Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A bright American future

Go north, young man, and grow up with the country.

A generation ago a great cataclysm struck the world.  It swept away lives and cities, tearing down civilizations, making room for something new to grow.  This is a post-apocalyptic setting, but a hopeful one.

The world that remains is poor and undeveloped, but there's a fundamental optimism, an unbridled enthusiasm for great things to come.  The people of today are going to build a new world in the ashes of the old.

This sort of optimism is common in American history, an unwavering faith in the bounties of tomorrow.  Fairy tales in the Old World talk of trying to escape your station by marrying a prince; American tales tell you to get out there and carve that path for yourself, whether it's chopping down trees or rounding up cattle.

Frederick Turner (in his 1893 Frontier Thesis) posited that American culture only emerged from its hide-bound, aristocratic predecessors as a result of the frontier experience, that life in a harsh, thinly-populated wilderness made Americans individualistic, optimistic, and egalitarian.  (And violent, but that deserves a post of its own.)  Historians have debated the validity of the Frontier Thesis ever since, but in this setting, it's true.  The old world died in the apocalypse and a new world rose in its place.
Voyaging to a new land.  (Exploratorium)

Signs in the Wilderness is about great opportunities, not looming threats.  There's a bountiful land to (re)settle, gold to be discovered, good news to be preached.  Stories are driven by opportunities for success, not by some dark lord who wants to end the world (again).

That doesn't make this world a safe place, mind you.  Try blazing a path through the mountains and you might just leave your frozen corpse out in the snow.  Find gold in the hills and you'll have every swindler and ne'er-do-well in the land at your door.  Opportunity calls to the hopeful, crooks and pioneers alike.

Prophets and prognosticators tell of the great things to come, visionaries dream of a bright tomorrow, a future that belongs to those who build it.

1 comment:

  1. I am fond of Americana fantasy like this. Nice change of pace from real America.