It’s what I do. It’s how I find the stories I write. ‘What would happen if…’
The thing is, fiction has to make sense. Real life doesn’t, but fiction does. You can’t just set up a whole future world with no explanation of how it came to be. Okay, you don’t want a long explanation in the story, just hints here and there in conversation, but in writing future-based stories you have to reason out how the world came to the point you’re writing about. If it looks impossible, or implausible, readers will give up on you.
There is an easy way out – set it on another planet or in a fantasy reality, but if you want it to really raise the hairs on the backs of reader’s necks, set it in the near future and make it horrible. It can’t just ‘happen’ though. There has to be at least the possibility that it could really happen.
So let’s say you want to set a future dystopia in a world with a vastly reduced human population. Not just decimated, but driven pretty close to extinction. You have an elite who run things and who made this near-extinction happen so they have a small and easily controlled slave workforce. I actually have a much darker theme than just a slave workforce but I’ll keep that surprise for another time.
How did they do it? How did they reduce the billions of people to just a few million?
Well, there’s war of course. Tessie the Impaler is currently trying to start a war with Russia. The old adage ‘Pick on someone your own size’ comes to mind. As in, someone you have at least a remote chance of beating. I have a feeling war with Russia would go something like this –
Monday: Tessie declares war on Russia.
Tuesday. The EU suddenly finds it doesn’t have to worry about Brexit any more, but now has to hope the easterly winds continue, so they carry the radioactive cinders out into the Atlantic.
Yeah. We aren’t going to win that one. Best to back off a bit, I’d say. Besides, all this talk of ‘we won’t stand for you killing people in the UK’ rings rather hollow when they won’t even identify the ones doing the daily acid-based face changes, street acupuncture demonstrations and occasional exploding vest incidents. Yet one dead Russian spy is enough to declare war?
War won’t work for this story because it would leave large areas of the planet uninhabitable and spread a radioactive cloud over most of the rest of it. No point achieving your goal of massive population reduction if you have to spend the rest of your life in an underground bunker.
The same goes for a rapidly-spread disease. How can the elites guarantee they won’t catch it and how can they be sure it’s finally gone once it’s done its job? Back to the underground bunker…
I need, for this story, a world largely pristine but with an awful lot of unmarked graves. How to get there?
An idea arrived today. Two more days to the vernal equinox, the official start of spring, and it’s -2 degC out there and snowing. It’s still snowing heavily on a lot of the northern hemisphere and we’re told it’s global warming.
Because it’s ‘global warming’, heating costs are taxed whatever you use. Electricity, gas, oil, all taxed to combat ‘global warming’. We are told the wood burning stoves and fireplaces are a very bad thing and we should get rid of them. New houses are built with no chimneys and have been for some time now. When the power goes off, the gas runs out and the oil delivery trucks can’t get through, there is no way to heat those houses. No way at all.
So, I thought, wait for signs of a coming ice age and make sure nobody has the means to survive it. Great. Population wipeout with no effort and no environmental impact. Well, apart from clearing away the thawing corpses when it’s over.
There’s only one little niggle. A small ice age, not a total snowball earth, would really only affect countries near the poles. Those in the middle, around the tropics, would hardly be affected. That’s a lot of people still to get rid of. How?
Aha. Make them move north.
Tell them global warming is going to make their country too hot for human life. Tell them they can have free benefits and never have to work if they come to the north. Even go so far as to start wars in their countries so they have to flee.
A solar minimum is approaching. It’s going to get colder. Maybe not a full-on ice age but the cold this year is only a taste of what’s coming. The scene is set for this story to be plausible, I just need to work out the details.
So, all you need to do is concentrate the world’s population in countries that are going to freeze, and then wait. When the ice hits, turn off the power. Stop the gas. Make the oil too expensive. Make coal and wood fires illegal. Wait for inevitable crop failures. Even if you don’t get a real ice age, a few of those seriously cold winters will drastically reduce your population for you – especially among those who moved from hot countries and who are unused to sub-zero temperatures.
You’ll have riots, sure. You’ll have people attacking each other for food and shelter. What the cold doesn’t kill, the neighbours will.
In this context, a new tension with Russia actually helps. Russia might get sufficiently pissed off to turn off the gas pipelines. They’ll need that gas themselves anyway, when it gets seriously cold.
I don’t think this is enough to get to the low population levels I need for the story but it’s a good start. There’s still China and India, for example, densely populated and probably mostly okay in a hypothetical ice age. Russia also – they know how to deal with deep cold and Putin isn’t playing the globalist game. He’s not going to turn off the heating.
But then I’m working in fiction. Putin might be replaced, as might Trump (who also wouldn’t play along) and then the corpsicle count goes way up.
Actually, the story can work even if China, Russia, the USA and India are untouched in this first round. The major wipeout would be in Europe. Once it’s done you can further reduce population by means of constant wars with other countries. Would the other countries use nukes? On what? You have nothing left to aim a nuke at! The major cities are abandoned and the population is now in a series of small towns, reliant for news on a media that’s totally under elite control.
Once you have a base (Europe) you can then unleash biological weaponry on the rest of the world. Probably best to do that before the ice age ends so nobody from the other countries wants to come to Europe. The elite are sealed in to one area while the rest of the world’s population is vastly reduced by a particularly virulent virus. Such a weapon would, of course, be most effective in densely populated countries.
This still needs some thought, but I think I can come up with a plausible scenario for a fairly rapid depopulation of the planet. Leaving an elite and a small, easily controlled population to serve them.
If I do though, in the current climate, should I publish it or just keep it quiet?