One of the problems with looking for historical analogies is that history doesn’t repeat itself (it only rhymes, according to Samuel Clements).
And, one of the problems with looking for literary historical analogies is that you have to have a profound knowledge of both history and literature or you’re going to wind up merely representing the limits of your own present. Why? Because literary history is a tangled mess of conflicting representations, their multiple interpretations, and their disputed historical location.
An omnislash is in order, though it may seem rude.
Fasten Your Seatbelts
We could be headed for a great adventure. Or apocalypse. Either way, we’re in for a wild ride.
By Annalee Newitz
Sunday, January 4, 2009; B01
When the present promises only economic hardship and political upheaval, what does the future look like?
In 2009, it looks like a world of gleaming spaceships filled with enlightened people who have emerged with their humanity intact after a terrible war. They have entered the 23rd century, shed racism, no longer use money, possess seemingly magical technologies and are devoted to peaceful exploration. I refer of course to “Star Trek” and its powerful story of a better tomorrow, which has been mesmerizing audiences for almost half a century and returns to movie theaters this coming May with an eagerly anticipated 11th full-length feature.
But that gleaming future has absolutely nothing to do with the present and how we view our immediate prospects. Instead, it’s a bit of mid-60’s utopianism which is still being marketed today, a task so difficult that it has to undergo a “reboot,” which is a word I hope I never hear again. If that world weren’t 45 years out of date, it wouldn’t need such a face-lift.
But wait. The future also looks like this: a dark, violent world where a horrific war between humans and cyborgs leads to the near-extermination of humanity. This vision, in the latest “Terminator” movie, is also arriving at your nearest mutiplex in May.
Uh, no. That represents a re-packaging of late-cold-war paranoia: that a nuclear holocaust would wipe us all out and we’d have no notice and little chance of survival. The only twist is that defense systems take over for themselves, so the joke’s on the US and USSR. That’s the world I grew up in and I recognize it, but it’s 20 years out of date.
We imagine the future in places other than the movie theater, of course. Still, these two familiar franchises underscore the conflicting stories we tell ourselves in uncertain times about what lies ahead: Either we’re bound for a techno-utopia of adventure, or a grim, Orwellian dystopia where humanity is on the brink of implosion.
I cannot disagree more. The only reason these franchises persist is because American media companies are scared shitless and will only put money into things they know, which they assume are sure things. These two franchises stumble forward like freshly decapitated corpses. They do not speak for us. They cannot. (more…)