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A dystopian world as the prequel to a utopian world
An introduction to the secondary world of my upcoming book
The short story collection ‘There Is Hope’, is placed in a dystopian world ravaged by climate change and a data war fought by technology giants. Originally, it was a backstory for the utopian futuristic world in which ‘The Deep Dive’, my first science fiction story idea, takes place.
In the world of ‘The Deep Dive’, there is a new social order where power is decentralized and local communities self-govern and coordinate decisions amongst each other with the help of technology.
The main goal of this society is to maintain the recovered biodiversity of planet Earth and use technology to preserve nature in a paradisiac state.
The main antagonists in ‘The Deep Dive’ are the Seven Houses, descendants of the Data Moguls who donated their technology and fortunes to benefit society.
As Orwell wrote, ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’, and the Data Moguls were careful not to renounce all their privileges.
In the utopian society of ‘The Deep Dive’, every citizen of Earth has equal rights and material possessions except for the Seven Houses. They are assigned a higher quota of material possessions. However, they cannot exercise any social or political power.
When I started creating my story world, I knew it would have fantastical elements. But I needed to base those fantastical elements on natural science.
The real world is more magical, unexpected and mysterious than anything that even the most fertile imagination can concoct.
One of the main works of science fiction that inspired me in this approach is ‘The Expanse’ series and books. I loved how the authors created such a realistic approach to space travel and depicted how it feels like for the body to travel at incredible speeds, what it’s like to move into space with spaceships and fight in space, as well as the details of living on Mars or colonizing the asteroid belt of Jupiter.
When I started thinking about the backstory of the utopian world in ‘The Deep Dive’, I knew it would be a dystopian post-climate disaster world. But then, my husband had the idea of adding the Data War as an additional element of destruction.
This is how the history of the Seven Houses from ‘The deep Dive’ was born. They were the descendants of giant technology companies that became enormously wealthy and influential by developing AI technology and ended up fighting amongst each other for world dominion.
In the beginning, I thought about a world in which all life except human life was extinct due to climate change. But then I talked with a forester who told me this would not be the case. ‘Life always finds a way, a niche in which to thrive, she said. The thing that was going to happen as a consequence of climate change was that certain parts of the planet would become uninhabitable to humans.
For example, today’s Thailand will be uninhabitable to humans because it will become 100% humid. Humans cannot live in 100% humid weather because they cannot sweat anymore, meaning they cannot cool down. So we would basically cook from the inside and the outside. Other places, such as Central Europe, which is inland, would be more affected by climate heating and turn into a dust bowl.
New forms of life that can thrive in this heat may develop in such places, but they will not benefit human life.
Another question that a friend asked after reading the screenplay of ‘The Seed Grower’ about a woman who risks her life by running an illegal greenhouse was what the people eat. Later on, during a chat, my brother-in-law suggested seaweed, and I started to research again. Indeed, as the oceans get warmer, seaweed will thrive. That’s why seaweed as a source of food and raw materials was a good idea.
As I researched and developed this dystopian world, I started to think of stories that would take place in this world. And decided to place these stories on the European continent and Russia.
Another main consequence of climate change will be the oceans’ rise, submerging many cities and even entire countries worldwide. Next to the weather changes, this would create a massive flux of climate migrants to Europe.
This gave me the idea of placing these migrants in some of the most challenging spots of Europe that had a similar climate to where they came from. Or where they could find an occupational niche, seen as jobs and means of survival were so scarce.
One of the books that influenced my worldbuilding the most was ‘The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming’ by David Wallace-Wells. If you don’t want to read the book, you can read the main points in this article from the New York Magazine.
These are some takeaways from the book I used to build my world.
Global warming will suffocate our oceans. This is already happening in the Gulf of Mexico, Namibia Skeleton Coast, and the Gulf of Oman.
Global warming will lead to a freshwater shortage. The most impacted areas will be everything in Africa south of Zambia, Northern Africa, the USA west of Texas up to western Canada and down to Mexico City, the Middle East, a large chunk of India, almost all Australia, and significant parts of Argentina and Chile.
