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Contemporary fiction saying the unsayable.

(16 Posts)
Etino Wed 20-Jun-18 23:21:42

This isn’t going to be a well reasoned argument because I’m swayey tired, but I’ve just realised that I’ve heard/ watched several things over the last few weeks which are directly mirroring current issues. I don’t know whether I’m more aware or if we really are going through such a shift in Women’s rights and agency and our voices particularly being silenced, and that fiction is going to be key in getting our stories out there.
*Handmaids Tale*- a squiliion issues, from reproductive rights, Madonna /Whore trope, the patriarchy in general, fear of women’s sexuality, and most chillingly wrt to recent events in the US, removal of children.
Westworld objectification, agency, Freedom.
Afternoon play on radio 4 on Monday grin a near future world where the masses are restricted to a vocabulary of 500 words so they don’t rise up- if you can’t name oppression you can’t revolt against it, made me thinking of dead naming and trans vocabulary.
The fact that popular culture is so ...dystopian makes me wonder whether as a culture we’re struggling with reality and reaching to fiction to process it. Does that make sense?

Thesearepearls Wed 20-Jun-18 23:27:17

The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985

I'm glad you're feeling the vibe now though

SquishySquirmy Wed 20-Jun-18 23:30:23

Good dystopian fiction will always feel spookily relevant at the time it is written (and often for a while afterwards) because it is based on current trends and anxieties - both the conscious and subconscious ones. The themes are never plucked out of thin air.

heresyandwitchcraft Wed 20-Jun-18 23:30:47

It's a really interesting hypothesis!
I wonder if there may also an element of wanting to tell stories and express cultural anxieties without alienating the audience.
I remember reading that Rod Serling, who created the Twilight Zone really wanted to touch on contentious topics like racism and the Cold War, but decided that it was better to go down a sci-fi route so that he wouldn't be as much at risk of censorship or an immediately hostile audience (if the political angle was too obvious). I think fictional universes allow for more understanding and perspective sometimes.

Etino Wed 20-Jun-18 23:37:09

@Thesearepearls HMT was indeed published long ago, but interesting that it’s being televised now, reaching a popular audience and presenting Gilead to a world which is more like it now than the world was when it was written.
Yes @heresyandwitchcraft and @SquishySquirmy a bit like all the nuclear winter fiction during the Cold War.

Imchlibob Wed 20-Jun-18 23:55:08

Afternoon play on radio 4 on Monday grin a near future world where the masses are restricted to a vocabulary of 500 words so they don’t rise up - just done a quick search for this but couldn't find it - do you have a link?

Etino Thu 21-Jun-18 00:18:50

Dangerous Visions and it was 1500 words 😳

whathaveiforgottentoday Thu 21-Jun-18 00:24:33

I'm sure i read an article that said there was an increase in disaster movies in the run up to year 2000. Something about it playing out our unconscious fears about the impending doom (millenium bug/end of the world etc)

Ereshkigal Thu 21-Jun-18 00:37:20

I'm sure i read an article that said there was an increase in disaster movies in the run up to year 2000. Something about it playing out our unconscious fears about the impending doom (millenium bug/end of the world etc)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HyperNormalisation

See the chapter "A Cautionary Tale".

Battleax Thu 21-Jun-18 02:04:23

The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985

I'm glad you're feeling the vibe now though

The second series of the television adaptation that everyone is currently watching is new material, though. So that’s interesting to follow, to see the blend of influences.

Materialist Thu 21-Jun-18 02:26:21

It all has to be presented in some other world, though, or possible future -- never in the present, never in a realist mode.

ALittleBitofVitriol Thu 21-Jun-18 04:07:39

The fact that popular culture is so ...dystopian makes me wonder whether as a culture we’re struggling with reality and reaching to fiction to process it. Does that make sense

Yes it certainly does!

People have always used creative ways to challenge entrenched powers and ideas. Used to be they'd write a dialogue between both 'sides' so they couldn't technically be accused of promoting the 'wrong' one. Eg See: Galileo.
They also discuss taboo and scary subjects through more metaphorical understandings and tropes - fairy tales for example. Cultural commentary and satire has always been a thing, Shakespeare, Erasmus...

Dystopia is, as I understand it, fairly modern though, 19th century at the earliest. Wells was publishing dystopia in the 1890s and 1984 was published in 1949. Something about enlightenment thinking, industrial revolution and ww1 on the horizon?

mancheeze Thu 21-Jun-18 04:44:15

Altered Carbon is a great series

Which asks about consciousness and memories. Of course the story features sexually violent men who murder prostituted women over and over again because if their consciousness has been backed up onto a chip implanted in the neck, they survive.

It's total separation of body/mind.

One prostituted woman was killed and her consciousness was downloaded into an AI where she learned how to manipulate the overall system. She went back and killed some sexually violent johns.

There were entire establishments made so that men could kill the 'sleeves' of the prostituted women.

dianebrewster Thu 21-Jun-18 08:12:51

I saw a quote from Margaret Atwood with8n the last day or so - after someone pointed out the contemporary nature of much of HMT - she said everything she put in it had already happened somewhere to someone. She used real events.

LangCleg Thu 21-Jun-18 08:19:07

Of course the story features sexually violent men who murder prostituted women over and over again because if their consciousness has been backed up onto a chip implanted in the neck, they survive.

This particular thing keeps striking me. And the TV show depicts the Meth who buys the prostitutes a new "sleeve" (body) after he's strangled them to death, seeing himself as virtuous because he buys them a NICE one.

Think on, sex pozzie people, think on.

Etino Thu 21-Jun-18 08:25:35

I don’t know Altered Carbon, but the prostitution theme is very similar to the Thandie Newton plot in Westworld- prostitute who’s not really real, but a sleeve/ avatar (I’m not really following it!) gains consciousness seeks vengeance, tries to access the real world and find her daughter.

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