Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Extract from War of the Element (II)

Well, here she is, a piece of political beauty, the kettle boiling over, the point of no return. Enjoy.

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Vorith had since flown back to orbit with the remainder of his troops, while General Shellet remained as the acting commander of Inner System forces on Titan. There were still some splinter groups who were unaware of their recent defeat, but it would takes years for many of them to accept it anyway. Vorith knew that, so he left Shellet in charge – a smart young chap, he was – and ordered the fleet to begin preparations to return home. The war was nearly over. He had received a pre-recorded message as soon as he boarded The Quasar, shown to him by Captain Glune himself. It was a request from the governor of Jupiter’s small municipality of gas-mining stations for peaceful negotiations. He felt he had to oblige. ‘Invite him and a small entourage aboard. We’ll pick him up before we head back,’ he told Glune.

‘Yes, sir.’

 

He made his way back to the command centre of the flagship, where he met with four of the generals who had evacuated with him.

Vorith would make the announcement that the war was over. He felt personally responsible for such a monumental statement – more so than a leader usually would, but that was because all reporters and media companies had been left behind. He realised he could make up a whole new story, and they would be none the wiser.

One of his generals remained standing after they saluted him. ‘Vorith,’ he began, looking anxious.

‘You shouldn’t be calling me that. Don’t start now. It’s commander in chief, officially.’

 

‘Sir. Before the political leaders arrive for the debriefing, we wanted to express our gratitude and respect for your taking command these last few months. We understand it is an immense responsibility, one that should not be held by any democratic leader.’

Vorith barely looked up from his notes.

‘Well, I’d hardly call myself a democratic leader. I wasn’t actually voted in anywhere. Hell, the people back home don’t even know I’m acting commander.’ Vorith continued to study his clipboard, going over dozens of fatality and damage reports. The general shifted his stance, standing straight with his hands held behind him. It pushed his chest out, and showed the beginnings of a corpulent stomach. His thinning hair was gelled back, and the other three generals stood up as well, the one taking his hat off. The atmosphere suddenly grew tense. Vorith felt it, looking up and paying attention for the first time since he entered the room.

 

‘What we’re trying to say, sir, is that we have appreciated your command until now. It has brought nothing but victory to the Inner System. All we want you to know is, if the situation were to arise, we would remain loyal, to you, and, to you alone.’ He looked at the other three. They nodded. ‘You have the unquestioned loyalty of the military behind you.’

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A nail-biter, no?

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Dystopia (And Why it still exists)

You’ve heard of utopia – a place where everyone is prosperous and lives freely. Unicorns roam the streets and humans don’t murder, steal or cheat. The streets are clean and the wars are only a distant memory, a legend of an imperfect era.

Well, surprisingly, nobody really cares to think about this place anymore, especially in the last hundred years. Perhaps those two world-encompassing conflicts and the subsequent threat of total nuclear destruction slapped people out of their trances and the smell of reality came rushing back.

No, the hot topic of post-modern thought and literature is now focused upon utopia’s rebellious, infinitely more interesting cousin, DYSTOPIA. It is a world where fire rains down from the heavens, food is rare enough to solicit ambush and murder, women are raped, men are slaughtered, children are worked to death, and war and destruction are constant companions. Disease ravages the countryside. Smog canvasses the city. Fascist groups are jostling for power at the expense of the impoverished population. There is only one thing to which everyone clings: hope.

What can I say? I suppose humanity just loves a challenge.

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Remember that awesome movie series that you watched far too many times? No? That was just me then? Okay.

Needless to say, Hollywood has had a field day with the concept of dystopia, where the unsung hero to defies the odds to bring some semblance of hope back to humanity. It’s a refreshing turn from the traditional “Hero kills every bad guy in a big explosion and miraculously, none of the good guys die” scenario.

However, I want to explore the fact that our world can still be described as dystopic.

