Everybody loves a good dystopia, whether it’s a glossy techno-paradise masquerading as the ideal state, a grimly militant regime set up after a zombie apocalypse, or futures where society has found solutions far worse than its original problems. Many serve as dark warnings, or comments on the world’s current course. A surprising number are hopeful, showing human courage and resourcefulness winning out against a dark and fallen world.
On 2nd May at Waterstones Piccadilly, The Post Apocalyptic Book Club hosted “Dark Societies”, a panel event discussing books about Societies Gone Bad.
The panel was ably moderated by Leila Abu El Hawa, and consisted of Tom Hunter (Director of The Arthur C Clarke Award for Science Fiction), Robert Grant (Literary Editor of Sci-Fi London and Juror of the Clarke Awards), Anne C Perry (Assistant Editor at Hodder & Stoughton and co-founder of the wonderful Kitschies Awards), Adam Roberts (author of BSFA award-winning Jack Glass, set in a space-faring future where human life is worth far less than resources or energy) and Jeff Norton (author of the YA series MetaWars, featuring a techno-dystopia where factions fight to the death over a virtual world). Oh, and some hat-wearing weirdo who writes about exploding cheeses.
We discussed this year’s Clarke Award shortlist and winner, the importance of awards and the vogues for different dark futures. (Zombies are still ‘in’, but the fashion may well change.)
Given the many threats to humanity, Adam Roberts offered to take over the Earth as supreme leader so that he could hold all the dark futures at bay. I was quickly sworn in as his Commander-in-Chief and Minister in Charge of Hats.
Lots of really excellent (and sometimes daunting) questions from the audience about the politics of dystopian writing, whether it is fundamentally optimistic or pessimistic, etc. I hope everybody else enjoyed the event as much as I did. I certainly learnt a lot from my fellow panelists.