Apropos my last post, because this is something I think about a lot, especially since I saw Catching Fire last week, and am now re-reading The Hunger Games. And, dammit, I get sad that we don’t have a YA dystopia with an emotionally stunted iconic heroine played by Shari Sebbens and brooding and handsome hero played by Jordan Rodrigues of our own!
So the thing about Australia is, we’re roughly the same size as the United States, but much more sparsely populated. So in the event of some kind of technological cataclysm, such as a nuclear electromagnetic pulse, coupled with radical climate change, we’re less likely to wind up with a totalitarian one-party state than a series of isolated communities that occasionally fight over resources.
For example, Perth is separated from the rest of Australia by a GIANT DESERT, and Western Australia is a vast state in its own right, so that would be the first to separate. (Nightsiders by Sue Isle is a collection of novellas set in a dystopian Perth.)
Tasmania next, because it’s an island, and I shall refrain from making cannibal jokes out of consideration for … you know. Or possibly Darwin, which is closer to South East Asia than it is to other Australian cities. Likewise, far north Queensland would probably be cementing its close geographic ties to the Torres Strait and New Guinea — in the coastal regions, at least. Further inland, you’d probably have your isolated homesteaders, the kind of people who already think they’re living in the End Times and prove it by voting for Bob Katter.
(…Come to think of it, there’s a lot of mineral wealth in WA and QLD, not to mention uranium in the Northern Territory, but how much of that is of use to those states if large-scale international trade has collapsed remains to be seen. But it certainly brings them closer to self-sufficiency than, say, Canberra.)
Then you have your larger state capitals, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. They’re all within driving distance, albeit it’s a couple of days’ drive, so I can see that they wouldn’t be entirely isolated, but how much power the Federal Government has in those circumstances is debateable. (I mean, the Constitution gives a lot more power to the States than the Federal Government, but Federalism developed along with the technological resources for faster communication and travel.)
ANYWAY, what you end up with are several separate communities, not hugely trusting of one another. Stack on a few generations, let this develop as the status quo, let technology re-develop but keep in mind the effects of climate change, and what do you have? A totalitarian state? A laissez faire corporatocracy? Anarchy? All this and everything in between, depending on where you are?
Not to mention all the nations around us, dealing with their own problems, many of them small island states being swallowed up by the rising oceans. ”SCARY FORNERS INVADING HONEST, WHITE AUSTRALIA” is one of those right-wring tropes I prefer to avoid, but there comes a point where you’re wondering why they’re not knocking on the door. (Again, this comes back to those odd US dystopias where the rest of the world apparently doesn’t exist.)
Some local dystopia for you:
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina is the first in a YA trilogy (I think) about young people with special abilities in a future, dystopian Australia. It’s also one of the few works of science fiction by an Indigenous author — oh, look, she’s a guest of honour at Continuum next year, plug, plug, plug. I actually didn’t finish the first book, because it wasn’t what I was in the mood for at the time, but I couldn’t actually say whether it’s good or bad or in between.
Karen Healey’s When We Wake isn’t precisely a dystopia — its future Australia is pretty great, provided you don’t care about refugees, or incredibly powerful militaries, and what not. In short, it’s very much like the present day — quite fantastic, as long as you don’t look at things too closely.
An anti-rec: The Rosie Black Chronicles by Lara Morgan. I can’t remember if this is actually dystopian, or just plain old sci-fi. I was too busy facepalming at the terrible writing and general racism to pay attention.
And another: The Sea and Summer by George Turner, an acclaimed mainstream SF novel which posits, among other things, a vast chunk of Australia’s land being sold to Asians (actually an ethnic slur was used), who promptly destroy the country’s ecology with careless weather manipulation. Sometimes, you know, I just look at this genre and go, “Seriously? Really?”
Yeah, When We Wake is pre-dystopia.
As in, right on the cusp of so becoming, particularly because the Powers That Be are invested in a utopian vision and ignoring the social cost of bringing it to life.