Worlds imagined spirit of the times

Imagining worlds unknown and unexplored, seems to be a happy part of the human condition. Seemingly, a window on the Weltgeist, the spirit of the times, can be found in the particular form of unexplored conjecture that takes place in an era.

Example: The era of H.G. Welles, Joseph Conrad, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle — the era we now characterize as Steampunk, or the inspiration thereof. Humanity was fascinated with the concept that there might, even as the 20th century made its entrance, be an unexplored area of the world, an area to be brought to light by the amazing growth of technology that was underway.

Speculative fiction took the form of brave explorers on steamships and railways, taking them to the edge of civilization and trailheads from which they headed into the jungle. They flew around the world in balloons or dived into the ocean in submarines and diving bells.

During my childhood, the Space Age and time of landing manned flights on the moon, we journeyed along with Kirk and Spock on the Enterprise to “Space, the final Frontier.” Most of us at one point wanted to be astronauts, and speculative fiction focused on journeys to other planets, galaxies, dimensions.

So to the novel I have just begun to read, though I saw the movie much earlier. It must be admitted that the movie was, and the novel promises to be, great. What does it say of our life view, then, that “Hunger Games,” and stories along those lines, define much of our speculative fiction ?

Well, that’s when it’s not revolving around vampire stories or zombies, which is a subject I’d rather not discuss. Though I suppose the struggle for survival in a collapsing world is the true theme of much zombie lore.

Topically, though, does this bend in speculative fiction portend a fascination with, a belief in, a world where rich and poor are sharply divided, where poor must, like Katness and her class, struggle for survival ?

Where a ruling class becomes so gorged on the power and goods it has stolen from the (former) middle class that the only option for the underlings is to do what they must, to survive ?

I wouldn’t know, but it is worth asking of ourselves.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis High School. He can be contacted at:

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