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How to write the future?

This ia a very good question, and one I’m struggling with. For my work in progress, I have four female protagonists spread across four centuries. I’m used to writing historical fiction so I know and enjoy that process of research: going to the library, digging through archives, piecing together a picture of how people would have lived across different places and periods in history.

But there is no book in the library to help me set the scene for a character living in 2106. Yes, that’s right, my fourth character (and without her, there is no story) is born in 2030; we meet her again in 2045 when she’s 15, in 2061 when she’s 31 and then spend a long time with her in 2106 when she’s 76. I’ve never written a futuristic character before and I don’t read much sci-fi so this is HARD. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m being wildly over-ambitious and this is just too difficult. But, as I mentioned before, I don’t have a book without this final character; this last piece of the jigsaw puzzle. So I have to press on.

But how to imagine life in 2045, let alone 2106? I feel like I have a pretty good imagination, but I have felt at a loss with this. This is strange in a way, because I can choose and mould this future any way I wish; after all, it’s a completely open book. And yet, at the same time, I recognise the anxiety I hold around extreme weather events worsening and the ecological destruction of our planet. So when I think of a 76 year old woman living in 2106, a part of my brain immediately jumps to the question: will our radically and rapidly changing world even be able to sustain human life 82 years from now? And if the answer is no (which I sometimes think it is), then I also have no book. My future character will not be living in a dystopia, but it will also be far from utopian. Because I need to be realistic about the years that are to come and how they will not be a walk in the park for the human race.

So these are my challenges:

✨ to breathe into the anxiety around that;

✨ to believe that my future character has a right to step through her landscape and the pages of my book;

✨ to mine my imagination in a way I’ve never done before and allow it to locate that space that straddles my fears of what might happen and my hopes for what could happen (and my three earlier characters will play a role in this).

If any of you reading this know of any particularly good books set in the future that you think could help me with my journey, or any interesting podcasts, please do let me know. Or if you feel like meeting for a cuppa (on zoom or in person!) to chat through some thoughts around this, that would be amazing.

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