Science Fiction Repair Shop: My World, And Welcome To It Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014-02-11 15:00:00 No comments

In an earlier post, Steven Savage pointed out in the comments how "we often find people like tech but hate modernity." I'd expand that to include generally people who live in the modern age and benefit from all of its conveniences: modern sanitation, antibiotics, good hockey teams, etc.

To my mind, the one benefit they claim most unthinkingly is that it is, I would wager, a good deal easier than ever to find a place to live in this world where you can benefit from the presence of others without also running the risk of being killed by them for no particular good reason. The presumption of peaceful living is now easier to entertain than ever before, but we're still entirely too capable of obliterating each other to start patting ourselves on the back all that fiercely — and we only got this far because of ceaseless struggle, not because human nature automatically lifts us up where we belong.

Consequently, I find myself wondering what goes through the heads of people who live in the modern age but pretend it hasn't conferred a single real advantage upon them. No, that's the wrong way to put it: they discount those advantages. They pay lip service to them, but are clearly more interested in being the product of an age they idolize without knowing what living in it would really cost them.

I run into this a lot in fantasy-novelist circles, which seem to be peopled by a disturbing number of folks who disdain modernity not just in the technical sense (damn those iPhones!) but in the existential sense — e.g., the idea that anything we could possibly want from the modern age is a delusional byproduct of having been born into it, or that everything we call progress is just a delusion, or any of a number of different riffs on that particular one-note theme.

Dismantling an idea this dumb doesn't take much effort; if the hypocrisy of the stance alone isn't enough, the sheer deliberate ignorance of actual history and sociology would do it. But the hypocrisy of the stance is bad enough. Most people who evince such an attitude do so because they're dreaming of a time when things would be conceivably better for them, not because things were better universally — and I'm betting it's because they aren't really interested in how a rising tide could lift all boats.

The idea of being asked to trade today's imminent ecological collapse for yesteryear's violence and squalor isn't a trade I would want to make, but in the end I know I'm better off sticking with what I was born into and making the best of it, because it's all I've got.

The people who love what tech gives them but hate the era it produced need to choose, because they can't have it both ways. Better yet, they need to cope. The world, and the people in it, are a bigger force (and a more positive one) than they are.

Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop fantasy writers writing