A science fiction writer's reaction to the election

I've spent the past several weeks thinking about what I wanted to say following our recent election. In that time, everything that could possibly be said has been reiterated hundreds of times: that non-racists were still complacent in racism, that by voting for racism they were in fact racist, that no wait, they were good people and not racist, just desperate to be heard. It was the rural people, not the cities. No, it is the blue collar workers and the people who got screwed over when the industrial jobs dried up. Screw that, it's the fundamentalist Christians. No wait, it is none of these things or all of these things or actually it's really just the alt-right which is a euphemism for straight-up Nazis.

And then there are the uplifters: We should be loving. The fighters: We should be uncompromising in our values, even if that means cutting certain people out of our lives and playing hooky at Thanksgiving with our bigot grandmas and sexist uncles. We should fight and protest. Never mind, protests aren't the answer after all--calling your senator is. Donating to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's honor has a name--a hate gift, as though it's somehow akin to a hate crime. Straight white males need to speak up. White women--whether you voted for Trump or not--need to speak up. The apocalypse is coming. The Third Reich is repeating itself. Nah, guys, you're all wrong--it's not going to be as bad as you think, Trump is all talk. It's his cabinet you need to worry about.

I have never been more stressed to be on social media and to read the news (these days, they appear to be one and the same). I have never so easily fallen for click bait, hungrily reading any tidbit that will alternately affirm that we are entering a dark period in history and coddle me with calls to action that I can easily complete by sitting in front of my keyboard.

Amidst all of this, I continue to write. At first, I was too depressed and sick to my stomach to touch my novel for nearly a week. I was angry that my straight white male friends and coworkers didn't seem to care or even remotely understand the hurt that many of us are experiencing and the fear that is roiling in our guts. I think of my grandfather and grandmother in the Polish Underground, and wonder if I can conjure up those levels of bravery if need be. Am I willing to risk my life to protect another person's rights? Am I willing to hide my identity to keep it alive, or brandish it if it means being dead? These are the kinds of thoughts I've been having.

And then I sat down in front of my laptop and opened my manuscript and came to the harrowing realization that fact and fiction are rapidly converging. My novel is about a world so horrible to migrants, immigrants, and refugees that they are planning to create their own colony on Mars--it was intended not as political satire, but an actual exploration of where disenfranchised populations will go if there is literally nowhere else on Earth that will welcome them. For many people, the U.S. was supposed to be the final stop after much suffering and migration. Where to from there--if not backwards and not forwards, then perhaps up and away? I had been struggling with the novel for some time because the whole concept seemed preposterous and far-fetched--but now it seems less so. Now it seems like I have been writing political satire of our current state of affairs all along.

 So I keep chugging along, hoping that my novel will offer a perspective on how sending our country back into the past could actually send it hurtling just as quickly forward into the future. If a country isolates itself from everyone else, where will people turn? The internet? Perhaps for a time, if we continue to have all of our freedom of speech. Or perhaps there will be a new underground movement. Maybe we will turn our attention more towards the stars as our politicians begin to vehemently deny and ignore climate change. Mars One will seem like child's play once we actually mobilize and pool our resources together for something like this. When the time comes, perhaps a science fiction novel about creating a peaceful society for disenfranchised and endangered people on Mars will not seem so strange after all.