Friday, June 22, 2018

Covert Fiction

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
Thirty years ago, when I was in high school, the Orwellian notion that Big Brother was watching was fiction. A society so closely surveilled was considered a dystopian nightmare. Now, we're living it.

Our cellphones and cars give away our location. Our online activities are recorded. Algorithms crunch the data and deduce even more about us. Potentially, the data crunchers understand us better than we understand ourselves. Remember that story where Target guessed a teenage girl was pregnant and acted on that knowledge? Creepy stuff.

As people struggle with the notion of standing naked and exploitable before whoever controls our data, fiction is trying out a few different responses.

There is the escapist response. This is common in paranormal romance where magic veils people from wider society. The idea that there are mysteries out there unknowable to Big Brother and science is reassuring, even if the expression of it is literally fantastic.

But if you can't hide from reality, maybe you can confound the surveillance system. This is the premise of thrillers as people go on the run, evading Big Brother in his various incarnations both corporate and government.

Dystopian and survivalist fiction takes this evasion method in a different direction. People go off-the-grid, sometimes after the grid fails, but other times by choice.

I'm not sure what form it will take, but I think all of these different approaches to surviving a surveilled world will coalesce into a new genre of covert fiction. We need some way of shaping the narrative of surveillance so that we can be agents within it, and not simply prisoners. (And if you want to completely confuse, yet scare yourself, read about the philosopher Foucault's notion of the panopticon).

What I haven't read is fiction where people challenge and destroy Big Brother. Have you?

Shamans & Shifters science fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...