This reflection is part of SyriaUntold’s collaboration with Ecologìas del Futuro on science fiction and imagining the future in the MENA region. We asked writers, artists, journalists and filmmakers from different countries across the region to send us short audio messages or reflections on what their world may look like in 300 years, and their relationship with the distant future.
Scroll down to listen to this piece in its original audio format.
When people look to the future, or when writers write about it, it’s as if the future is something that will happen later. In reality, there is no such thing as “the future.” Instead it’s just one long, extended moment of the present.
The present is full of conflicts and little tensions that consume us, and we don’t think about what comes next.
I read a lot, and though I’m not a good science fiction reader, I find that there are many texts that discuss the future from a distant lens. They talk about what will happen in the country, or what will happen to the planet, but they don’t mention the small details that will cause the future. We live our lives without recognizing how time has passed by because of these small moments, and that’s because we never actually feel that we are in the future.
We always feel that we are in the present. The present is full of conflicts and little tensions that consume us, and we don’t think about what comes next.
For example, in science fiction movies you see a lot of advanced technology, and it’s understood that technology is the only thing that moves forward in human development. There is no recognition or deep exploration of what is behind this technology, or what is behind people’s motivations: envy, conflict, tensions and polarization. In addition, all the problems of the present are absent, at least from what I see.
But I imagine that besides these issues, when people think about the future in a dystopian way, they simply can’t write about a utopian world. Utopia doesn’t create drama or conflict, so we always think about dystopia vs. utopia rather than the normal world, like the one we already live in. People write about the future, are aware that the story is set in the future, and all the made-up fictions seem aware; they look from very far away without delving deep or seeing the details.
Listen to Nael Eltoukhy's original audio recording of this article: