Saturday 3 September 2016

Curtis C. Chen: I gotta wear shades

Guest post by Curtis C. Chen

I like a good dystopia as much as the next science fiction fan: 1984, The Hunger Games, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, Windswept by Adam Rakunas, and pretty much anything by Philip K. Dick, to name just a few. A dystopian setting offers plenty of built-in conflict, the protagonist is always an underdog who’s easy to root for, and the dark future usually extrapolates some recognizable element of contemporary society.

As a writer, though, I prefer to play in more optimistic worlds. Sure, things can and have gotten pretty bad throughout human history, but if I’m going to spend months or years imagining a setting and the characters in it, I’d rather have fun with them.

My novel Waypoint Kangaroo takes place in a largely post-racial, multicultural society that is enhanced by technology in positive ways. Most of the story takes place aboard an interplanetary cruise ship traveling from Earth to Mars—in this future, millions of humans are living on other planets, and space tourists are commonplace.

Perhaps the most pessimistic part of this future is how long I think it’ll take us to colonize the Solar System. I don’t specify a precise date in the book, but in my mind, it’s about two hundred years from now. Not so long that our culture and language have mutated beyond recognition, but long enough—I hope—for us to have overcome a lot of the social issues we’re wrestling with today. I wanted my story’s conflicts to be less about the color of anyone’s skin and more about the content of their character.

It will come as a surprise to no one that I’m a big Star Trek fan, and the Kangaroo-verse is most like Deep Space Nine in terms of outlook: the main character works for a Section 31-like spy agency, and there are still great political divides within humanity that cause interesting problems. When Waypoint Kangaroo opens, it’s been only a few years since Mars fought a war to win its independence from Earth (which I imagined as something like the American Revolution—i.e. a policy dispute that escalated out of control for various complicated political reasons).

Now that the war with Mars is over, Earth tourists want to go see the red planet again. And that, in a nutshell, is my version of utopia: a place where everyone can share their own heritage in a non-confrontational, amicable way. Where we acknowledge history but celebrate diversity without prejudice. Also, you can buy a t-shirt.

I don’t know what the future will actually look like. But we all get to choose whether we live in hope, or in fear. And I choose hope. I will always choose hope.

Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, Curtis C. Chen now writes speculative fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo (Thomas Dunne, 2016) is a science fiction spy thriller about a superpowered secret agent facing his toughest mission yet: vacation.

Meet Curtis in person this September 10th in San Francisco! He’ll be at Borderlands Books with Patrick Swenson in the afternoon, then joining Anuradha Roy and other Writers With Drinks at The Make-Out Room in the evening. Details for both events at:

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