What I’ve Been Reading – McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 32

Oh, man. 2025 is going to be AWFUL.

What I’ve Read:

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 32 by Dave Eggers (editor)

No, really. The water problems will be the biggest: flooding and hurricanes and levies and overpopulation on the remaining land. Technology will make everyone crazy and control the world and people won’t be able to think for themselves. Animals will die. Well, they’ll die faster. And Russian spies will pretend not to be spies while housing in buildings that are pretending to be older buildings.


That’s the spectrum of Issue #32 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. The concept – because every McSweeney’s has a concept, even if that concept happens only to be “McSweeney’s-style short stories with indie sensibilities” – asks each writer to take stock of their location and look ahead 15 years to 2025, when apparently all hell is going to break loose.

According to the Issue #32 collective, here’s a sneak peek at the awful future:
• Do-it-yourself lakes become too salted
• A rising ocean turns a domed arena into the only livable space left in a city
• The two remaining seals of a nearly extinct species will be delivered far away and will probably not even make it through the week
• Cell phones turn everyone into experts, and the real experts will fight to be heard
• The Netherlands flood and everyone will die and everything will suck

Aside of a fantastic story by Anthony Doerr (“Memory Wall,” about a device that reaches in and saves memories for those slowly suffering from dementia), and Chris Adrian’s “The Black Square” (which delves into a cool hyper-local science fiction about a cultish black hole with a story no one understands), the general tone of the collection is simply a little too pessimistic.

No one had a happy outlook for the future – no one was convinced that things could be stable in 2025, let alone better. I don’t say this as a blind optimist – listen, I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath and The Road, and I understand that great works of fiction can be absolute downers – but as a person who expects more variety in a collection of stories from an imprint that’s known for off-beat stories.

It’s easy to look into the future and predict doom. It’s as simple as opening up the front page and figuring out what some fringe crazies are “sky-is-falling” about today.

But predicting happiness? Now that’s the kind of offbeat futurecast I’ve been looking for since, well, since forever, I guess.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 23rd, 2010