With the shocking and sad news of NBC political journalist and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert’s death, my mind has been on politics today, specifically American politics and the future. This year’s presidential election will simply not be the same without Tim Russert, especially on election night, with his astute observations and conclusions. And he seemed like a genuine Mensch. My condolences to his family on their loss. He will be missed.
America’s politics continues down the road to November and the elections. We have a flawed democracy (Electoral College, length of primary season) but the system has worked fairly well since the country’s founding. No coups, not even after JFK was assassinated, which would have been a prime moment (and some conspiracy theorists believe that it might have been a “failed coup”). However, even elections can produce non-democratic results, e.g. the German election that brought Adolf Hitler to power.
Which started me thinking when I began writing Perceval. If the novel is set in the future, what kind of a future did I imagine and what would American politics be like? What would the rest of the world be like?
First of all, in 2048, I saw the European Union as democratic and including Russia. China would lead a coalition of nations called the Asia-Pacific Coalition. America would continue to dominate North America and play an important economic role in the world. The rest of the world, for narrative purposes, would not be as clearly defined as these three, and much of the definition would depend on Evan’s perceptions.
When Evan was about three, the American population voted in a government led by the New Economic Party which had campaigned on the issues of insuring national security and strengthening the economy. The NEP had formed out of two groups: one had split from the Republican Party, the other from the Democratic Party (I’m an equal opportunity splitter). After that first election, the NEP consolidated its power at both state and federal levels, creating a “permanent majority” or dictatorship. The context of democracy framed this dictatorship, i.e. elections occurred regularly, the three branches of government continued to operate, the opposition was token, and a certain level of representation existed in Congress. The NEP believes it’s the best political party for America, that it can preserve and protect the country and its institutions. Its methods, however, resemble the Kremlin’s during the 1930’s — social oppression and control, purges, and a secret police.
Oppressive social control and an authoritarian or totalitarian government characterizes a dystopia. Those in power in a dystopia don’t care about doing or being good. All they care about is their power and control. The NEP believes it is doing good, however. They believe that their social and economic policies are the best for America and the world. So, America in Perceval is not a dystopia.
America in Perceval is an anti-utopia , i.e. a society intended to be good but a fatal flaw or other factor (the NEP) destroyed or twisted the end result. Americans believe their system of government is basically good and beneficial for their society and people in general, including the democratic process that elects an NEP president and majority in Congress. The NEP continues to call America a democracy. Resistance to the NEP government began early, triggering a civil war and an active Underground of “freedom fighters” that the NEP calls “domestic terrorists.”
Perceval is set primarily in Europe, in Vienna, so America remains in the background, an essential part of Evan’s life. Unlike most dystopian/anti-utopian future fiction, the action does not occur within the dystopian/anti-utopian society but outside of it. Evan arrives in Europe an outsider as an American and America is his psychological home so the dystopia/anti-utopia exists within him. I wanted to explore how Evan (an individual) would respond to European society, what effect it would have on him as he forges a new life in Vienna, not focus on the American anti-utopian society itself.
The futuristic element of the Perceval novels is anti-utopian, not dystopian, which I suppose technically makes the series social science fiction: the cultural and psychological clash between American and European societies as experienced through a musician and conductor….