I spent yesterday working on a new short story for the next collection and it’s a precursor to a book I will write at some point in the future. I was looking at machine / human interaction and interface as a place to start but it made me consider how everything we all do and how all of our hopes and desires feed in to how societies as a whole function.

I’m sure we’ve all read a story where the world that the characters find themselves is in someway broken, with there being a vast and unequal difference between the few and the masses. The different examples of these stories all put us in the shoes of the ‘have-nots’ as they fight against injustice and correct the problems but I’ve been looking at all of the little steps that had to have taken place along the way to bring the horror the story starts with.

Humans are a social species. We arrange ourselves into groups rather than exist on our own.

Evolutionarily, this meant that we could pool our resources and take advantage of the safety those numbers provided and over time, hierarchies were formed. Now I’ve read that due to our brain physiology, we are predetermined to organise in this way but the ability to build an ever growing population in a ‘mostly’ harmonious society isn’t something which should be written off so simply.

So how do societies break?

At no point would anyone vote for a party in an election which intended to jump to the very final stage of the collapse of society. Societal fall has to come in stages. Each tiny shuffling step hiding a wider truth. Heavily armed troops roaming the streets executing people out after curfew would never just appear, rather it would be the result of constant little erosions, probably designed at each point on the way, to be as part of a plan to keep people safe.

But rules and order are vital so allowing a population to have free reign to do whatever they desire isn’t the answer. Very quickly there would be swathes of gangs taking things from others by force, leaving the weak at the mercy of the strong, just in a different way.

Our societies are linked together by ordered rules to allow for no-one to take steps they shouldn’t and with an equal account of freedom to give all of us the chance to do things we want to.

The brutally authoritarian or chaotically anarchic both mean that things have broken down but the result is equally as bleak for the majority. We all recognise that to create a society in the grasp of a power crazed lunatic in a book means that readers will see the potential horrors of regimes gone wild so side with the characters who are on the outside looking in, think The Hunger Games. But all along the way, the tiny steps that went into making a Panem or an Airstrip One had to have been agreed to. There may not have been a great choice, but there was always going to be a choice.

Society is a wonderful thing. It binds us all together and allows us all to exist in a more controlled fashion than if we had to do everything ourselves. I for one, have no clue about hunting for food. We all fulfil a set part and the society trundles on.

The steps that would have to be made to take us towards a dystopia akin to 1984 will never seem like the steps they are but as each one follows on from the one before, the chance to undo the changes shrinks.

I like society. Human societies are wonderful things and they should be protected at all cost so we need to be acutely aware of the details of all of the choices we make along the way.

Panem didn’t happen overnight and at one point, it was what was wanted.


P.S. This is blog post number 200.

Who would have thought I could keep it up for so long?



During last week’s post I gave my opinion on YA books and some of the titles I mentioned had distinct similarities. The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent all have the coming of age story running through the core of them but the other thing they all have is the dystopian future where the struggle against a system built to keep people down flavours everything.

So why does the horror view of the future seem to be so enticing to us?

A Utopia is the perfect world and a dystopia is the perfect opposite yet we see so often, depictions of the dark side as our societal destination rather then the more pleasant option. Don’t we want to see the world where all of our problems have been resolved? Why is it that we seem to gravitate to the thought of there being a monster waiting for us in the future ready to enslave us rather than the relative happy ending?

Star Trek can be held up as showing the human race in a positive fashion in the far future. We’re treated to a world where money is no longer an issue and that humans work for the betterment of the whole rather than the singular accumulation of wealth. Everyone gets on with the work they have to do as a piece of the society and they all just lean on each other in terms of maintaining life. They look beyond the planet, almost as if the issues of Earth have been solved yet when we get out into the void we start having all the familiar conflicts and problems as humans meet with all the other races. Indeed, the main antagonists in each of the series are there to conquer and enslave. Now we’re back into the land of fighting against the power to maintain our humanity.

Do we thrive on the thought of overcoming conflict? Do we want to see ‘the man’ be beaten by the relative underdog as a way of reassuring us that all of those problems we experience on a day to day basis can be overcome if only we apply ourselves. If governments can fall in those tales, surely we can find a way past our nasty boss? Can we all use the images of a society corrupted by the few, as a way to look at the world we live in now and help us prevent us making those mistakes? If we see all these stories of the broken future, will we be moved to do enough to stop it becoming a reality?

It could be easy to look at the world that we all live in now as heading in the direction of a dystopia where our lives are more and more controlled and fear is everywhere but we need to remember that there can be so much more. In 1984, The Hunger Games and the other books that I spoke about at the start of this post, the bleakness of the world needs to fought whereas in Star Trek, where the human race has resolved those issues, we’re out exploring the galaxies. Surely that’s got to be a good enough reason to look for the positive.


Any fans of algebra out there?

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to have waves of response in the affirmative for that question but stay with me.

I’ve just started reading a series of books which fall into the bucket of ‘YA’ or Young Adult and on many occasions, when I tell people what I’m reading, I get treated to the furrowed brow of confusion and the, “But why are you reading a kids book?”

If I’d been reading a Janet and John book, then I’d say they would have had a point asking why but why is it people are so quick to jump onto the negative?

Young Adult books span all manner of literary genres and deal with all kinds of topics, most, if not all, are fodder for books for us crusty old farts as well, but as soon as the hint of it being aimed at those with slightly fewer years on the clock appears, noses get turned up and they’re discarded as kiddies nonsense.

Now I appreciate that thanks to books like the Harry Potter series, Divergent and The Hunger Games there is now a wider understanding that amazing stories can come from anywhere and aren’t just the sole play thing of grown ups but the term Young Adult still carries baggage.

I’m reading the books for many reasons. I have a novel of that flavour in mind and I think it would be a good idea to try to get an understanding of what’s out there at the moment. The series is by an author I admire and takes place in space which is always going to be fun so why wouldn’t I want to read them? Having started, they’re great and you’d never consider that they were somehow lacking.

Getting back to the algebra question I asked at the beginning of this post, I think the issue is that so many people don’t follow the rules of algebra when deciding on books to read. They don’t treat both sides of the equation the same, placing more emphasis on the Young rather than the Adult. That’s something I’m going to always keep in mind when I start my own YA book.

Make sure the story works and don’t try to talk down to the reader and everything should sort itself out from there.