After the Apocalypse

Last night was the Dark Societies event at Waterstones, of which David was a featured speaker. He was kind enough to write up his thoughts about the night and send it our way. Sounds like it was a good event. Hopefully one of these days we’ll see him on this side of the Atlantic.


After The Apocalypse

Last night was most enjoyable. Three authors, a room full of fans, and time enough to read excerpts,
have a panel discussion and a lively question and answer session.

The venue was the sixth floor of Waterstones, in Piccadilly, reputedly the biggest bookshop in
Europe, and the three authors were Juliana Baggott, Martine McDonagh… and myself.

The event was set to start at seven, but we authors met up before that – in the bar/restaurant on
the fifth floor, shortly after six fifteen. A nerve- calming drink or two… and then up a flight into a
large room, packed with a host of fee-paying people, there to hear what we had to say and to put
their opinion on matters post-Apocalyptic.

The title of the talk was ‘Dark Societies’ and was to do with the creation of dystopias. Martine
McDonagh– forties, slender, blonde-haired and from Brighton – had written a debut novel, I Have
Waited And You Have Come, set thirties years from now in rural Cheshire (that’s just south of
Liverpool, for those of you who don’t know). Juliana Baggott – forties, slender, dark-haired and
from the USA – had written a lot before Pure, the first book of a futuristic trilogy, but never quite so
explicitly in the SF genre. In the session that followed, we enjoyed throwing the questions between
us. But to start with we each gave a small reading from our works.

Influenced by the theme of the evening, I chose to read the first two pages of Chapter 24 of Daylight
On Iron Mountain, with Jake Reed’s waking thoughts about the past. It’s little more than 500 words,
but I think it says a great deal about the ‘Big Lie’ that lies behind the society of Chung Kuo. And,
from three lines in, I knew I had my audience. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Last night I
definitely did. When I finished, with that deliberately understated ending to the scene – “Just wait
there. I’ll bring you a cuppa in bed.” – you could feel the indrawn breath of everybody in the room.
An hour and a half later, as we signed books in one corner of the room, people drifted across, some
to get their books signed, but most mainly to congratulate me on my reading. Which is incredibly
gratifying. To know you got through to a whole new bunch of people who’d never read a word of
mine, maybe never even heard about me until they’d come along. And, before I’d been given a
chance to get used to this non-hermetic version of myself, Sue whipped me off home on the bus.

Apocalypses. It’s not the sheer scale of them that brings home their awfulness, it’s the little things
that affect individuals. When the world ends, billions of ‘insignificant’ stories die with it. In that brief
passage I wanted to capture something of the poignancy – the true depth of loss – in one man’s life.
And for once, you know, I think I got it right.

David Wingrove

Friday 8th June 2012

One thought on “After the Apocalypse”

  1. I attended this and it was interesting to hear the various ideas on what a dystopia really is, and why we find them fascinating. Question-time was livened up by one particularly over-determined fan who considered that the fall of communism, fascism and the end of the cold war made stories of dystopia irrelevant. This initially interesting point became less appetizing following its 5-minute monologue/diatribe delivery, to which Martine
    McDonagh quickly remarked “I don’t think dystopias are about politics, so that makes _your_ point irrelevant”
    I was dying to ask all three of the authors why their visions of dystopia were so rooted in the past – each one of them was backward-looking: David’s to Han China, Martine to a whimsical Saxon Britain and Juliana Baggott to a sort of Victorian grotesque. Why the fixation with the past-as-future? Can we not imagine a new type of dystopia?
    It seems to me that if you follow just about any trend 100 years, you inevitably reach a crisis. We have a Faustian bargain with technology, big-business and so many other products of ourselves that take on lives and reason d’etres of their own. To me, the fascination is how children take those new worlds for granted and find new ways to live. We’re like weeds growing through the gaps in concrete – and if you are a weed, concrete gaps with no competition are utopias, not dystopias.

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