Welcome to your future.

Spaceships. Jet packs. Laser guns. 

No. 

Fifty years from now, the future will still be shaped by the mundane, the stupid, and the petty, living side by side with the Big Ideas. Dirty, shining, poor, glorious, filthy, and wonderful. 50.YFN is where we tell our future's story, hangover and all.

In its short life,
50.YFN has already become a very sharply defined setting, with unique language and history. Because of the ongoing storylines and broad geographical setting, we strongly recommend using the archives and category tags before throwing yourself in the deep end. Read the guidelines, take a look around. There's a truly talented pool of creators breathing life into our world Fifty Years From Now.

You are welcome to be a part of it.

And remember:

This is not a land-grab. There's no turf.  If you're a new writer, you have the same access to Brooklyn as I do, and as much an opportunity to leave your imprint on it. Don't be intimidated. Leave your brand on the future alongside everyone else. It's your world too. 

8.24.2007

Keeping Up Appearances

by Kwasi A. Kwakwa, Tema, Ghana.

From the look of the IACU's commander, Ato knew he was going to die tonight. The Indigenous Authenticity Control Unit had been tipped off to raid his father's house, and had found the tiny Omatek superprocessor he usually kept hidden in a screened compartment under his bed. He had been really careful to not show it to anyone, too. His father had warned him about it many times. Not that his father would be warning him about anything else, anymore: all that was left of him was a black smear, residue from the decompiler bullet they had put in the back of his head as he begged for his son's life.

All Ato really wanted was to be able to play the same computer games his online friend from Shanghai played. The government-approved aid laptops distributed to his village school didn't have enough processing power to allow anything more than a basic 2-D version of the virtual world his best friend lived in. Everyone else out there had full sensory support through neural interfaces or, at worst, feedback suits that transmitted decently close representations of sight, sound, touch and smell. Recent advances in quantum computing made that kind of stuff cheap and pretty freely available these days—unless you lived in an Indigenous Control Zone like Ato.

The Zones resulted from a trend in international aid back in the 2030s, when thirty African countries came together as the African Economic Community, and managed to show some fairly phenomenal growth. The AEC ushered decent chunks of their population into the same consumption conspicuous middle class as the rest of the 'First World'.

The following outcry came from all sides. People concerned about the loss of the 'authentic indigenous African culture', and those concerned with their own futures in light of another billion people voraciously consuming the world's limited resources. The proposed solution was brilliantly disturbing: independent federal states within AEC, offered money to maintain reservations in a state of 'Indigenous Authenticity'. A place where people lived with minimal amounts of technology in 'harmony with the ways of their revered forefathers'. Which was, of course, political bullshit. Open borders and a common language led to massive amounts of migration and ensured that the Zones ended up composed of people who willing to give up technology for large subsidies. It amounted to carbon trading, taken to its logical extreme.

The Zones have become great tourist destinations for people interested in a certain mythical kind of Africa, while assuring the global elite of minimum competition for the Earth's resources. Of course, Zone guidelines on how people were to look, dress and act were strict, enforced by the draconian IACU. The proscribed list of technology was pawned off as disruptive to the tourist experience. People looking for a slice of 'authentic' Africa to stare at for a few hours didn't want to see natives using palmtop computers or neural plugs. They paid to see an atavistic backwater before returning to the comfort of their secure, climate controlled resorts. Use of prohibited tech could cause cuts to foreign aid, as 'overuse of quota resource quota'.

Ato and his father lived in the Togoland State, a piece of the former Ghana's Volta region, that had been home to politicians agitating for secession long before the AEC came into being. They managed to get themselves statehood during the formation, and then found themselves in need of money. The result, several Control Zones packed full of people without the skills to get jobs in the Ghanaian State's mines, nanotechnology industries, or the giant Nigeria-Benin manufacturing plants. In exchange for aid, they rallied the Control Zones, which were policed ruthlessly. Beatings were common for minor infractions like upsetting a tourist. The use of forbidden technology usually ended in disappearances. The IACU had absolute power, and wielded it in a manner their worst predecessors would have appreciated.

Ato's father was a fresh university graduate when the new requirements and technological innovations hit Africa's education systems. One of the last to be failed miserably by the crooks running things at the time, who considered Jaguars for their teenage girlfriends more important than schoolbooks. The Togoland state gave him housing in an improved laterite accommodation block (ring of mud huts), synthetic grass clothing and training in drumming, dancing and basic fluency in the main Euro languages. On the side he had supplemented his income playing Mandingo stud for female tourists interested in exploring the wild side of life.

His son grew up a precocious mathematical prodigy, stuck in a small town where using anything more advanced than the equivalent of a slide rule could get him killed. Naturally, he did it anyway. Naturally, it got him noticed, and naturally, that was going to get him killed. Just another smear of carbon up against some nondescript wall, all for wanting to be like his friends abroad. And unlike his games and movies, there would be no hero to rescue him at the last minute, no God Mode, no reset buttons. Just a brief flare of light and pain before the darkness took him.

All to keep up appearances.

11 comments:

G. Zeus Malverde said...

Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I am amused and relieved that you were not detracted by other bloggers/writers assertions that Africa in mostly desert by 2057. It is interesting to see how tourism has become such a priority that the natives are treated like animals in a zoo. Your story takes the idea of going on safari to another level, but isn't a far cry from today's caribbean tourist areas where locals are beaten off of "private beaches" (and the areas surrounding them so as not to obstruct tourist views of white sand and blue water). Anyway, thank you for an intelligent story. Please write more about Togoland or Nigeria or any of the remaining nation-states in Africa, fifty years from now.

Anonymous said...

the stories around here are getting darker

Anonymous said...

Great story Thank you. I would love to read more.

ladyfresh said...

Frantastic Premise!

->Four Thumbs Up!<-

FireBrand said...

Incredible take on cultural safari.

kwasi said...

@first anonymous

I don't really believe Africa will be desert. I think climate change is going to be a bit more complex than that. Maybe I'll get into that later.

As for the safari bit, I live in Ghana, you get similar kinds of stuff happening here. And I expect it'll become bigger business as tourism grows. I was also thinking about the kind of 'poverty tourism' that happens in South Africa where people go purposely to observe townships.

I'll try for views of other parts of Africa in later stories.

Everyone else, thanks for reading.

john volta said...

I love Ghana, my wife's from Togo... so thanks for your post and I hope there will be some more than you anticipated. Still a very valid statement to make.

--
j.

afrobongo said...

nice..
the story is soooo you though.
i would have guessed you wrote it even if i didnt know you did.

you made me think of a thing or two.
man.. i wish i wrote, lol.

Chris said...

I just found this to be an amazing piece all the way around. The way you worked up to the reveal, plus the very real motivations behind the narrator, and the statement you make regarding safaris today and what the future may hold. It was a brilliant concept that was beautifully written. One of my favorite pieces on the site.

Thanks,
chris beckett

castro said...

Olu is that you???