Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Dog Stars

I just read The Dog Stars, a novel by Peter Heller. It's a good enough book, saved by moments of lyricism and genuine emotion scattered throughout. A good enough read, especially as I seem to be descending into a summer-reading exhaustion mode, which requires nothing too challenging.

But here's the thing. I'm so very sick of the tired, capitalist-fostered, wholly false assumption that pervades every one of these post-apocalyptic fictions, and The Dog Stars is very much in this standard The Road mode. I'm talking about the assumption that it'll be dog-eat-dog, every man(!) for him(!)self, kill or be killed in the hard bad days after the sure-to-come pandemic/world war/climate disaster(s).

All evidence in every catastrophe that has ever hit shows just the opposite about humanity: that people pull together. This, banding together for the common good, is the human default setting and is in fact what people always do when disasters hit. Why lie and portray a descent into dystopia as the inevitable? Don't tell me it's for story's sake. What a fabulous story the truer version would be, if only some truly imaginative author could take off the blinders of bourgeois consciousness and create a vision of workers uniting to build a new society.

I know I've grumbled about this before, so, well, I'm grumbling about it again. Where is the writer with real imagination? Imagination enough to break beyond the bounds of the petit-bourgeois mindset inculcated in all of us in this country and really imagine a whole new future?

I'm not even touching here on the more basic problem, the deeply passive, pessimistic, yes unimaginative assumption that there is no alternative future but disaster. Alternatives like, oh say, socialist revolution, that could avert a slide all the way down to infernal horrors, mass suffering and death. Leave that aside for now, let's not debate the likelihood that it'll all go to hell in a handbasket before the workers and oppressed can rise up and save the day. Fine: but why can't a single goddamn one of these writers ponder the possibility that the workers and oppressed will rise up and rebuild--rise up and save the future--after the disaster strikes?

As always, I'm left guessing, hoping, speculating, that there is just such a writer working on just such a story out there somewhere. Whether it'd have any chance at publication in this society is another question.