Saturday, June 17, 2000

Diana's World

Diana’s world is a fun-house mirror of our own. Resource depletion, war, economic chaos and pandemics took their toll on the United States until some regions seceded, thinking they were better off on their own. The United States was too depleted of fuel, supplies and manpower to put up much of a fight and chose instead to focus their remaining resources on retaining the Mississippi River, the coal fields and the northeastern forest regions.

The Southwest devolved into chaos.

Amalia, Will, and Diana work for Unitas, a small network of cells with an overarching goal of free and fair elections and an eventual negotiated return to the United States. Due to widescale depopulation, most scouts and soldiers are young volunteers and discipline is a problem in the lulls between assignments.

In this dystopian world there are still cars and motorcycles, but only the rich can afford them and fuel is hard to get at any price. Horses, donkeys and bicycles are more typical modes of transportation, as is the train. Some towns have electricity, although not usually twenty-four hours a day. Some homes have solar or wind power. There are a few radio stations, but ham radio is more common. Some places have local telephone service, but long distance phone service is almost non-existent. Heliograph has been revived as a popular way of transmitting messages across long distances. Water is the most critical thing people need, but a lot of it is contaminated and it’s best not to drink whatever might come out of the pipes. Food is local and seasonal, supplemented with hunting, fishing, and occasional luxuries brought in by train.

Will, Diana, and their friends are smart, competent, and stunningly ignorant of things their better-educated parents and grandparents took for granted. Spottily educated, they are knowledgeable about batteries, water distillation and agriculture, but unclear on such things as oceans, satellites, vitamins, and jazz. When they choose code names, they often seek out things from their grandparents’ time, since the early twenty-first century is the epitome of cool. Hence we have teenage soldiers who have named themselves after jets and furniture stores, ignorant of how ridiculous their names would’ve been to those very grandparents they think they are emulating.

Everyone hopes for a return of the good days when life was rich and everyone had electricity and could go to school. But to the older generations, things look grim. They’re too old to do much fighting, and if they die before peace is established, it could be many more generations before anything like the knowledge of the early twenty-first century is revived.

But for Diana and her friends, this is the world as they’ve always known it—dirty, difficult, and full of uncertainty. And like teenagers anywhere, they’re brash, confident, and often find humor in their surroundings. After all, you only feel deprived if you once had something. And no young person in this crazy time ever had much to lose.

1 comment:

z said...

This looks intriguing and that you first posted your fiction on a password protected blog. I think that's the way to go.