Wednesday Chatter (and whatnot) – January 28th

Hello Flames,

Today I’d like to discuss a theme that has run through the writing prompts this month. Can you envision a perfect world, what we typically call a Utopia, that is not born from the ashes of a dead or dying society?

I apologize for getting to you a little late this week. But I’ve had a few things going on this morning and didn’t want to write today’s chatter while distracted. You see, when we offered the month’s theme of Utopia, I had visions of vast expanses of blue sky, amber waves of grain, maybe a few violet mountains lookin’ all majestic…instead our writer’s described bleak futures of tight societal controls born of unspoken disaster.

Where are the chocolate waterfalls? Why do the unicorns not frolic with maidens?

I did a little digging on the net for answers and came across this article.

The author posits that a book or story about a true Eutopia, or “good place”, would simply read as a travel brochure or someone describing a beautiful vista. Because in a perfect world, there is only peace and tranquility which does not provide a story with appropriate conflict to build a plot around. He further goes on to say that Dystopian saga’s draw readers because they have more entertainment value – more meat, conflicts to resolve, something for heroes and anti-heroes to do besides drink tea and relate.

There are lists of books, some I’ve heard of, read, or seen the cinema version of and being shown those references I could relate to his point. Luckily, there have been a few skilled authors who have made the attempt to study Utopian societies from the juxtaposition of an outsider unfamiliar with such peace, beauty, and bliss.

It would seem Utopias or Eutopias are only appreciated by poets and dreamers who have no desire to take the red pill – who would never find discontent in a perfect place where all your dreams come true and nothing bad ever happens; the happy batteries of the Matrix.

Can this be true? Do we need the full-blown conflict of martial law or alien invasion to be interested in a story? Do we need a broken thing to fix instead of skating through the happily ever after?

Then I wonder, how long would I even be interested in writing about braiding wildflower crowns beside the babbling brook while some bare-chested man in a kilt sings in a resonant baritone about how perfect the world is? I have to admit, it would not be long before the aliens showed up and started vaporizing chipmunks with their laser guns. Or begging for shelter from a predatory race that has dogged them across three galaxies. Or the zombie squirrels went on a rampage for peanut butter slathered brains.

Can you imagine then, one day in a place that was perfect? Not necessarily Disney perfect, but whatever perfection means to you. You stumble through a wormhole into your personally designed Eutopia and you have 24 hours until the remote opens a new wormhole that might be your last train home. What do you experience in that 24-hour window?

Talk to me about any or all of this – Dystopian vs. Utopian, your thoughts on perfection, bare-chested men in kilts…. It’s your call.

Be sure to read and vote on the entries for Utopia: Tradition and Ritual. Voting ends tomorrow.

Please join in on the dialog workshop to hone that craft.

Lastly, our week four Utopian project is still in the works. Share you final vision in Utopia: Search For Meaning.

Check us out on Instagram if you’re a frequenter of that site.

About t.s.wright

Writer, reader, casual photographer, nature-lover, dog mom. I grew up in a tree, inside a book, whispering possible futures into discarded seed pods that curled up and exploded each summer. One day, they cut down my tree and I was forced to go to school while waiting for the replacement trees to grow strong enough to hold me. But while we waited, I grew too heavy and awkward to climb, so I had to get a job. I spent my days surrounded by flimsy walls covered in carpet that made boxes and people who forgot to look out windows. I worked really hard. Possibilities were replaced with formulas and exactitude. Eventually I forgot how to climb a tree...and how to smile. Then one day, a dog licked my foot excessively and I remembered smiling. That reminded me of more things that didn't cost money and couldn't be tallied in a spreadsheet - like hugs and love and being happy. So I found myself a Steve who reminded me what home was. Then we filled it and our hearts with dogs. Eventually we planted our own tree, together. Even though I'm happy right here, right now, I remembered that we all need possibilities to dream of, so I've started writing them down.
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5 Responses to Wednesday Chatter (and whatnot) – January 28th

  1. Your prompts this month sent my brain in so many directions, I think it splintered. Reading through the article you posted, I was reminded of my two earliest ideas that were both somewhat movie-related. Early on the article mentions that an influx of Utopian literature arrived on the tail end of the Industrial Revolution — society is sick of urban soot, hustle and bustle, and reminisce over those easier, more romantic times of wide open spaces.

