Not Fiction…

I just got back from getting my flu shot at Rio Grande County Public Health. They had a clinic today. I was honestly a little freaked out about the adventure in the way adventures these days are smaller or greater freak outs.

They had set up about 8 tables — four for reception, filling out forms, looking at insurance cards, four for shots. The nurse said she liked my shirt (see above). She asked if I wanted the high dose and I said I did. Then I asked what’s the difference.

“We recommend it for seniors. It’s stronger, gives more immunity.”

“Yeah but I’m 24.”

“OK, but let’s not talk about it,” she answered. No one knows if anyone’s smiling any more.

I got my shot in my good arm. Arthritis is acting up majorly in the other one. I have always held stress, sadness and fear in my shoulders and neck and for the past few weeks they’ve been very painful making it hard to sleep at night. Arthritis responds to changes in weather, but also changes in personal “weather.”

“You’re brave,” she said.

“Comes with age,” I said. And I was out of there.

For a few moments, though, while I was waiting for her to find the right shot (“You got the last one!”) I watched a dozen people wearing masks and plastic shields, two layers of face protection, and plastic clothes over their clothes. They worked hard and fast, wiping down chairs and tables, taking care of sanitizing things to the best of their ability. There were a lot of people coming in to get shots. The workers had to hurry to get us all in and out safely for themselves and us.

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in the San Luis Valley in the last ten days.

I thought of a friend’s blog post, “Topia” which somewhat spun off one of my blog posts. Now I’m spinning off his…

I don’t wear short sleeved shirts ever. I have ugly old lady arms, and I hate them, so, you know, out of sight out of mind, but for a flu shot? Short sleeves. I put on the only short sleeved shirt I have that doesn’t have holes in the armpits and is not a punk-band shirt. I didn’t think of what was silk-screened onto the shirt until I was there, in that room, watching these bizarrely outfitted, earnest people, cleaning everything, kindly helping one old farmer and his wife after another, keeping everything moving, kindly helping me, wiping the upper arms of old people clean and injecting them with extra-strong flu vaccines.

Then I thought of my shirt.

The novel from which Bladerunner was made was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It’s a dystopian novel, portraying a dark future. My ONLY half-way decent not punk-band short-sleeved shirt is a pixilated sheep plugged into the wall. I suddenly perceived too intensely that I had arrived in a dark present. I wanted to cry.

I’m not brave. I just don’t want this to get me.

Dystopian Reality v. Dystopian Fiction

It’s pretty weird that I’m “on” Twitter and what’s weirder still is that I have reported two tweets as presenting wildly inaccurate and misleading information. The most recent one?

Yep. The other tweet I reported was also one of this guy’s. We’re living in a science fiction world right now. Seriously. Among other things, 1) There is such a thing as Twitter, 2) the (alleged) president of the United States uses it as platform for announcing and making policy, 3) citizens are responding in kind. I find it utterly bizarre that we’re referring to any kind of communication as “tweets.” But there it is. Leadership in 280 characters a pop.

Among my first favorite novels were Fahrenheit 451 and Ayn Rand’s Anthem — both dystopian novels in which individualism is threatened. Later, when I was older (and more replete with vocabulary) I fell in love with Brave New World.

People like dystopian fiction. I think it’s often with the feeling, “Thank God I’m not living in that world. I hope it never happens to us. Of course, it won’t because we’re not as stupid as the people in this novel.”

The people in these novels regard their world as “normal,” and their daily lives as something to get through and even enjoy. People in Brave New World are very happy with the stratified society for which they have been designed. They have sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, enough money to live on, occupation, safety, security. The idea that there might be something “more” and something “deeper” ends up destroying this world.

This is a formula. A dissatisfied protagonist, a rebel with a higher purpose, upsets the apple-cart. Readers of dystopian fiction (judging from my students, friends and self) like to believe they are the rebel, but I think most of us just want to survive the whole mess and are not rebels at all. Complaining to Twitter about OFFAL’s inaccurate claim about mail-in voting does not constitute an existential act that will bring down a society.

Philip K. Dick wrote his share of dystopian fiction. PKD’s protagonists are very ordinary people, the kind we wouldn’t even notice walking around in our “real” world. Most people know Bladerunner which is based on the infinitely less sensational and sexy Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. (I have the T-shirt). I love the film MORE than I loved the book. Ridley Scott opened it up in ways PKD couldn’t.

Netflix made a (an egregious but probably entertaining) miniseries from PKD’s book, The Man in the High Castle which looks at a future in which the Nazis and Japanese had won WW II. The only part of “America” remaining is the backbone of our world, the Rocky Mountain States. In PKD’s book, the “Man in the High Castle” is the center of and organizer of the covert resistance. Members of the resistance are not sure if he is real or not. PKD’s enigmatic leader lives and works in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the miniseries he lives in Canon City, Colorado and they don’t pronounce Canon right. It’s caƱon, not cannon. And I won’t even bother to deal with the other teeth-itching inaccuracies (I guess I have a pretty big loyalty to the novel…) “Let it go Martha. Drop it. Now.”

My favorite PKD novel is Galactic Pot Healer. It’s not a dystopian novel and, on most normal levels, it doesn’t make much sense, but I love it. In this story, God is redeemed by art.