8 New Novels that Envision an Alternate Future

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From Electric Lit:

When I sat down to write Users five years ago, I had no intention of writing a particularly topical novel. At the time, a story about a lead creative working at a VR start-up who goes to war with his user-community, whose hasty solution ultimately leads to his downfall, felt like an exaggeration—a hyperbolic expression of fears and dissatisfactions that were bubbling up in me after going to work as a writer in a variety of tech settings. But, with the rise of web3, and the scramble by major corporations from Microsoft to Alphabet to Facebook to wrap us in their virtual or augmented nets, it’s starting to feel like reality has caught up to the exaggeration. I wish I could claim it was intentional, but I have trouble predicting what will happen in the next few hours, let alone several years.

When I write, I’m often using my imagination to process an immediate world that would otherwise be overwhelming. I think that’s one great power fiction has, and part of why I’ve always been drawn to it. Intentionally prescient or not, I’ve always turned to writers for depictions of life, not only as it is, but as it could be, or will be, that make the living of life feel a bit more manageable. That’s a tall order, given the past decade. And the future has started to feel more unpredictable than ever. But here’s a list of books about the future that make those distant (or not-so-distant) days feel a bit less daunting—either in the way they imagine the future or in the way its being imagined is made meaningful.

Out There: Stories by Kate Folk

Weird how writers called “weird” wind up predicting the future with what feels retroactively like utter clarity. A woman is tasked with keeping her house moist. Another must navigate a world of online dating full of artificial men called “blots” distributed by Russian hackers. Folk writes stories about the future in a way that feels both absurd and inevitable, which is what the future always is.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

In the last few years, Serpell has put out two powerhouse novels. Most recently, the breathtaking and grief-soaked The Furrows. Before that, her massive speculative sci-fi debut The Old Drift. This is a multi-generational tale about a colonial settlement in Zambia that starts in 1904, where a mistake alters the course of generations for decades to come. We witness the rise of the charismatic huckster behind a homegrown technological movement called the Afronauts, traveling from riverside mosquito tents to a world of microdrones and viral vaccines.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit