From Mav: It’s 2020, and the world is on fire. We all know how bad things have been. Some of the things are obvious, longterm, and we’ve done shows on them before. Some of them are new: There’s a deadly pandemic that has killed over 213,000 people in the United States (and over a million people worldwide). At the same time, the US is dealing with a continuing rash of racially motivated violence and unrest and calls to address systemic bias in our policing system. All of this is under the watch over by a megalomaniacal would-be supervillain who has somehow managed to become the president of the United States… and even worse, the man is an incompetent buffoon. Beyond this country the same pandemic rages across the rest of the planet, as does a climate crisis that has resulted in unchecked wildfires burning and so many devastating hurricanes that we actually ran out of names for them this year. And all of that that is ignoring the stuff like murder hornets and feral hogs. Remember those? That’s all been this year. We’re just ignoring it because we don’t have brain space left to worry about it, and we’re just lucky that they haven’t killed us. Also, there’s may or may not be an asteroid on a collision course for the Earth.
It’s like Ming the Merciless is wrecking our planet to make us docile and easier to control when he invades what’s left of the burnt out shell of a planet. And maybe he is. Please, Flash Gordon, save every one of us! And that’s what we want to talk about this week. We did a show a little while back about apocalypse narratives. This is a little different. We don’t want to just talk about the apocalypse. We want to talk about the future timeline stories we’ve grown up reading and watching and compare them to the world we’re living in now.
When I was a kid speculative science fiction was cool. I was led to believe that the future would be full of miraculous inventions. Video telephones, communicator watches, talking computers running my house, and sexy robots. And to an extent most of that came true. Sure, I don’t have a flying car yet, but honestly most of the future turned out to be pretty cool. On the other hand, the the danger of speculative science fiction was always that there was some horrible downside… war, famine, pestilence, death… you know… all that stuff that we’re dealing with now. There’s always been the fear of me Big Brother watching me at all times (which, due to my computer house, video phone and communicator watch they pretty much are) and the Tyrell Corporation ruling the world (we call it Disney). There’s always an evil president ruled by his corrupt business connections, and we’re always on the brink of environmental, medical or economic collapse. Yeah… so there’s that.
And now it occurs to me that OF COURSE the world is on fire. It’s 2020. 2020 isn’t a real year. 2020 is the a pretend fake year that you choose for a bad sci-fi story because saying the year 2000 seems too conveniently even and you’re too lazy and uninspired to come up with a better year. In 1968, Kubrick and Clark avoided this with 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Matrix(1999) takes place in 2199 (or so they think). The roleplaying game ShadowRun(1989) starts in 2050. William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic(1981) and Neuromancer(1984) and related stories take between 2021 and 2035 or so. Blade Runner(1982) happens in 2019 and the 2017 sequel is set in 2049. 1989’s Back to the Future II goes to the future of 2015. The Terminator returns to 1984 from a the Skynet-controlled 2029. Hell, even 1979’s Buck Rogers knew to start in 1987. 2020 isn’t a year… it’s narrative laziness. So is it possible that we’re just in a BAD sci-fi story? Let’s compare!
So what we want to know is, are we in the worst timeline? Give us some examples of your favorite “scary future” stories from pop culture that we can compare them to our current situation. Do you think we’re doing better or worse and why? Let us know your thoughts.