by BEARS FONTÉ — When we started this festival we kicked around a few thematic slogans. My first inclination was “The Future Now,” stolen from a pretty obscure song by a pretty obscure artist, Peter Hammill. He was the primary songwriter and vocalist of the band Van Der Graaf Generator, a prog rock band obsessed with SciFi themes. The song, which laments the current state of the world - “static in the later half of the twintieth century,” it was 1978 after all — points to "blinding hatred of race, sex, religion, colour, country and creed,” “the rape of the planet, “apartheid, corruption and plague.” With the exception of ‘organized’ apartheid, all of these issues still face us, and I can understand when he screams out "I want the future now, I'm young, and it's my right. I want a reason to be proud.”
Yes, I’ve been watching the political conventions. Before you jump to conclusions, I’ve watched both, start to finish. I have voted for Republicans, I have voted for Democrats, I have voted Green, I have voted Libetarian, and I have voted Peace & Freedom Party. Science Fiction is inherently political. 1984 is read across the world as a warning against totalitarian government. STARSHIP TROOPERS is one of the best books (and films) ever made about the military industrial complex. The DUNE series probably speaks to jihadism and dependence on one resource better than anything else, and should be required reading to understand modern politics.
A speculative society is one that doesn’t yet exist. As writers and filmmakers create these worlds, it allows us to imagine what life would be like inside them, which of course influences how we view our own world.
Do we see our society becoming more or less like the imagined future these writers present? Do we want it to? How do we stop that (or encourage it)?
So yeah…you should vote. You still have time to register and make your voice heard. I’ve read too many books and seen too many films where people don’t have that option, so please exercise it. It is the only way we can make ‘The Future Now.'
And to go back to the song, the chorus verse continues "I want the future now, I want to see it on the screen, I want to break the bounds that make our lives so mean.” I’ve always loved that in a protest song, Peter Hammill understands the power of putting something on the screen, something to aim for, something to steer our dreams. If the utopian ideals in certain films feel too far off to grasp, at least witnessing them gives us something to which to aspire.
You can check out a live version Hammill’s song on you tube below: