This week, Vancouver is holding its Writers Fest on funky Granville Island. When I looked at the schedule, I was so excited to see dystopia with a starring role, despite it meaning I was now compelled to drive across the city to attend (I haven’t shared much about moving to the city yet, but safe to say driving in it is one of the downsides!).
It was fascinating. I wasn’t previously acquainted with all the speakers, though it was brilliant to see a New Zealand author there – Anna Smaill, whose book The Chimes was long-listed for the Man Booker last year. Passionate Charlotte Wood, droll MG Vassanji, and the astute Michael Helm made up the panel, with Claudia Casper hosting.
I’ve talked and written about dystopia so much – with students and lecturers at Cambridge, with other readers since, with other writers more recently, but just as it is with the plethora of books that keep coming out in the genre, while similar themes abounded, the conversation was unique. The discussion ranged around a world of issues and the issues of writing different worlds – worlds gone wrong. The speakers were engaging, their excerpts intriguing and they lit a fire under me to do more with my writing.
The tagline of the Vancouver Writers Fest is: Reimagine Your World. I can’t think of anything more fitting for a writer of dystopia, or for anyone at the moment. The world is full of upheaval. Social arenas online and off are full of politics and vitriol. And so many people are struggling, with personal and public battles.
These writers have reached into a troubled collective psyche and brought nightmare worlds to life. Nightmares that don’t seem as far away as they should; nightmares that are, in a sense, already here.
But it’s important to recognise that the opposite also holds true. So long as we can imagine, we can imagine something better. We can imagine a solution. We can escape.
Whatever your challenges and concerns right now, take a moment and reimagine your world. Imagine a better one. Believe it’s possible. And work towards it.