Let’s first establish that Utopia is ridiculous. It is impossible on every level, to such a degree that no living philosopher that I know of believes in its possibility. It seems they all just gave up on it. Dystopia, on the other hand, is very real and easily applicable to large periods of human history. I’ve already described the futuristic, Sci-Fi version of dystopia. Now, let me describe the industrial revolution and then WW1 in England, and see what you make of it:

London is a seething mess, growing rapidly without an end in sight. The growing urban class is far too large and unemployment soars. Most young women resort to prostitution to make enough to survive. Their unwanted children are either aborted or grow up alone in the streets of London. They will probably end up either criminals or chimney-sweeps and will die of lung-disease within a few years. Alternatively, they are recruited to work in crammed coal mines for 18 hours of the day, where they will either die also of lung disease from the poor ventilation or be crushed if the mines collapse. Riots are common, but so are the brutal retaliations by the government, which seeks to repress the population for as long as possible to minimise labour costs and keep profits high. The skyline of London is filled with factory chimney smoke. There is no regulation.  They produce uncontrolled amounts of poisonous waste that they dump in rivers. On many nights, ash rains down on London from the smoke released by these factories, colouring the snow a dark, murky grey. And just when these appalling conditions seem to have an end in sight, and the government takes notice of the horrible conditions of its country, a war with Germany seems imminent. The entire world is pulled into this conflict, which revolves purely around the multiple empires jostling for power over their colonies. What was first thought to be a three week affair turns into a five year nightmare. Leaders of the world don’t have a clue how to deal with it, and their attempts to prevent it from ever happening again will eventually lead to yet another, unimaginably worse war.

WW1

^^ So, does that look kind of dystopic to you? ^^ It happened less than 100 years ago.

Finally, the war is over. Six million men have died, mostly from gangrene and sitting in cold, waterlogged trenches where the tea freezes if you don’t drink it in 15 minutes and rats the size of cats steal your meagre rations. They come back home to England. Many of them have amputated limbs or have lost their eyesight to gas attacks. Others shake uncontrollably from shell-shock.

The authorities vow to make things better. They improve living conditions and assign more power to unions. Workers are allowed to protest and women are enfranchised. The world seems to be getting better. But don’t be fooled. All they did was assign the hard work to other countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, where the population is treated as sub-human, and worked to death just as the people of England were only a few decades ago. But you don’t know about it. You buy cheap steel and fruits imported from other countries and believe life is good. You can afford to buy a refrigerator, a motor car, a tennis racquet.

Don’t be fooled. For every person who lives a life of comfort, there are probably about 3 or 4 others who barely survive.

Now, here comes the difficult part to stomach. We like to give to charities, play our part in making the world a better place, try to help those less fortunate. Those are all familiar phrases which inspire good in us. And by all means, continue. The poor populations of third world countries could certainly benefit from this small, if somewhat inadequate leakage of resources back to their origins. However, a cold fact which we do not (read that as: ‘don’t want to’) acknowledge is that those people we see in dire need of water, food and shelter are in those situations because we live consumer lifestyles, because we use more water to bathe once than they do to live for a week. We eat more, drink more, consume more electricity and use more resources of every kind to fuel our lives.

Did you know that there is enough fresh water on Earth to sustain all 7 billion of us with surplus? Indeed, there is. There is also enough food, enough fuel, enough electricity and enough living space. But a small fraction of the world consumes almost all of those resources. That small fraction is you and me. The consumers, they call us. The elite, the prosperous, but most importantly, the lucky.

We live in this reality. We don’t bother to acknowledge it, and probably never will. We will give 10% of our salary to a charity and forget about it, but we will not live on a ration of water and food, use carpooling extensively, live ascetic, humble lifestyles so that others can do the same and think it a luxury. It’s quite sad, really. I feel guilty.

Here is the reason I condone it (at least I’m not a hypocrite), and still possess a smartphone (among many other consumer products) which I know was produced in a sweatshop where people work 24 hour shifts for terrible pay and try to kill themselves on a regular basis.

