I have seen the future and it's dank, dark and dystopian. At least in one Oklahoma author's eyes, it is.
When veteran sci-fi writer Jim Laughter sat down last summer to start in on a new novel about mankind's shaky future on this third rock from the sun, he wasn't sure where the
book was actually going, he said.
Seven months later, after typing each chapter of "Polar City Red" on his computer keyboard, Laughter, 59, was finished and ready to face critics on the right and on the left. Climate denialists are going to say it's not science, and die-hard climate activists are going to say it's just fiction.
Rick Perry's not going to read it, that's for sure. Neither will Rick Santorum or other national politicians with their heads in the sand. But Laughter's book could make a cool movie in the future dystopia department, following up on such Hollywood films as "City of Ember" and "The Road."
Laughter's pulp "polar western" is set in the Last Frontier and it poses a very important and headline-mirroring question: will mankind survive the climapocalypse coming our way as the Earth heats up over the next few centuries?
As sea levels rise and millions of "climate refugees" make their way north to Alaska, Canada, Russia and Norway, think scavenger camps, "Mad Max" villages, and U.N.-administered ''polar cities'' -- cities of domes, as Laughter (his real name) calls them.
"Polar City Red" is more than mere sci fi. Laughter is a retired USAF technical writer who has lived all over the world on military assignment. The retired grandfather of four comes across as a probing moralist and a modern Jeremiah. His worldview befits a Christian pastor who has built two churches and finds in religion both an anchor and a place for hope.
His book is not just about climate change or northern dystopias. It's also about the moral questions that must guide humanity as it tries to keep a lid on global warming's worst-case scenarios while also looking for solutions to mankind's worst nightmare -- the possible final extinction of the human species due to man's own folly and extravagant ways. Can a small 200-page book do all that? No, it's just entertainment, a good book to put on your summer reading list.
Writing the novel took Laughter seven months of non-stop research and keyboarding, he told me, but I have a feeling that what he wrote will last 100 years.
It's more than a cli-fi thriller. It also exposes the underbelly of humankind's most terrifying nightmare: the possible end of the human species and God's deep displeasure at what His people have done to His Earth. Even if you're an atheist, as I am, Laughter touches a nerve.
The book is prophetic, futuristic and moralistic. You as reader will get through this one alive, but will our descendants, 100 or 1000 years from now, survive the Long Emergency we find ourselves in now? That's the question that Laughter poses.
Fortunately, the book ends on a note of hope and redemption, so it's not a downer at all. You and your loved ones need to read it. As Laughter himself says in the introduction, quoting Christopher Morley: ''When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue -- you sell him a whole new life."
"Polar City Red," which I just read in a preview copy, won't give you a whole new life, and it'll probably just give you a headache and heartburn. I would not advise Rick Perry to read it.