Writing the Future

J.D. Robb set her “…in Death” series in 2058, far enough ahead that almost anything is credible and nobody reading the series is going to be around to quibble with her version of the future. I’ve set South, my crime/intrigue work-in-progress, in 2032. Silly me.

There’s a reason the near-future isn’t a popular setting for mystery and crime novels: it comes at you too fast. One of the great problems I face is staying ahead of the news. Just as soon as I’m certain I’ve pushed my version of 2032 too far, the news tells me I haven’t gone nearly far enough. To increase the level of difficulty, I’m trying to base the future on things that are happening in the world now, have been proposed, have already happened here, or are on a current trend line.

To set the scene: in the America of 2032, the Tea Party and radical right have been in power for over sixteen years and Grover Norquist got his wish to strangle government in the bathtub. Nearly all surviving government functions are outsourced, regulatory agencies have been neutered or abolished, the minimum wage and forty-hour workweek are long dead, the middle class has disappeared, cops and firemen are on the take, women are second-class citizens again, roads are crumbling to gravel – and hundreds of thousands of Muslim Americans have languished for years in remote detention camps. (That some number of people will read this and think “utopia” just shows the extent of the problem I’ve set for myself.) Check the South page to see what happens next.

Over the next n posts, I’ll discuss individual aspects of the world I’ve set up for my characters to play in. Some of it may sound like thinking aloud, which it may well be. I may ask for a reality check on some of my notions. The great thing about writing the future is that no one’s guess is right until it happens; the bad thing is that something that happens tomorrow morning can completely invalidate all that guessing.

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