29 January 2011


Locus Focus: Take Thirty-Eight!

Welcome to "Worlds of Tomorrow": The Movie Edition!

Now that "Future Settings" month is coming to a close, I have a few thoughts on my blogging experience. I chose this theme for January, the first month of the year, to reflect the general spirit of looking forward. And despite the fact that most future-set novels (and movies!) feature dystopian worlds, I was confident that I'd be able to come up with four positive projections of tomorrow.

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that was an Epic Fail--if only because I opened the month with a ruined and desolate Palace of Green Porcelain, a kind of mausoleum for Victorian civilisation. The next week, I nearly balanced it with the libertarian utopia that is the North American Confederacy--and probably would have, had this future world not come with a dystopian twin. (Parallel universes, you know?) And if I was still going for two out of three, I shot myself in the foot with Mr. Charrington's Shop, a place where history--and human nature--get to die an unnatural death. Happy futures seem kind of pointless in fiction.

And that is why I started this month intending to write about the colourful, family-friendly future in the animated film Meet the Robinsons . . . but ended up going full dystopia again today . . .

Old Detroit

"Old Detroit has a cancer. That cancer is crime. And it must be cut out, before we employ the 2 million workers that will breathe life into this city . . ."

I know little of what the real Detroit was like in 1987--not enough to say whether this film's projection of the same city in 2015 as an super-industrialised, over-commercialized, crime-ridden city about to be taken over by a mega-corporation hit home or went wide. But I'm fascinated by how much present-day Detroit already seems like a dystopia, albeit a very different one from what we see in this film. The movie's stark, sharp-edged future has me by one arm and the bleakness of its real-world counterpart has me by the other, and I'm going forward hoping that my hunches aren't totally off base.

Did you know that Detroit is well known for its architecture? As far as I can tell, none of its more famous landmarks can be seen in this movie--due partly to the fact that it was filmed in a whole other city. (LOL!) But remember that this Detroit is also in a whole other world, where it is not barbaric to take the body of a dead man and use it to build a cyborg meant to render those who are merely human obsolete. You can't expect beautiful historic buildings to have escaped demolition.

Indeed, the whole city itself is about to get the "robo" treatment and be rebuilt from the ground up. A huge corporation has plans to privatise the entire metropolis, renaming it Delta City. And nobody is really batting an eyelash. They know Old Detroit is on its last legs. And they're willing to have them amputated as long as they get some state-of-the-art new limbs in exchange.

RoboCop is a violent, gory, compulsively watchable satire of a world grown drunk on the fat of industrialisation (which is a mixed metaphor I know I will rue someday). I doubt that anyone involved in its making could have guessed that over twenty years later, the real Detroit would find itself in the middle of a dystopian nightmare, threatened by de-industrialisation. There is more than one kind of urban wasteland--and more than one kind of cancer that can lay a city low.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus:

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Laboratory @ Birdie's Nest

Image Source: RoboCop poster


Kate said...

Man, you're in full dystopia mode recently, aren't you? :) I have to admit I've never Robocop but now I sort of want to. It's so interesting to read about the movie when it seems like this could *sort of* be possible in a non-robotic way now, doesn't it? My partner, who is an artist, was really struck recently by news that the city was going to tear down around 10,000 abandoned houses, and I have a friend who's mom lives there and says parts are like a ghost town. So strange.

No post for me this week but I'll have one for the "romantic" theme next week!

Enbrethiliel said...


Full dystopia mode is the only way to live! ;-)

Actually, what happened was that I started wondering what it is about dystopian fiction that moves us so much . . . and now I have a theory that we like reading it because we don't want to admit we're living it. We might have penicillin and air conditioning and the Internet, but I'm sure the whopping majority of people from past ages would consider our time a dystopian future.

*cue cheesy but dark electronic score*

I don't really have a connection to Detroit, but its plight keeps popping up in some blogs I read and I've started to feel its tragedy very much. I really hope the people who still live there can turn it around somehow, but it seems like such an impossible task. =(

Indeed, "Old Detroit" seems far more salvageable, since it's dying only in the spiritual sense. (Yeah, I can't believe I wrote that, either.) On the other hand, it's thriving in terms of population, commerce, employment, urban development and general standard of living. Well, okay, there's a huge crime rate and a bit of a drug problem . . . but that's what RoboCop is for. ;-) Our own Detroit, however, doesn't seem to have such a saviour. All these contrasts between fantasy and reality are still gripping me.

