The End Of The End Of The World

It’s hot, and you’re walking. Shuffling, actually. You’ve spanned a seemingly endless chalk-dry plane, and you’re thirsty, run-down, exhausted. You think about your flaking, parched lips and aching muscles, and about how your arduous journey will be worth it if you ever reach your destination. An immigrant, you’re searching for a new place to live, because the place you call home has become barely livable. You’re thinking about the hot dirt sweat-caked on your skin when you’re interrupted by an even greater pain — your tooth, recently implanted with a geo-location chip, is practically vibrating. This means you’re close.

So begins Madeleine Ashby’s short story, “By the Time We Get to Arizona,” published last year in Hieroglyph, a collection of science-fiction stories meant to inspire readers about the possibilities the future holds, rather than invoke fear about impending societal doom. Solutions to climate change catastrophes abound in the series; so do suggestions for jumping forward in our approach to space exploration technologies. Ashby’s story — a spinoff of her Master’s thesis on making border security more humane — explores a world where guns and guards are replaced by sensors and facial recognition technology.

Conceived of by Neal Stephenson — a celebrated writer whose most recent novel ventures a guess at what post-Earth diplomacy might look like — Hieroglyph showcases a growing crew of writers who, by commission or by choice, present sunnier alternatives to the now-prevalent, Hunger Games-fueled dystopia trend. These aren’t the stifling factions of Divergent or the heart-pounding twists and turns of The Maze Runner; they aren’t the bleak worlds crafted by Margaret Atwood or even the fable-like, anti-technology morals embedded in movies like “Wall-E.” Although many of the stories in Hieroglyph highlight societal problems, they have technological solutions to those problems embedded within them.

The anthology, —> Read More