Painful Truth: Explaining politics with sci-fi

If thinking about U.S. politics is driving you crazy, you can find some solace in reading a 17-year-old novel that predicted, well, most of it.

It’s not that Distraction, by cyberpunk legend Bruce Sterling, foretold the rise of Trump. It’s that only Sterling’s bonkers novel captures the spirit of an election deluged with rumour, frenzy, partisan fury, ennui, and madness.

No other science fiction novel has grappled with the failure modes of politics as well as Distraction.

A quick summary: Distraction’s hero is a campaign manager and political fixer. In 2044, in an America growing increasingly chaotic, he takes a job investigating the budget of a massive pork barrel research centre in East Texas. The rogue (and possibly actually insane) governor of Louisiana wants to control the research centre. Things get very, very complicated as both sides maneuvre for political advantage, employing public stunts, strikes, influence, and rival armies of highly technological hobos.

It’s a weird, weird book. But only a book this weird could come close to predicting just how weird politics is – and will become.

Let’s not look down our noses at the politics of the Americans. Let’s look closer to home.

Try explaining recent Toronto politics to someone who thinks of Canada, and Ontario in particular, as being fairly dull.

How did Rob Ford, a manifestly unfit populist prone to racist outbursts, get into the mayor’s office? Heck, how did he entrench himself as a councillor for a decade before that?

Or just look at Canada’s federal politics in the 1990s.

One of the original ruling parties of Canada, the Progressive Conservatives, collapsed utterly, and never really recovered. We had five major parties – including an official opposition dedicated to the secession of one province.

In the intervening years, we’ve had everything from Peegate to jet-skiing party leaders. Give us a few years, and we’ll spawn half a dozen new political movements, strange scandals, and find out exactly how odd the intersection of technology and politics can be.

Right now, we have seemingly returned to more-or-less normal. The Liberals face a Conservative opposition, the NDP remains in third place. It all has a veneer of normalcy.

But make no mistake, things are not going to go back to business as usual. Weird is the new normal. I suggest you read Distraction now, while most of it is still fictional.

 

 

Just Posted

Langley’s supportive housing plan moves forward

Township council will now hear from the public before making a final decision.

POSTPONED: Student entrepreneurs spotlighted at Fort Langley event

Take part in a talk on problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking and social responsibility.

Brookswood’s Forsyth back to Langley for basketball meet

The Bobcat alumnus and her team will take on last year’s champs Notre Dame.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

VIDEO: Two officers of B.C. Legislature escorted out amid investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Santa coming to Fort Langley

On Nov. 24, Santa will paddle into Fort Langley and light up the giant Christmas tree.

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Most Read