The following is a self-reflection that was appended to Kacey’s Dream, an essay I wrote for a class (“Science Fiction & Utopia”) which is based on an idea for a short story sci-fi story I had several years ago. That original idea was in turn inspired by a dream I myself had after staying up too late one night while studying astronomy and supernovae for fun (yes, I’m that nerdy).
Note: Shevek is a character from Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 utopian science-fiction novel The Dispossessed. The prompt for the essay involved creating a “Frankenstein” utopia combining elements of other novels so you’ll also see elements of other utopian fiction included in Kacey’s Dream.
There are a couple of ideas I endeavored to explore in Kacey’s Dream. The first one is Shevek’s General Temporal Theory from The Dispossessed. The details of his theory are somewhat vague throughout the novel, so I thought it would be interesting to consider it as a way of a) understanding how the future, present and past are both related and not related, b) exploring competing conceptualizations of time (such as causal reversibility; e.g., fixing the errors of the past) and c) to teach a life lesson with psychologically therapeutic underpinnings. The second idea that I wanted to explore was the origins of utopian societies. Allow me to explain my thought process regarding each idea, beginning with General Temporal Theory.
When I initially started writing this paper, I had an idea for a science fiction story I wanted to write, which is the intro to Kacey’s Dream. Kacey awakens in the middle of the night after having a nightmare and tries to recollect details of the dream so she can log them for a more detailed analysis in the morning. Then I allow the reader to experience the dream first hand. The intro comes full circle with Kacey awakening in the middle of the night, distressed and frightened. My original plan for the narrative was to have her sporadically travelling through time, initially unaware of the cycling. However, in the end, I felt it made more sense to have the dream be a manifestation of her subconscious anxiety about having left her original home as well as the stress she feels from working so hard.
Using a bit of creative license with Simultaneity Theory enabled me to “bring” Shevek from Anarres to Saturn so that Kacey and Shevek would ultimately have a chance to meet and work together. In a somewhat ironic sense, my having written it this way supports General Temporal Theory (the unification of Simultaneity and Sequence Theory) because – much like the Ansible engineers designing the device without having Shevek’s ultimate cause (equations to make it work) – Kacey and Shevek were destined to meet from the beginning. From the Simultaneity perspective, the universe is deterministic and therefore there is no time in which they have not met. But according to Sequence theory, there was an order to the events – Shevek had to first move to Hyperion, and so did Kacey. Thus, the combining of Simultaneity and Sequence Theory represents a holistic and interdependent view of the universe and the integration of seemingly contradictory perspectives. This integration of perspectives is ultimately what Shevek is attempting to convince Kacey of when interpreting her dream. The story ends with her realization that whatever happened in the past, she can tap into these theories as a way of integrating opposing perspectives. Even though she missed home, she also enjoyed her life on Hyperion. The idea is that if she spends too much time thinking about the aging past, she isn’t enjoying the present; and through intention she can help guide herself toward an improved future.
Speaking of an improved future, I’d like to move on to the second idea I wanted to explore which is the origins of utopian societies. A fellow classmate once described Asheville as a utopia for some people, although not for everybody. That led to me considering all the people who love Asheville despite its flaws and economic issues. There are many people who are doing everything it takes to make a living in Asheville because they love the area. Conversely, there is a crowd of people who dislike the sudden population boom, primarily because they preferred the small population. The idea struck me that there is an imbalance of expectations: the newcomers have left behind a previous town or city and are doing what it takes to make their new life in Asheville work while the other side wants Asheville to remain the same and without doing what it takes (which in such case would mean moving to their preferred location). This is why I had Shevek move to Saturn from Anarres. In The Dispossessed, Shevek was unhappy about his revolutionary society becoming stagnant; it was no longer full of the same revolutionary spirit. Rather than remain unhappy in what others viewed as a utopia, he left in search of his utopia. That is the sentiment he expresses toward the end of Kacey’s Dream when he says:
“[…] the people who aren’t fit for this kind of lifestyle, they leave…because it is only fair for them to do what it takes for them to be happy. You see, cities like ours do not exist in nature. They are created from within each one of us, so a city like Hyperion emerges from an agreement between our spirits.”
Therefore, I came to the conclusion that utopias do not necessarily exist as a natural concept, but rather emerge as a community of like-minded individuals.