 2014 issue of the Princeton Tory)
The struggle against a totalitarian government is unsurprisingly a frequent theme in dystopian literature. Almost by definition the genre is set in a futuristic society characterized by extreme oppression and despondence. Malevolent autocrats at the helms of totalitarian governments have, throughout our history, been responsible for innumerable travesties. This young century alone has witnessed the evil of Bashar al-Assad, Omar Bashir, and Saddam Hussein. Probing only slightly deeper into our collective memory, we are acquainted with the reigns of Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, Hideki Tojo, Francisco Franco, and (of course) Adolf Hitler. The last hundred years have undeniably been bloody, and it is therefore only natural that our perception of dystopia largely revolves around the evils of the totalitarian regime.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
The blue-eyed boy follows the stainless-steel road into the concrete jungle, and dust billows up behind his bare feet as if the steel is fine sand.
Above, silicon panels extend from concrete columns like a canopy of broad tropical leaves, absorbing sunlight to power this ecosystem, and dappling the forest floor with shadow.
Men who are also cats prowl the tangled floral architecture on either side of the road, peering with slitted pupils through cement structures.
“Are you my mother?”
The dragon looked down at the little man, its hide encased in pitifully thin strips of steel. It held a torch aloft, the weak flame flickering uncertainly with every puff of cold air that whispered through the cavern. The light reflected off the plate armor, making it almost beautiful. But this armor was plain and dull; it had no fine tracery, no designs worked upon it in emerald and ruby, nothing of gold at all. Even the steel was not finely wrought – the dragon could smell the flaky tang of rust and weakness mingled in with the man’s scent of sweat and fear. The creature moved forward uncertainly, its weak eyes unable to see beyond the pale glow cast by its torch. Never once did it look up to the raised shelf where the dragon lay watching it, half crouched and perfectly still. Even if the wretched thing had troubled to look, it would most likely would have seen nothing, and men’s ears and noses were even feebler than their eyes. Men were such strange things – seemingly frail and yet their clever hands and cunning minds gave them great power to work mischief. No other race in all of existence possessed such a gift for cruelty and murder. They took indecent pleasure in killing anything that crossed their paths and in taking what was not theirs. Continue reading
Once upon a time, hundreds of years ago, there was a city named Holum in the northern forests. The forest surrounding Holum was known to be enchanted by fairies and cursed by a Witch, and so in fear of the Witch, very few ventured through the forest to reach Holum, and even fewer were able to complete the journey. Holum was so isolated that her people did not speak English, and their language was said to be influenced by the sound of a fairy’s song. Continue reading