• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Alternative Futures: The Powers that Be

Appendix D.

Appendix D to Alternative Futures describes a world in which a catastrophic event or phenomenon (often man-made) has already occurred. Although the event has lasting impact, humanity has resumed a path to progress in the form of strict totalitarian or dictatorial governments. Technology is advanced, but centralized and used to control the population. Individual heroically attempt to gain emancipation, rebel against, or uproot the government.


In this archetype, a catastrophic event or phenomenon, often man-made, has already occurred. Although this has left a scar on the human species to the point that population is often significantly reduced, mankind resumes its path to progress quickly thereafter. However, strict totalitarian or dictatorial powers emerge from this checkered past, ostensibly to carefully prevent the occurrence of other man-made devastating events or phenomena in the future. Technology is advanced, but centralized in the hands of governmental bodies and used as an instrument of control. Running parallel to technical progress, citizens’ rights, happiness, freedom, and emotions are limited from above. Individuals attempt to emancipate, to rebel against existing regimes, or to uproot them. (Fergnani & Song, 2020, pp. 10-11)


A catastrophic event or phenomenon, often man-made, has already occurred: 4 examples out of 5 novels examined = 80%

Descriptions Summarized: One of the books did not mention a catastrophic event in the back-cover copy. Zero-Day Rising by T.C. Weber is the third in a series where a giant media corporation has taken over the world. So even though the back-cover copy does not mention a catastrophic event, the novel is explicitly built around one (100%). The other forms of catastrophic events result from corruption, tyranny, and invasive social app technology.


Although it has left a scar, mankind resumes its path to progress: 3 examples out of 5 novels examined = 60%

Descriptions Summarized: Just over half of the books in The Powers that Be category provide descriptions of humanity's return to a path of progress. A better description of this theme would be that people struggle to live with a "new normal" that many find intolerable. In a totalitarian state, most people decide the best strategy is to obey and not cause trouble.


Strict totalitarian or dictatorial (Governmental) powers emerge: 7 examples out of 5 novels examined = 140%

Descriptions Summarized: All of the books in this category described visions of a dystopian future where great centralized powers oppress citizens. Two of the books offered multiple descriptions on their back-cover copy, emphasizing the importance of this theme. Of special note is that the theme of totalitarian control appears in many other Archetypes, indicating a broad popular concern with the subject that is worthy of further investigation.


Technology is advanced, but centralized and used for control: 6 examples out of 5 novels examined = 120%

Descriptions Summarized: The technology described in this archetype is recognizable, but advanced, and it is always portrayed negatively as a tool for social control. The message appears to tap into a deep-seated fear of the growth in technology that humanity is experiencing. This archetype gives voice and color to those fears.


Individuals attempt to emancipate, rebel, or uproot the government: 10 examples out of 5 novels examined = 200%

Descriptions Summarized: The human response to totalitarian control and fears of technology is an overwhelming rejection of the State and its tools of control. Ten examples of this rejection were found by examining only five books (200%). The call to action is clear and insistent. Humanity longs to be free, and the moral obligation of the protagonist is to fight to bring the system down.


References:

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, c2013.


Fergnani, A. & Song, Z. (2020). The six scenario archetypes framework: A systematic investigation of science fiction films set in the future. Futures, (124, 102645) ISSN 0016-3287, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2020.102645


Merritt, T. (2022). Imagining the future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes. ResearchGate, (PDF) Imagining the Future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes (researchgate.net)


Rovai, A., Baker, J. & Ponton, M. (2014) Social science research design and statistics: A practitioner’s guide to research methods and IBM SPSS analysis (2nd ed.). Chesapeake: Watertree Press, LLC.

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