Thursday, March 09, 2017

"Welcome to Dystopia": Författarkväll om politiska dystopier

På tisdagkvällen den 7 mars höll jag ett föredrag med diskussion för studenternas science fiction-förening Aniara, på Oslo Universitet.

Temat var "Author Evening: A. R. Yngve on Political Dystopias":

"Author A. R. Yngve, creator of the adventure epic DARC AGES ( shares his thoughts and ideas on political dystopias. Join us for an interesting talk about a very interesting, and ever too relevant, topic."

Vi hade en lång och stimulerande debatt till efter klockan nio. Stort tack till Tonje Andersen och Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay som bjöd in mig, arrangerade kvällen och fick så många att komma dit! :-)

Mycket intressant sades -- bl.a. nämndes uppsvinget för dystopisk litteratur på arabiska efter "The Arab Spring" -- och vi dryftade varför det publicerats så många dystopier för unga läsare på sistone. 

Nedan följer ett par utdrag ur mina föredragsanteckningar (allt var på engelska, eftersom det kom studenter från flera land):

A man builds a time machine and travels 100 years into the future. 

He is welcomed by a friendly woman who takes him on a tour of the city. It seems there is no war, there’s peace and quiet on the streets, the cops don’t have guns because no one has guns, people seem to be happy and well-fed, no one seems to be oppressed, the environment is fine...

Of course the time traveler has to ask the woman: ”What’s your secret? How did you make this paradise come true?”

The woman says: ”First, we banned all violent people. Then we banned all lawyers. Then we banned all politicians. Then we banned all liars. Then we banned all ugly people. Then we banned all jealous people. Then we banned all greedy people.”

The time traveler asks: ”So how many people live here, really?”

The woman looks around for a minute, and replies: ”Twelve... or fourteen. But we’re talking about banning people who are good at counting!”

There’s a difference though between a real dystopian society, such as the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, and a fictional one. The fictional bad societies tend to suffer from what I call the ”Perfectly Wrong” Paradox.

For example, take a movie most of you have seen, Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL, or a novel like George Orwell’s 1984, which I assume most you have read (or should read). Both are extremely well crafted, both are sort of based in the present era, and both dystopias seem to work on similar assumptions:

In both BRAZIL and 1984, we are shown a society which is deeply dysfunctional, insanely bureaucratic, things are breaking down, any individuality is crushed, no one feels safe except those who are too brainwashed or too stupid to realize that they are slaves... 

...while AT THE SAME TIME the oppressive state runs smoothly, it never fails to crush the citizens, no one ever escapes the system, no one in charge ever questions the meaning of all the oppression, torture and murdering...

You get a feeling that these worlds are controlled by evil geniuses, or demons. And a perfectly evil character that never makes a mistake is the least believable character of all. Trust me as a guy who makes shit up – such a person cannot exist. Hitler, Mao, Stalin – they all failed. The Soviet Union broke up. Big Brother is flesh and blood, and he dies.

In a sense, the worlds of BRAZIL and 1984 are too perfect AND too dysfuctional in ways that should be mutually exclusive. That’s the ”perfectly wrong” paradox.


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