Imagining a future you want to live in.
Over in Anthropocene, I published a new short story—Victory Condition—about transforming San Francisco into a giant arcology surrounded by lush wildlands.
Last summer, the magazine reached out to ask if I’d contribute a story to their Climate Parables: “A series of short, speculative stories from some of the most talented climate-fiction writers. We ask them what life could be like after technological and societal shifts have actually mitigated climate change—and we’ve adapted to chronic environmental stresses. Think of it as climate reporting from the future. Tales of how we succeeded in harnessing new technology and science to work with nature, rather than against it.”
I immediately fell in love with the project and really enjoyed reading the contributions from writers I admire, like Kim Stanley Robinson and Annalee Newitz. So, as with any true adventure, I said yes despite not knowing where it might lead.
For months, it led nowhere. I was in the middle of writing the rough draft of a new novel (more details soon!), and I needed to finish the manuscript before embarking on the short story. But the seed had been planted and soon began to grow—a feral weed colonizing a shaded corner of my imagination.
I thought about how much I love living in the San Francisco Bay Area with all its beauty and weirdness and dynamism and contradictions, how many people and cultures and species and ideas share these shores, how many histories and futures intersect here. I thought about how frustrated I get living in the San Francisco Bay Area with its housing crisis and crime and corruption, its decaying infrastructure and tent cities, its untapped potential and empty promises. I thought about what a city means, and what it means for a city to grow and change and become a better version of itself, always on the brink of something new.
That’s what Victory Condition is about: reinventing the Bay Area.
When I finished the rough draft of the novel and sat down to begin work on the short story, I realized it was already there in my heart, complete with flowers and tendrils and spines and a few aphids. All I needed to do was transplant it into prose.
Imagining a future I’d want to live in took months. Writing it down took hours. Reading it will take you fifteen minutes—and if it hits you in the right place at the right time, it might just turn out to be a quarter of an hour you’ll never forget.
So go take Victory Condition for a spin and let me know what you think.
In addition to giving insightful notes and producing beautiful illustrations, the good people at Anthropocene embedded a series of articles about the real-world scientific precursors to Victory Condition’s particular future, from fusion reactors and space elevators to living biomaterials and cement batteries. As if that isn’t cool enough already, Back Pocket Media is adapting the story for the stage in a special live event on May 12-13th hosted by Anthropocene and the Long Now Foundation.
Enjoy, and remember: humans dreamed up the cities and systems we live in, and humans can dream up new ones.
Eliot Peper is the author of Reap3r, Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0. He also works on special projects crafting stories to inform, entertain, and inspire.
“A brilliantly imagined eco-punk future filled with memorable characters locked in a life-or-death contest to control the direction of Earth’s climate in the 21st century.”
-August Cole, author of Ghost Fleet, on Veil