It’s the last day of the year in the Western calendar, so I thought I’d make this the last post of 2021. It seems fitting, given the subject matter. I hope you enjoy it!
“Look, I’m sorry, but your near future sci-fi story is just too unrealistic.”
Clint pushed Lucy’s manuscript back across his desk toward the waiting writer. Lucy watched his face, just in case this was some terrible practical joke he was playing. Clint liked terrible practical jokes.
“Okay. What about it is unrealistic, exactly?” she asked.
“Most of it, if I’m being honest.”
“Okay. Okay. Hoo. Um, okay. So what can I change so publishers will accept it?”
“If I were you, Luce, I’d scrap the whole thing and start over.”
“Okay but, I put a lot of stuff in there. What about it just screams unrealistic to you?”
“Where do I start?” Clint said, scratching his stubble. “Well, for starters, there’s the technology.”
“What about it?”
“It’s not… advanced enough.”
“What? This… well, this is just one extrapolation of where technology is going. I’m not saying it’s going to be exactly this.”
“I know, but it stretches credibility. I mean, here, look, your story takes place in 2020, right?”
“So, that’s about forty years from now. You’re saying in 2020 we’re still going to be using gas powered cars?”
“Gas is a great fuel source. There’s no reason to think we’d abandon it.”
“Nah ah ah. No. Science marches on, Luce. We’re bound to have a new, better type of energy to run cars by then. And wheels? We’re ten years away from real flying cars. No way we still use wheels in 2020.”
“Okay. I guess I can change some details around.”
“And jet packs.”
“In 2020 we’re going to have jet packs. It’s weird leaving them out. Put in some more jet packs.”
“Clint, we already have jet packs now and people don’t use them.”
“Yes! Every five years or so, some lone engineer or a company rolls one out for a ten second test flight. Then a few months later, they roll it away, never to be seen again. And you know what? Same with flying cars.”
“I don’t buy that for a second. If we invented a flying car, the sky would be lousy with them.”
“Either way, people love flying cars. Your story will only improve if you add them.”
“What if that’s not the type of science fiction I’m after? What if I’m going for more of a cyberpunk feel?” Lucy asked.
“Cyberpunk? You mean like the Neuromancer book? What was his name? Gibson?”
“Well, if that’s what you’re going for, where’s the virtual reality?”
“The… it’s in there.”
“No, an actual virtual reality that the characters jack into and upload their consciousness to. Not this ‘World Wide Web’ stuff. I mean, the name is kind of cool, but the execution is boring as hell. Sitting in front of a screen to access all information in human history. Boring. No offense.”
“None taken, but I think you’re missing the point. I wanted a more grounded, gritty feel to the world of the future.”
“Oh really? Is that why there’s all this talk about natural disasters, climate change whatever the hell that is, a world spanning pandemic, some New York real estate guy becoming the President and the whole country protesting cops beating up black people?”
“Shooting and killing unarmed black people,” Lucy corrected.
“If you have to qualify it so much it means it’s a shaky premise.”
“So, what? You’re saying it’s too much? There’s too much going on in the world of 2020?”
“Too much for publishers. Definitely too much for readers.”
“Clint, you’re my editor. You’re practically my agent. I’m a great writer. You know I am. Why won’t you give this story a chance?”
“Because when it comes right down to it, the future in your story is just downright depressing.”
“You really don’t think we’ll invent machines to fight pollution by the year 2020?”
“You really think we’re just going to stick with fossil fuels and not try to go with nuclear power or something like that?”
“Didn’t you watch The China Syndrome? Nuclear power’s dead in the water.”
“So, we’re running out of everything, the world is stuck in a global economic depression and anti-science movements are going to stop people from getting vaccinated? In the middle of a global pandemic? Really?”
“We have anti-science people now!”
“They’re kooks, Luce! No one takes them seriously!”
“No. No, I don’t buy it. I know it’s possible the future turns into a dystopia like Orwell or Huxley say, but what you’re describing… I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to imagine it. I want to cry just reading it.” Clint pushed the manuscript closer to her. “So yes, I’m sure no publisher will take it. Not unless they specialize in really dark fiction. And I mean really dark.”
“Okay. Fine. You win, Clint.”
Lucy grabbed her manuscript and left Clint’s office, dejected.
She took the bus home, dropped her purse and keys next to the door, and collapsed on her couch. Her cat jumped in her lap.
“The future sucks, Cardigan,” she said, petting her cat. Cardigan purred as she stroked his back.
She turned to look at the glowing crystal ball on her dining room table. She’d gotten it a month ago from a hobby store and when she found out it was the real deal, had been using it to peer into the future. It’d been a great boost in creativity, using the crystal ball. She had so many questions. Like, what was the internet really? And emojis? And cryptocurrency and Twitter and hash-tags and memes and Tik-Tok and YouTube and…
“Well, I guess we’re out of the sci-fi business for a while,” she said, throwing a towel over the crystal ball. “Guess I better start working on that hardcore erotica I’ve been sitting on.”