    In the 70s my parents took me to the drive-in to see The Adventures of the Wilderness Family. This particular family resides in 1970s L.A. with the smog and the traffic, and the eldest child of the family is suffering extreme allergies. The parents are sick of city life anyway, so they cart off to the fresh air of the Rockies to build the ideal life. There is much befriending of nature and frolicking with cute bear cubs. It is a badly acted, but pretty terrific story, if I recall. This movie’s concept goes hand-in-hand with what the earliest Utopian novelists wished to create — they saw modern life as the failure of mankind. Even so, there are dangers that lie in the woods.

    Likewise, The Village, where M. Night Shyamalan’s characters have escaped the horrible crimes of modern life and gone out to a protected forest to build the ideal society for their children. Even there, however, they recognized the need to dial back the ultimate Utopian atmosphere by creating a monster in the woods to keep curious children from venturing out when boredom got the better of them. A much better acted example, but if you notice, the more modern version of Utopia comes with a built-in threat. Their Utopia does not pretend total perfection.

    The concept of Utopia is fragile because of our own human history — we’ve developed far too many bad habits to truly appreciate the idyllic. We are curious, skeptical, easily bored, and many of us, especially this late in the game, have no real concept of perfection. Relationships fail, governments fail, monsters exist in many forms and they will eat you and dance on your carcass.

    We’ve seen it all, done it all. We are corrupted. Much more so than those authors of the early post-industrial age. And even if there were a few of that were not, we are surrounded by critics that would rip the thin veil of our chosen perfection to shreds.

    In a recently introduced TV show, The 100, a handful of Earth’s people escaped to outer space when nuclear waste was laid to the planet. Three generations later, the space-bound folks realize they can’t survive up there much longer, their ships are dying. So, they do what any well-formed modern society would do, they test on their offspring.

    They send 100 of their young people (mild criminals) to the ground to see if it is survivable. Several episodes happen, and during that time a girl named Clarke becomes the unofficial leader. They’re surviving numerous dangers and awaiting the arrival of the rest of the sky people, when Clarke and several others are “rescued” from their troubles by the “mountain men”, hazmat-suited mystery folk from Mt. Weather.

    Mt. Weather is a haven of technology, culture and art, and they have cake! But Clarke ain’t buying any of it. She can feel scary monsters breathing down her freshly washed neck, can see them around every corner. Oddly, though, she’s the only one of the bunch that is suspicious. She will not let those suspicions rest, and she will not sit still waiting for everyone else to get that creepy feeling down their necks.

    (Well, so much for brevity. I might as well keep going.)

    Thoughts of Utopia, accompanied by examples given in cinema and TV, I developed a theory. Utopia, in order to survive from idea to page, must be a deeply personal place. It may never grow wide enough for an entire society to survive there. No government will be formed. It will probably consist of less than a dozen people. Maybe, just maybe, if Utopia remains that small, an agitator will not arise to reveal the impossibility of perfection. Maybe.

    When you and I were talking that night online, and I mentioned how sick I am of Dystopian lit and wouldn’t it be cool if we could read honest-to-goodness Utopian stories, I was dreaming out loud. The idea niggled at me that writing Utopia is quite impossible, but I wanted it tested. I still do. I think we should continue to test.

    And so, I’ve begun to piece together my own Utopian tale that’s woven with a lot of memoir. My Utopia is a very intimate place, utterly subjective, and not so large as to require documented civil law that might tempt burgeoning tyrants. Sorry, my entry is going to be a little late for the contest.


    • Well, I hope you still share it with us.
      I get what you mean about it needs to be personal and intimate. You may be able to find 20 people who prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate, but of those 20 some will want sprinkles, some fudge topping, some nuts. And then there will be people who hate nuts, are mostly allergic to them, and are rather suspicious of those nut grubbers who claim to like them.
      The Village was one of the last well-executed M. Knight movies. I really enjoyed it. Great example.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. amricatt says:

    I want to believe I would be happy with unicorns farting rainbows and half naked men in kilts all singing my praise on how amazing I am. I would get sick of it fast. It would be hard to appreciate those men and the beauty of unicorns without some kind of conflict. My idea? Most likely a mixture of both.


  3. Pingback: Weekend wrapup | Brigit's Flame

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