• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Alternative Futures: Wasteworlds

Appendix C.

Appendix C to Alternative Futures describes a world in which a catastrophic event has already occurred. There have been substantial transformations on a global scale, forcing humans to adapt to drastic life conditions. Human existence now takes place at the subsistence level and individuals engage in violent conflict to survive.

In this archetype, a catastrophic event or phenomenon has already occurred, bringing about substantial transformations on a global scale. The atmospheric environment is often perniciously hit, forcing humans to adapt to drastic life conditions. Often times, on the backdrop of severe resources’ scarcity, human civilization has regressed to sustenance level. The market economy has given way to more rudimentary economic systems, such as barter or the use of water, oil, or sand as currencies. Few survivors live in scattered tribal communities, struggling for life and often exploited by gangs of outlaws. Tyrannical local leaders often subjugate these defenseless communities, expropriating their resources. Individuals fight against each other for survival. Other times, humans abandon earth altogether due to unliveable environmental conditions, this being a variation of the archetype, albeit with the same initial premises. (Fergnani & Song, 2020, p. 9)

A catastrophic event or phenomenon has already occurred: 6 examples out of 5 novels examined = 120%

Descriptions Summarized: All of the books in the Wasteworlds category were built around descriptions of catastrophic events ranging from the aftermath of a bio war in the lands of the Drowned Cities to a hive intelligence that is close to consuming what remains of humanity to apocalyptical global-scale flooding. One author even employs two catastrophic events simultaneously. The first is a human-machine Singularity that has nearly rendered humans extinct. The second is contact with an extraterrestrial force that is destroying the solar system's planets.


Substantial transformations on a global scale: 4 examples out of 5 novels examined = 80%

Descriptions Summarized: While all of the books examined illustrated substantial transformations, two books only portrayed those transformations at a regional, rather than global, level. Another book revolved around two substantial transformations (nanotechnology run rampant and contact with extraterrestrial life) occurring simultaneously, bringing humanity to the verge of extinction. Mystical creatures inhabiting the world and catastrophic weather events complete the category.


Forcing humans to adapt to drastic life conditions: 4 examples out of 5 novels = 80%

Descriptions Summarized: From visions of a dark future where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone to a hopeful vision where people respond to calamity by coming together in cooperation, all of the characters in the Wasteworlds category must struggle to survive. One notable example finds employment by prepping corpses for funerals.


Human civilization has regressed to sustenance level: 3 examples out of 5 novels = 60%

Descriptions Summarized: Just over half of the books in the Wasteworlds category emphasize the struggle for survival occurring at the subsistence level. Violence is prevalent, sometimes coming from gangs or criminals or vengeful bands of soldiers. In another case, a family must come to grips with the loss of their home and other essential resources for survival.


Fight for survival; individuals, outlaws, tyrants: 3 examples out of 5 novels examined = 60%

Descriptions Summarized: Violence in many forms is a recurring theme in the Wasteworlds category. This theme is very closely tied with the reduction to subsistence level existence. Characters must respond by becoming violent themselves and learning to fight back. The external violence of the environment thus triggers a violent internal response.


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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