Foreword to all issues:
You are reading an issue of the Present Punk Graphic Novel, a series of standalone illustrated short stories. Sometimes extreme, sometimes banal, always asking how close we are to science fiction’s darker side.
I remember when dystopia awareness was a thing. I remember it fondly, actually. Back in those days, people were only just starting to figure things out–most of them my age. On some of the bigger internet forums, people would echo my thoughts: cyberpunk dystopia is becoming true, period.
People would talk about how this or that looked like Black Mirror (a popular show back then). I’ll never forget August 2019 – the Amazon burned so much, Sao Paolo was dark during the day. Thousands made the Blade Runner connection. In winter 2019-2020, Australia’s fires outperformed Brazil’s by making paradisal beaches look like Mars. All the sci-fi we grew up with went from outlandish to prescient to yesterday’s news.
And that was as good as it ever got. Because at least back in those days, there was a burgeoning agreement that things were going wrong. There was solidarity in it, a connection shared between people all over the country and all over the world (especially those growing into a nightmarish adulthood) that at least we were in this mess together.
I miss complaining. I miss complaining with my friends, about how much things sucked. Does anyone else miss that too? I don’t know when it went away. It’s not like we woke up, and dystopia came–it’s so silly of me to want to pinpoint a ‘before’ and ‘after.’
A bunch of things happened in the last few decades…would I pick any as the turning point? When Amazon merged with the Pentagon? Or years before that, when Trump got elected? Is the best starting point the dawn of the neoliberal period, or the dawn of industrialization? The building of the pyramids, or maybe the agricultural revolution? I don’t know. But each day, I wake up, and here we are.
I know what people would say if I talked to them. “Don’t focus too much on the past.” Well, the present sucks, so what choice do I have? No one even complains anymore. We all just accepted it. We’ve taken everything shoved in our faces, sitting down. Back in the “good old days,” no matter how bad things were, people were good to each other. No matter how hungry you got, you’d share with your neighbor.
Not anymore. Every day, I ignore abuse. A friend’s boss beat the fuck out of him for falling asleep on the job. He told me yesterday, and I told him he should feel lucky enough to have a job. Most of us are on basic income. He agreed, probably would’ve said the same thing to me if our positions were reversed.
This is what we’ve become, and I hate it. We all hate it, we all hate ourselves more than we hate the plutocrats or the surveillance or the waters that took our cities. So that’s why I miss dystopia awareness, back when we were still on the lookout for something that hadn’t fully happened yet. Because at least back in those days, we didn’t deserve what we got.
Sometimes I wish I could send a message back in time. Tell the younger version of myself and the people I used to know that we needed to fight harder. If you’re going to make cynical joke after cynical joke, fine, but dear God don’t let that be all you do. Please don’t give in, or you’ll never be able to justify complaining again. But I can’t relive the past. And I can hardly stand the present. So I think my best option is to avoid the future.