Imagination, a chance to imagine a better future for everyone – Interview with Matt Bell

1799, 2070, 3070 … the past, the near future, the distant future. Matt Bell masterfully weaves three narrative threads into the apple seed. “America’s Obvious Fate” in the beginning, with two characters, Chapman and his human companion Nathaniel, planting apple orchards in the path of Western colonists; America devastated by natural disasters in the second, a post-apocalyptic world dominated by a dark dictatorship giant with hallucinations of extraterrestrial expansion which, west of Mississippi, gives birth to a miserable world of “nano-bee” plants and genetically modified animals, massive orchards, large farms, and 3D printers that… It can rebuild everything, even the homes where climate refugees live. Post-glacial America in the third, where a hybrid creature with anthropomorphic elements, a recyclable, logarithmic creation of a printer from bio-ink and polymers, searches the crevices of the “deep region” of the continental dome’s remains of “the world was that”. “The end of the world does not exist, only the end of the story,” says the narrator. In humanity’s last resort in its current form, the last life form, created from biomass and polymers, discovers a protocol to recreate the biosphere and a giant printer programmed to recreate all species, plants and animals. Unfortunately, the program disappeared without a trace. But hope rises in an unexpected way, destructive nature promises rebirth, and the cycle of lust and decadence is about to begin again. It’s a miracle of nature, or maybe just a novelist’s imagination.

Matt Bell: The three main characters are Chapman – a mythical, 1799 version of Johnny Apple’s seed portrayed as a Faun in Greek and Roman mythology, part man, part animal – then, in the near future, John turned environmentalist – they try Thwarting a geo-climatic plot orchestrated by a giant corporation dominant in global food production – and finally, a millennium in the future, C-432, the cloning of vital genes, alone at a research station on the ice cap covering the North American continent. C-432 believes, at the beginning of the novel, that it could be the last being on Earth.

Reporter: Post-apocalyptic catastrophic fiction is present in many stories – one of which is called CATACLISMOLOGY – and in your previous novel, SCRAPPER, where the action is set in Detroit in a dystopian future. What place does the absolute novel occupy in your work, how would you classify it?

Matt Bell: Cli-fi and sci-fi, then climate science fiction, meditative, mythical narrative. As a writer, I consider myself a neutral in terms of literary genre, but while writing the book I thought a lot, referring to authors such as Ursula Le Gein, Octavia Butler and Ian M Banks, practitioners of anticipatory prose. Because that’s what I was going to write.

Reporter: What is the so-called “Western Region of Sacrifice” described in sombre colors on John’s trip to Ohio, what kind of visa application centers does John force himself to volunteer at? How was the idea for Earthtrust born?

Matt BellThe book that has influenced me in this regard is The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. The topic was the emergence of capitalism as a natural or human catastrophe, and the author aims to demonstrate that disasters, of both types, are for capitalism an opportunity for profit. Eury Mirov, the near-future pioneer of a company called EARTHTRUST, uses climate change and then a catastrophic earthquake in California to take over western America. I borrowed the term “slaughter area” from the mining industry, where it has the meaning of an area where explosive coal mining on the hills sacrifices the flora and fauna of that habitat. VACs are “voluntary farming communities” inhabited by climate refugees – forms of slavery in which people are offered a bargain: giving up civil rights in exchange for safe living. These communities can be beneficial, they can protect in a harsh climate context, but they clearly do not represent the future we want.

Reporter: A key element in the plot you weave and the dystopia you create is the unraveling of the grand plans of EARTHTRUST’s fears to save and technologically save the world. What happened?

Matt Bell: Many. EARTHTRUST relies primarily on stratospheric geoengineering, specifically reflective aerosol pumping to reduce sunlight. It is a climate solution that we often hear, particularly from circles called tech utopias, from those who are convinced that the solution to all problems is technological innovation. Many of these projects fail because they are unrealistic and do not require the adaptation of human societies or economic or political reform. What I’m suggesting is deadlock, continue down the same path, the same way. Andrew Young, the 2020 presidential candidate, has had such a geographic climate correction in his environmental platform.

ReporterBillionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have similar plans. Bill Gates, the largest landowner in the United States, is following the same tradition of his model town project in the Arizona desert.

Matt Bell: Yes sure. It’s the same kind of thinking. Gates believes that the Arizona desert, where I live, is a wasteland, a barren place that can be brought to fruition using a pattern of its own. Instead of improving the city in which he lives, he will end up, in order to materialize a personal fantasy about the future, by damaging the landscape, to the ecosystem in Arizona.

Reporter: Like other saviors with self-powered and paranoid tyrannical impulses, Eury Mirov destroys himself in absolute isolation from a refuge in the Black Mountains. It’s the ending you imagine, but it’s not inevitable. Is the Merovian Model of Absolute Technological Control the Only Planet-Savior Prototype? Are there democratic ways to save the world from extinction?

Matt Bell: I’ve always been concerned that democracy will react too slowly to these crises. I learned from Ursula Le Guin that every utopia includes a dystopia, and every dystopia is a utopia. Imagining the failures of capitalism, democracy, and technical utopian thinking, for me as a writer and as a reader, is an opportunity to imagine alternatives. Many solutions are known – that is the impression anyway – and the question is whether we have the political will to implement them. I hope it will be implemented in coordination, at the level of national democracies but also at the global level. I hope the future is for democratic solutions.

Reporter: But is liberal capitalism associated with democracies and, as yet, a personal paraphrase, “more interested in world control than living in it” able to generate these solutions?

Matt Bell: The historical era in which we live is clearly an era of capitalism and unlimited growth, but I believe that in many places, in multiple social environments and to an increasing extent, we are beginning to realize the flaws, the destructive nature, and the inequality generated by the prevailing view today. If we can imagine a better future, we will turn it into reality. Imagination can help us in this regard: Imagine living in a better future for everyone.

of reportsA: Can the world be “fixed”? How will SEED OF THE APPLE’s central conflict be resolved in the real world? Who will own the future? What is beyond humanity? Post-nature designer, artificial? Is it possible to return to the Garden of Paradise, as Chapman and John imagine, or is this world surely lost, as Nathaniel and Yuri Mirov think?

Matt Bell: What result do we want? Returning to a state of illusory purity, which is difficult to achieve, maintaining it in its present state or from a certain moment? Are we trying to imagine a better future than we are today? Returning to Heaven’s Eden is theoretically and practically impossible, but that does not mean that there is no other conceivable Eden. I’m curious about what it would look like, and what we would be willing to do to turn it into reality.

Reporter: You miserable optimist. There is hope in the efforts of many of the characters in the novel to resurrect or re-imagine the destroyed or lost worlds, and in the image of the apple growing irrepressibly from the synthetic matter of the last C clone, of the “new rookie”. greatness born of oblivion.”

Matt Bell: The climate crisis devastating the environment and the way of life of many will not mean the end of life on Earth. Perhaps it will be the end of human life, of our own kind, which will be replaced by another. Life will go on. It’s a strange kind of hope because it may not include humanity as we know it. Chapman, John and C, each in their own way and in that era, are trying to improve the situation, to live better in the world, how they understand it and how they know how. John just wants to know what to do; If he knew, he would sacrifice his life to do so. Many like him are ready to do what is necessary and good. When I think about the possibilities for the future, I feel optimistic and hopeful. Difficult times may come, but we can hack them. If we want.

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