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FICTION Welcome to Dystopia: 45 Visions of What Lies Ahead

Unsettling visions of what might come following the US presidential election

IN WELCOME to Dystopia, edited by Gordon Van Gelder, a plague of what-if scenarios is released from the tortured imaginations of lefty sci-fi writers sharing one unified vision: What if Trump doesn’t leave in November?

Hell breaks loose.

The tales represent a parallax view of the same event, from the perspectives of men, women and multicultures.

In the opening story Sneakers, two male Canadians attempt to cross the border into the US to buy quality trainers cheaply, only to be detained for questioning for no other reason than the fascist border guard is in love with Trump’s immigration vision so much it eludes him that the men aren’t trying to immigrate.

Men tells of new laws requiring statue replacements under a royal Trump regime — Atlas, holding up the world at the Rockefeller Centre, is replaced by the Objectivist Ayn Rand and there’s a story of forced labour marches to the Southern border to build the Wall.

Isn’t Life Great is a dark tale that sees the US divided by strictly enforced Red (Patriot) and Blue (Loyalist) neighbourhoods, an invasion of Iran and a war with China that ends with “enlightenment.”

Among the female writers Janis Ian, the singer-songwriter of At Seventeen fame — a song quite in keeping with the tone of Welcome to Dystopia — writes His Sweat Like Stars on the Rio Grande, a lyrical, sexy nightmare about a woman growing up in the shadow of the Wall, a tracker of immigrants trying to illegally escape over it back to Mexico.

N Lee Wood follows an email exchange between friends Michelle in New Zealand and Carrie in the US, the latter with cancer in a failed healthcare system in a failed state.

California has seceded, the nation’s a war zone and there’s a mass flight towards the Canadian border.

In The Elites, Stephanie Feldman tells the two-pronged tale of an “intercultural” family breakdown caused by the policies of Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Indian writer Deepak Unnikrishnan’s Birds is a real gem. It tells the mawkish tale of Indian Anna Varghese, recruited as a “taper” at construction sites in Abu Dhabi.

When workers fall — or jump — from the buildings, she’s there to sew and tape them together so that they can return to work.

No hospitals are allowed — the workers cannot leave the site.

Varghese writes of their “final” thoughts: “When workers fell, severing limbs, the pain was acute, but borne. Yet what truly stung was the loneliness and anxiety of falling that weighed on their minds.”

The 45 stories are no erudite or academic exorcisms but plain-speaking, often funny, splendid reads. No philosophy, just rock-steady acknowledgements that the end is nigh.

Welcome to Dystopia is published by O/R Books, £16.

JOHN KENDALL HAWKINS

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