Dark Fantasies

by D. C. Petterson

I promised to give my fantasy scenario for the 2010 election. I don’t know if this is a worst case or a best case. A little of both, perhaps.

It needs some preface. Back in the summer of 2006, I started a novel. I’d been inspired by a number of dark songs, some of my favorites from decades before: Sniper by Harry Chapin, For You by Manfred Mann, The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays. . .

I wont tell too much about the story. It was an experiment for me, something unusual, pushing my storytelling limits – lots of violence and sex, very dark, very much concentrating on unusual characters in extreme situations. But to make the plot work, it required a society to work within. I’d envisioned the tale centering around two teenagers. As I constructed the outline, as I started the writing, the world grew up around them, a dreadful dystopian place, a world horrible enough to produce the violence of my plot.

It became a tale of politics and hidden intrigue, of prejudice and tinfoil-hat conspiracies. A fascist and ultraconservative religious sentiment had assaulted the nation, a fevered collaboration of corporate interests and church dogma, a perpetual state of war, paranoia over immigrants, sexual repression, fear of homosexuals. The nation had been divided between a tiny cadre of unimaginably wealthy elites, and the impoverished masses who found themselves as fearful but willing slaves kept docile by manufactured terrorist plots publicized by a complicit media. This is the world my teenagers had to deal with.

Mine is not the first anti-utopian tale. Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World are classics of the genre. Those books were published in 1949 and 1931, respectively. The new millennium needed a new warning. For a progressive such as myself, the Bush years had been a frightening era. The President ignored the law and the Constitution. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq evoked frightening and vivid memories of Vietnam. The media had become lapdogs to a corrupt administration. The middle class shrank, America fell into irrational fear of foreigners and gays. My novel seemed about to come true. I feared the extremes I imagined might seem pale in comparison to the reality. Or, worse, my book would be seen as retrospective rather than as a warning.

The story poured out of my keyboard. I had nearly a half-million words written in the first six months, and had reached the halfway point in my outline. But then, a miracle happened.

The Democrats took control of Congress in the fall of 2006.

Maybe, just maybe, the world would turn back from the brink.

Over the next two years, other projects took my attention. By the winter of ’07, and into early ’08, my novel seemed increasingly irrelevant. I set it aside, having added only an additional chapter or two. Caught in the heady thrill of the Obama campaign, my story of fear and prejudice and paranoia seemed quaint, a horror movie from a bygone age. Even the economic collapse of 2008 couldn’t bring back the terrible days when I had started the story; by then all the polls told us change was coming. Surely America would come out of its Dark Ages!

With the election of Obama, there seemed no reason to continue that fear-filled fantasy. I polished a couple of other projects, and a very different novel, much shorter and brighter and more hopeful, was eventually published instead, in the summer of 2010.

But through 2009, the old forces of manipulative darkness began once more to grow. A note of insanity drifted into our politics, with mindless megaphones substituting for conversation in town hall near-riots, astroturf-funded by the same corporate/media conglomerates, oil interests, and religious extremism of the Bush years. The horror hadn’t been defeated. It had merely lain briefly dormant, as a monster of myth plotting its vengeance.

We stand now on a precipice. One of three worlds will emerge from this year’s elections.

Perhaps the polls and pundits are wrong. Aspects of the current “likely voter” models don’t seem to make sense, and/or have never before been tried (there is no proof that “enthusiasm” translates to “turnout”; we don’t know what effect cell phones have on polling; the current projections assume an unprecedented reversal of voting trends from the last two cycles; and so on). Yet, when all the “experts” point in the same direction, a layperson is foolish to ignore them (hence, the silliness of the climate-change deniers). A hopeful future remains a possibility, however slight. Perhaps something not far from the current status quo might survive. The Democrats might get a second chance, having dodged a bullet, and perhaps emerging leaner and meaner from their collective near-death experience.

More likely is a good night for the Republicans. They may well seize the House, and take several Senate seats. Many of the incoming freshmen will be extremists, who are giving every indication of absolute inflexibility and an inability to compromise. Gridlock and obstruction, inaction and inattention could become the norm. The nation’s problems – the worst of which are stubbornly high unemployment and slow economic growth – could well worsen in an orgy of irresponsibile tax cuts and senseless program gutting. 2012 would be up for grabs; would the public blame the Democrats for having blown their chance, or the Republicans for actively subverting repairs?

But then there’s the possibility of the biblical disaster which the media has been pushing. We’ve watched as the Republican Party has been hijacked by the most extreme denizens of its ideological sewer. Bush was prelude. These new kids are scary. Maybe they’ll tear the Republican Party apart. Or maybe they’ll assume control. That possibility makes Orwell look like an optimist.

Okay, I’m in the midst of the sequel to the novel I published in the place of finishing that dark fantasy I started back in 2006. Once my current book is done, I’ll need another project. I have one well-plotted and half written, all set to complete. It might be applicable once more. The conditions seem favorable. The novel will seem prophetic. And it’ll give me something to do as the world grows darker, and all the lights of reason go out.


About dcpetterson

D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He lives with his wife, a seriously affectionate pit bull, a cat, and a bearded dragon, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts for fun.
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12 Responses to Dark Fantasies

  1. shiloh says:

    hmm, A fascist and ultraconservative religious sentiment had assaulted the nation, a fevered collaboration of corporate interests and church dogma, a perpetual state of war, paranoia over immigrants, sexual repression, fear of homosexuals.~~~~~cheney/bush 2001/2009 πŸ˜‰ ~ truth is stranger than fiction, eh.