Global warming will increase fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes and raise the sea level.
Global warming will lead to a decline in human productivity. Productivity will go up in Canada, Russia, Scandinavia, and Greenland. And it will go down in the USA and China by 50%, and Africa, Mexico, Brazil, India and South East Asia by almost 100%.
Global warming will lead to climate conflicts. Today, there are already climate conflicts in these areas: Africa, the Middle East, Haiti, the Philippines, India, and Cambodia.
Global warming will make certain regions uninhabitable. For example, the Marshal Islands will become uninhabitable by 2050.
Global warming will cause climate migrants. Today, we already see climate migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.
Global warming will impact countries disproportionate to their CO2 emissions. India will be affected four times more than its CO2 output, the USA will be affected the same as its CO2 output, China will be affected four times less than its CO2 output, and Russia will benefit from climate change.
‘There is no good thing in the world that will be made more abundant, or spread more widely, by global warming.’
The Data War is the backstory for the backstory.
Next to climate change, this Data War is the second biggest contributor to Earth’s ecological disaster in my story world. After reading about climate conflicts and migrations, I wondered how the world would be impacted.
What if people migrate to places like Europe, where the local resources are also scarce due to climate change? What if the dust makes the air unbreathable in Central Europe, and everyone has to migrate north? What if there is a freshwater shortage? What if there is a food shortage?
I imagined that a plausible scenario would be a power grab by technology companies, as they would be the only ones with the money and resources to create spaces with breathable air, water and food supply. But they could also control who has access to these spaces, who gets a job and who doesn’t, and how long they can be there.
As technology companies take over other parts of the world, the fierce fight for the last natural resources and the lust for world dominion lead to worldwide AI warfare that destroys the last of the existing ecosystem.
This war is known as the Data War and is the beginning of a new era in human consciousness.
When the stories from ‘There Is Hope’ take place, the former technology giants have united their forces into an initiative called The Cooperatives with the mission to restore Earth’s biodiversity.
Europe is controlled by The Cooperatives that work on land restoration and conservation of natural resources and are in charge of land surveillance and administration. They also buy seaweed from the Japanese communities spread along the Atlantic, produce food and clothing, and distribute it regularly to the people.
The Cooperatives are located in Northern Europe and Russia.
The seaweed farming communities were established by Japanese migrants who were forced out by rising sea levels that submerged most of Japan under water. When they arrived in Europe, they set themselves on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the depopulated areas of Portugal and Spain.
What seemed at first a crazy decision soon turned into a profitable business as the Japanese started to grow and process seaweed and sell it to The Cooperatives. The farms became the second biggest employer in Europe after The Cooperatives, and some Europeans even decided to move back south.
It was hot and water was scarce, but there was food and employment.
Climate change had the most impact on Central Europe, which turned into a dust bowl, a vast and deserted land with ghost cities baking in unbearable heat.
Initially, migrants from the Middle East took refuge in Central Europe, but as the temperature rose, many were forced to move out, and the dust bowl became a dangerous place full of outlaws and criminals.
Whoever dared cross the lands was robbed and killed in the best case. But with the scarcity of raw materials, everything could be monetized, including human bodies.
But the most dangerous people living in Central Europe are the Dust Pirates. Enigmatic and secluded, they are famous for their surprise attacks. Myths and legends are associated with them, but whoever approaches their lands is stripped of worldly possessions and left naked to fend for themselves however they can.
Usually, the criminals and the outlaws took care of the rest.
The people who didn’t work in The Cooperatives or the seaweed farms, and were not criminals and outlaws dwelling in Central Europe, lived in one of the numerous Nordic slums fighting for a breath of fresh air, a sip of clean water and their next meal.
All of this happened under the pervading eye of The Cooperatives.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my worldbuilding for the short stories collection ‘There Is Hope.
I also hope that I’ve awakened your interest!
The worldbuilding series will continue with detailed articles and mood boards with AI illustrations depicting the cooperatives, the seaweed farms and the dust pirates.
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