My latest column for Locus, “Ten Years On,” looks back on my first decade as a novelist, and speculates about what a difficult utopia might be, and announces my next novel project:
And then I realized I had no idea what novel I’d write next. I have notes for about five books, but none of them feel quite… ripe. The closest is probably a prequel to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – it would be awfully nice to check in on those old friends and see what they’re up to after a decade. Down and Out is a utopian novel, modeled in part on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge, a brilliant, absolutely engrossing novel about a zoning fight over a baseball diamond in a small town in a future Orange County where all of humanity’s existential problems have been decisively solved.
Utopian fiction is often characterized as optimistic fiction, because it’s fiction about a future where the existential crisis is behind us – where we know that whatever else transpires, we are likely to survive as a species. Our children and their children will live. Our deeds will not be forgotten. Life will go on.
It’s tempting to say that people who are happy in the midst of peace and plenty are doing nothing much of much. This, of course, isn’t true. Being miserable or happy has as much to do with your internal state as it does with the stuff going on in the rest of the world. Safety and a lack of material want is not guarantee of happiness – indeed, for the traumatized, it’s the quiet moments when the yammering ghosts of past horrors can be heard best.