I’ve always been something of a connoisseur of dystopian fiction. I don’t know where it began. Maybe it was while reading the classic comic series V For Vendetta at a formative age, or maybe it goes further back. Perhaps it was Judge Dredd in 2000AD, or maybe it was the “Days of Future Past” storyline in the The Uncanny X-Men comic series. This will mean nothing to anyone who wasn’t raised on Marvel Comics, but I can still remember how that chilling tale of a dark future fried the circuits of my ten year-old brain. To this day I continue to suffer from an irrational fear of giant purple robots.
Or maybe it wasn’t comics at all. Perhaps it was watching the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Star Trek, the original series from the 1960’s (not to be confused with, um, shit). That was the one where Kirk, Bones, Scotty & Uhura found themselves in a twisted parallel universe where the Enterprise was the flagship of a sadistic, totalitarian Empire, their crew mates were evil no-good-shit doppelgangers and Spock had a sinister looking goatee. This story had quite an impact on me, as anyone who’s seen the current state of my facial hair will testify.
(I can also remember having some kind childhood epiphany whilst watching the cult 70s sci-fi flick Logan’s Run, but I’m not altogether sure that was triggered by the film’s bleak post-apocalyptic backdrop and chilling theme of state-enforced population control. It probably had more to do with seeing Jenny Agutter in a skimpy sci-fi skirt.)
As I reached my teens this interest in the genre was fuelled by films like Blade Runner, Fahrenheit 451, Brazil, Escape From New York and Orson Welles’s adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial. It was also nourished by comics like Alejandro Jodorowsky & Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s Incal trilogy and by the novels of Philip K Dick. By the age of 17 I’d read Orwell’s 1984 – still one of my favourite novels – for the first time, and have re-read it every other year ever since. In my teens I wrote my A-Level English extended essay on 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World and Koestler’s Darkness at Noon
I even had a stab at creating my dystopian fiction with the small-press comic Stonebroke. It was about a post-apocalyptic bus driver and his one-man war against a corrupt taxi empire. The less said about that the better. Let’s just say it was described in some quarters as “Mad Max meets On The Buses“.
The reason why I’m telling you all of this now is because I watched the dystopian film Children of Men this evening. I’d like to think my “Phew“, “Fucking Hell” and “Wow” were said with some authority.