Hello, dreamers, and welcome to my latest attempt to resume my weekly posts. As my long-time readers know, generally I reserve Saturdays for work on short fiction pieces. However, from late August to early January each year, “Short Story Saturday” becomes “Short Story Saturday” as I spend my Saturdays immersed in college football. This does mean that my Sundays are busy days as far as my burgeoning writing career is concerned, but it’s a small price to pay for Saturdays spent in front of the TV, watching one of my favorite sports. So, here goes…
My chief project today is one of somewhat long standing. The Panel is a short-fiction project set in what might be the most dystopian future I’ve ever created.
Set in the late-21st century, The Panel takes place in a world ravaged by climate change, where rising sea levels and global temperatures, poisoned air and water, and worldwide famine have brought about extreme changes in human society. In this dark reality, humanity has at last put aside cultural differences and banded together as one, purely out of necessity. Regimented work placement, inventive agriculture, draconian population controls…virtually every aspect of human society has been dedicated to ensuring the survival of our species. Most other species on Earth have perished, leading to the expansive “Reclaimer Project”, intended to preserve as much genetic material from Earth’s plant and animal species as possible, in the hopes of either reintroducing species once Earth has been repaired…or introducing them to another planet.
In this grim future, the whole of human efforts has been thrown into an imminent struggle for survival, as humanity desperately clings to life while frantically searching for a technological “Magic Bullet” capable of reversing catastrophic climate change before it’s too late. Over this backdrop, The Panel introduces Rayne Jensen: an unimposing man whose combination of lack of skills and poor health make him a burden to society. The story follows Rayne as he is called before a literal Death Panel: a “Workforce Assessment Panel” convened to determine an individual’s worth to society. Those found to be pulling their weight never see such a panel. Those found to be “serviceable” are assigned to reeducation, to learn more valuable skills in order to contribute to society. Those, like Rayne, who are unskilled, resist training, and/or are in poor health, are considered a “burden”, and are euthanized.
While the story itself will revolve around Rayne’s desperate pleas, insisting that society will not benefit from his death, I find myself increasingly drawn away from the story itself and to the backstory, which has evolved, growing increasingly realistic, and consequently darker. Much as I like to keep things positive, for some reason I find myself drawn to this story. I feel it taking on a life of its own. As such, there’s a good chance that, while it will surely be written, The Panel will most likely be published here, assuming it ever sees the light of day.
Sorry to be such a bummer, but that’s it for today. I’m still easing my way back into writing in earnest (realizing a man cannot live on editing alone). There will certainly be more next week. Until then, dare to dream. We need it, now more than ever.