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(noun) 1: An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.  2: Anti-utopia.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary


Future Past is basically optimistic.  At times, it is even utopian.  But where there is utopia, there lurks its darker cousin; the dystopia.  The most optimistic view of the future is one of boundless possibilities.   It is a string of tomorrows where science is unfettered, where knowledge has no limits, and technology is all powerful.  It is a world where nothing is impossible, where we are free to make discovery upon discovery without reaching the bottom and where what lies over the next hill is always unknown.

That's where the paradox comes in.

The future deals with the unknown and, as anyone who has ever eaten the lunch buffet at the Bombay Curry Palace can attest, the unknown can be very, very scary.  In a world where anything can happen, well, anything can happen.  And in a universe of infinite possibilities, most of those possibilities are going to be rather nasty.  Even the most optimistic predictions of man's fate had to include the possibility of unforeseen pleasures being balanced by unforeseen dangers.   So, any honest predictions of the future will inevitably end up being tainted by the threats that the future holds within its promises.  Small wonder that our views of the future have on occasion veered toward the nihilistic or that in time science fiction looked less like Buck Rogers and more like Alien

Dystopias have always floated around in Future Past, but they've been fairly rare birds up until the '50s and it wasn't until the late '60s that they emerged in all their pessimistic, cynical glory, which is why many of our examples are from so late.  Was this due to a more realistic view of the future?  A shaking of confidence?  A sign of chronic societal illness?  Or was it just part of that case of cultural indigestion that the West has been burping over since 1968?

Passing fever, inevitable fate or cautionary tale; as with most dystopian tales, it will be for the future, and those who build it, to decide. 

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