These days, we have no shortage of terrible things to write about and ways things can get worse. From threats by North Korea, political turmoil in Europe, a continuing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, and raging bedlam in Washington, DC, we appear to be careening towards catastrophe.
At these moments, we as writers need to sit down quietly and ask, “What do we want the world to be?”
Throughout history, writers and other artists have looked at the chaos surrounding them and dared to imagine a better world — a world after the chaos has passed, and we are ready to rebuild. You can find examples from the Cold War. The 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still cautioned that humanity has a choice between peace and destruction. The original Star Trek showed a humanity that overcame its self-destructiveness and prejudice to venture among the stars. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a Christmas song that contained a call for peace out of the Cuban Missile Crisis. These works not only showed a world under threat of nuclear destruction, but imagined how we can avoid or overcome it.
Even 1986’s Rocky IV showed how Cold War tensions and a thirst for revenge could change to mutual respect and a desire for peace.
The threats we face today are serious and cannot be ignored. At the same time, we as writers must offer an image of a better world — a world that is worth battling the forces of greed, bigotry, cowardice, and ignorance to create.
Writers imagined smartphones, artificial intelligence, space travel, genetic modification, and other technologies long before they were invented. What kind of world can we imagine? A world where healthcare is affordable and available to all. Where women are respected and live without fear of assault. Where our children and grandchildren won’t have to face nuclear destruction or environmental catastrophe. Where problems can be solved through imagination and negotiation instead of violence.
It’s a world we can create through our words. Let’s go to work.