If we were to do what I previously mentioned and distribute resources evenly so everyone could be fed, it would also halt technological progress, which would be worse, because even if we did use our resources in moderation, if we didn’t have aggressive capitalism to develop technologies and find news ways to make our resource consumption more efficient, we’d eventually run out of something and the world would be plunged into the same economic chaos that the USSR experienced in the 80’s, and then this would happen:

Chernobyl

So tell me, are we indeed living in a permanent dystopia? Because nothing’s really changed in the last 200 years. There is an elite class that lives comfortably with plenty (that would be us) and the vast majority of the world which lives in appalling conditions and is essentially enslaved to cheaply produce goods for us (the rest of the world).

Perhaps we’ll one day stumble on a submissive alien race so we can outsource our labour to them and finally experience prosperity for all humans. Would you be down with that? Then for every happy, prosperous human, there would be ten aliens somewhere working to death to produce our stuff.

Please share your thoughts in the comments. I want to hear your opinion.

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George Orwell’s 1984

A heartbreaking, gut-wrenching novel. If I were a little more melodramatic, I might have fallen to my knees and wept.

Some Background Info:

1984 is a speculative story about a totalitarian world. Imagine every fascist, communist and demonic creature ever conceived and smash them together with a hadron collider. The product of this twisted experiment would be called ‘The Party’. This party is impregnable, infallible, indefatigable. They annihilate their enemies and destroy the world’s hopes of freedom, equality and most importantly, progress. They change  history as they see fit and there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to stop them. All for sheer power. There is no means, there is no ideology, there is nothing to stand for. They literally want power and nothing else. What’s more, they’ve conditioned the population to love them for it.

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I am not a light-hearted reader. In fact, being South African, I am by default exposed to some of the most raw and unfiltered literature in the world. Books like Antjie Krog”s Country of My Skull cover some gruesome human rights violations. Besides that, I love reading all sorts of gory Science Fiction from all over the place. This novel was above that. It went beyond individual human despair and destroyed the very idea of freedom with no hope of bringing it back. I have known the word ‘nihilism’ for a long time. I’ve even explored many facets of it (on an academic level), but I’d never had a sample of the hopelessness and despair that came with it. I now can say I’ve experienced the aftertaste of nihilism. It’s not pleasant. Damn.

It’s a very rare occurrence when something moves me this much, so I couldn’t leave it alone, I had to blog about it, despite wanting to reserve blogging on literature for later.

To all seven people who end up seeing my blog, have you read 1984? If not, what have you read that you would place on a similar level, compared to what I’ve described above? Do you enjoy reading literature that does not give  a solution at the end, that leaves one with a question rather than an answer?

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Welcome to my new blog. It has all the shiny things

Greetings, fellow travelers of the grand causeway of life and beyond. This is my first blog post on WordPress, though not my first written piece. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

My name is Savva Pouroullis, a Greek South African. Although I am young, I have been writing for several years. My first serious writing experience came in the form of short monthly articles in a local newspaper, starting at 400 words and eventually working my way up to the 1500 word mark. This column was titled Inside the Minds of Teenagers. It was an endeavour on my part to explore and explain the multitude of topics which piqued my interest and compelled me to higher thought.

Now, five years after that journey began, I am on the verge of completing and publishing my first novel, where I explore the myriad of philosophies I have accumulated and test the literary skills I have acquired. It is titled War of the Element. More on that later. I’ll do the promotions in a separate blog post. If you’re interested, look out for it.

Now, I’m sure you’re waiting to see what exactly these blog posts will be about. To be entirely frank, I am not sure myself. I’m starting the post to promote my novel and to discuss the issues I explore therein. But, of course, teenagers are quite spontaneous and impulsive. I may just decide to ramble on about my experiences on GTA 5, my musical interests, or the works of Nietzsche, if I so wish. In fact, I probably will. Don’t move too far from the wireless.

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