PS--More people seem inspired by the "Romantic Rendezvous" theme than by "Worlds of Tomorrow". I can't say I blame them, although I'll miss my dystopias! =P I look forward to your post next week, Kate!

Kate said...

Interesting your theory about not wanting to admit to dystopia...the other day I was arguing about how frightening it is that The Handmaid's Tale seems like a possibility, albeit one that I don't want to see...

Lesa said...

I really liked Robocop-- those bad copbots were so creepy-- you know the ones that didn't look humanoid or were they in the sequel?

Anyway the futeristic movie that pops into my mind and makes me laugh is Demolition Man-- the thought of Taco Bell being the only restaurant is too funny-- frightening, but funny!!

Enbrethiliel said...


Kate: That's one I haven't read, I'm afraid. But any fictional dystopia which seems like an immediate possibility is good in my book!

Lesa: I think the new prototypes were mostly in the sequel, when Omni Consumer Products found that it couldn't willy-nilly create cyborgs it could sell. =)

You've just reminded me that I need to watch Demolition Man again! I hadn't even remembered it when going over future-set films for this Locus Focus. =( Bad, Enbrethiliel . . .

Michael said...

Well I grew up in Detroit, with Stevie Wonder, Edwin Starr, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations as my neighbors.

I loved it and was shocked to see how bad it was when I visited for the first time in a long time around the beginning of the last decade. [That said, even when I lived there as a child, it was the murder capital of the world.]

Detroit was destroyed by liberal politics and when I went there it was like visiting a third world city.

One of my early heroes as a kid and a very close friend of our family is now the mayor but Detroit is hopeless short of some major changes. I have even thought of buying a house there for $1 in one of those crazy gutted out areas and then help start a church. It is a city in desperate need of spiritual renewal among a host of many other things.

One of my favorite voluntaryist bloggers, Karen DeCoster, still calls Detroit home. Until and if she abandons the place, there is still hope :P

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, my! Michael, your comment is sobering. Houses are really going for a dollar??? I've seen pictures and videos that show the comparison to a Third World city is apt, but . . . a dollar!?!?!

And that was in the early 2000s, if I take your meaning correctly?

Lesa said...

Demolition Man has been playing on one of the oldie channels all week-- I watched a bit last night! I had forgotten how they love jingles-- funny. And chocolate and basically all things fun or bad for you are illegal-- I think I would be with the underground rebels.

Michael said...


It was a third world city in certain parts back when I visited not to long after 9/11:

Peace, Quiet and a T1 Line

The $1 homes were being offered as little as a year ago and still no one was buying. In every other area of America where the real estate bubble has popped people (Americans and foreigners) are swooping in and buying up properties at bargain prices, but not in Detroit.

Frankly I don't blame them. Short of a real sense of mission I wouldn't buy there either. Extraordinarily dangerous, to say the least.

Enbrethiliel said...


Lesa: It sounds like high school. ;-) I'd be with the rebels, too!

Michael: Yikes! It certainly gives new irony to that RoboCop catchphrase, "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

That's an interesting article. Although you hinted that it was written some time ago, I thought that it could have come out recently: there are so many awful stories about airports that it isn't dated at all.

Anyway . . . did you go ahead with that private jet club? =)

Michael said...

That's an interesting article. Although you hinted that it was written some time ago, I thought that it could have come out recently: there are so many awful stories about airports that it isn't dated at all.

Yeah it has gotten worse since I wrote that piece.

Anyway . . . did you go ahead with that private jet club? =)

There were/are several available but I didn't pull the trigger because basically, right after that article, I stopped flying (for several reasons). In fact if its a domestic trip I refuse to fly unless I absolutely have to do so.

I was scheduled to a do a series of workshops in Hawaii recently and was going to take a cruise ship (rather than fly), but lo and behold cruise ships no longer sail to Hawaii from the US mainland because of stupid government rules designed to keep foreign cruise companies from competing with US companies.

I ended up not going to Hawaii but I have been subject to international airport scrutiny on my trek through Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation. I'm sure it will be the same when I hit the East and Central Asian countries.

Not sure how to handle that short of dropping some very big dollars which sit at no interest while not in use (until you fly).