After the Event: first page of a new novel

Photograph by Justice Amoh on Unsplash

INTRODUCTION

All human beings are ultimately alone; but some are more alone than others.

Was that what saved me? The tendency to distance myself from others and figure things out for myself: is that why I was Enlightened so painlessly, when millions perished or suffered torment in futile resistance?

Or was it what Jenny used to call my Mr Spock tendency, that excessive rationality and lack of emotion, which put logic ahead of feeling?

I like to think it was neither. I tell myself that it was because the desire to connect, which is such a driver in all of us, was so desperately strong in me that it made me open to the virus, in a way that I never could be to other people.

The irony of that still makes me smile. The idea that the inner conflict between my desire to connect and my inability to do so might actually have given the virus a boost, fills me with a sort of joyous vindication, like watching England beat a better team in the World Cup. 

It’s as if I jumped clean off the autism spectrum and landed as the best-adjusted person on the planet.

Of course, my joy is qualified by the knowledge that there are only a third as many people on the planet now as there were before I made the jump. Evolution can be cruel; and Enlightenment came at a cost.

They had to go, though. There was no other way. We can see that clearly now.

I realise that I need to revise my opening statement.

All human beings were ultimately alone; but now we’re all connected. 

Yes, that’s better. It’s all so much better now.

This is the story of how it came to be.

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The above text is the draft intro to a Science Fiction novel with the working title, After the Event. I’ve spent several months trying out different styles and approaches and I think this works best: but I’d be grateful for feedback. Some background to the book can be found in my earlier posts in the Sci-Fi category, such as Before the Event; Humanity Version 2; Upgrade Yourself; and Why We Love Zombies.

Trump That

What would happen if some gun-toting Trump supporters encountered an alien? I think we know the answer: they would shoot it.

Later they might ask some questions, like, “That sure is one ugly mother, I wonder what it wanted?” But they’d shoot it first, to be on the safe side and because that’s how they see things.

Why is that? Why is half of humanity so afraid of anything different or “other”? On the flip side, why would the other half so eagerly try to connect with the alien? Why would its otherness provoke fascination more than fear?

Both approaches are risky but the differences go deeper than the rational mind. If you listen to Trump supporters, there is a superficial logic (“they stole the election, we’d won and then all these mystery votes appeared”): but their deep convictions can’t be shaken with facts or rational argument.

Trump’s appeal is based on understanding something that is anathema to rationalists. Most people want to be told that what they feel and believe is right. People want validation of what they really think, deep down. That’s why religion triumphs despite its absurdities. That’s why the religious right support Trump. He shouts out what they believe: and he tells them it’s OK to believe it.

The typical Trump voter, or their equivalent elsewhere, is sick and tired of being told that most of what they feel is wrong. Sick of being labelled racist, sexist, narrow minded, ignorant, prejudiced, obese, irresponsible, stupid.

Trump tells them that they are great. He tells them that they are right to think and feel what they do. He validates them, he empowers them, he makes them feel good about themselves. Make America Great Again really means Make Yourself Feel Great Again. That’s why he doesn’t have to deliver: he already has.

The educated elites just don’t get it. Centrist parties are failing everywhere as a result. They despise half the electorate and it shows.

So how do we make people embrace the alien instead of shooting it? For the purposes of my new novel, the challenge is to figure out what would happen to someone with a closed and fearful mindset, if infected with an alien virus that stimulates rational thought and empathy. Would the conversion be painful or pain-free? Would it drive them mad, or give them a glorious epiphany?

Previously I’d assumed that some would kill at the first signs of infection, rather than face the need to change. Yet why so negative? Religion succeeds by holding out the prospect of redemption, even whilst acknowledging human failings. We need to give people back both the right to forgive themselves and a belief in their ability to improve.

There is something aspirational at the heart of Trump’s message, however cynical he was in creating it. The lesson is that we must learn to love humanity for what it is, warts and all: and if we want to progress, we must hold up a mirror that shows us how great we can be, if only we have faith in ourselves.