  2. mike says:

    The biggest surprise of the night will be the West Virginia senate race, where Robert C. Byrd’s corpse will win as a write-in candidate.

  3. filistro says:

    DC.. “Do not go silent into that good nightRage, rage against the dying of the light!”Actually I am very hopeful, very upbeat. Yes, tonight will be painful. Good people will go down to defeat, and some really silly people will get elected.But it is only a necessary paroxysm on the road to change. The economy is recovering, the president still has the approval of half the nation after all we’ve been through, and the GOP is moving its darkest and craziest component forward into leadership positions. We are not witnessing the resurgence of the extreme right… we are watching its death throes.The REAL America is the one you saw at the “Rally For Sanity”… warm, quirky, good-humored and tolerant. No dark dystopian vision there…just pure America.

  4. mclever says:

    filistro,Your vision of the world always makes me smile.:-)

  5. DC Petterson says:

    Filistro, you are always good to lift my spirits.It is a bright and sunning day here in Minnesota, crisp and cool and clear. Perfect voting weather. I live across the street from the polling place, and I have watched the steady stream of cars for the last three hours.I’m well aware it is the goal of the right to kill hope and to stifle change. But let us embrace that speech of Teddy’s in 1980 – “The dream will never die.”

  6. DC Petterson says:

    I just re-read Teddy’s speech. One of my favorite passages, where Teddy quotes Roosevelt. It is applicable gain today with the faux-populist astroturfed Teapers:

    “Most Republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women.”

  7. Mainer says:

    Yeah it is going to be painful for a number of reasons but those bright spots that will emerge will be fine as well. I have said on here and the old site that we were watching the demise of the GOP and I still firmly beleive that to be the case. But I worry about what will replace it. There may well will be a GOP but it will not resemble any thing any of us grew up to respect. I still beleive that selling ones soul to prove you are still viable is at best a short term solution to the great issues facing the conservative movement in this country. At some level we need the conservative thought process but not one born of uncontrolled rage and bought and paid for thought.My vote and that of most of my family and friends includes both Republicans and Democrats and for many of us a prominent Indy. Gee maybe that is what makes me keep saying I am an Independent. I ran into one of the candidates the other day that I have supported for years. He is Republican and pretty dang conservative. He firmly beleives that if we can run things better for less money then we should better be doing it because we have too much to do to be wasting money on frills and nonesentials. Odd thing is that the guy is super progressive. Strong supporter of education and research, is mad as hell that the whole state is still not on fiber optic net. To do every thing we need to do is going to take money and he has a knack for finding real waste……not fake talking points waste but places were we are just not getting the bang for the buck…..that is what I remember real conservatives being all about…..not wanting to turn the clock back to 1957. So that individual along with a pretty lliberal one will end up representing this area….funny thing is they work great together. One has great ideas and the other asks the hard questions about how to do it and both are willing to compromise to get shit done.

  8. shrinkers says:

    @MainerWhat you’re describing is the balance we should have. It’s the sanity that Stewart talked about at his rally — cars on an expressway, having to merge down to one lane,. working together — “You go, then I’ll go.” The cynical and angry right mocks this idea, and tells us that compromise is wrong and bad. (BDP: “F_ck compromise.”) But it’s the only way a nation as large and diverse as ours can ever function.

  9. mclever says:

    Mainer, Ah, the pragmatism of northeasterners. I think that what you describe is how it *should* work. It seems to me that we need both the creative people with great ideas and the cynics with their hard questions to make sure that the best ideas are implemented in the best manner possible. We need both sides to be pointing out the problems and working out reasonable solutions, not roadblocks and reactionary rejection of anything the other side says. One to dream big, and the other to keep things from getting carried away. Sounds like your area has it about right. πŸ™‚ We here in Iowa may be sending a Republican back to the Governor’s mansion which he occupied for most of the 80s and 90s. The current Democratic Governor is suffering from the political climate’s general malaise, so voters feel comfortable turning back to the guy who was in charge when things were good. Fortunately, the Republican is (like your rep in Maine) a pragmatic conservative who supports education and reasonable public infrastructure. From his record, he will listen to good ideas and practical ways to implement them. As you describe, he’s the sort of conservative who works well with the liberals in this state to get things done.Or, at least that’s what I’m hoping!

  10. shiloh says:

    The last words of Ted Kennedy’s speech, which was his greatest by far, not a close call:For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die!Feb. 2006, Bobbie Jo, who also lived in Ohio, a die hard liberal, one of the founders of Joker’s Current Affairs political forum, passed away wayyy too young and I posted the above ending to Teddy’s 1980 convention speech in the Liberal forum.She would have loved Sherrod Brown winning in 2006 and Obama winning in 2008 as she was not a big fan of Hillary.All we are is dust in the wind …

  11. Mainer says:

    Mclever our Republican candidate for Gov. is I am afraid a die hard teaper and may well have trouble even working with the Republican individual I described. I would really like to see our Independent candidate get in because I think he would be a good arbiter for both sides. Lets face it there are some good GOP candidates out there, just as there are some fine Democrats I get troubled when the ideology is more important than the mission which should only be about effective governance.

  12. mclever says:

    @Mainer “I get troubled when the ideology is more important than the mission which should only be about effective governance.”Amen to that.

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