Ours is a world of laws — and, given available evidence, so are all other worlds.
As they build out their wild what ifs, the authors of speculative fiction draft legislation: They draw up regulations and establish cabinet agencies and sub-agencies, often employing a diction eerily reminiscent of real-life government and politics — the eeriness being very much the point.
Such imaginary law-giving has long been a staple of the genre. Sinclair Lewis, in his 1935 satire-cum-cautionary tale “It Can’t Happen Here,” doesn’t just elect a demagogue-populist president, but has him then establish a “new cabinet position, that of Secretary of Education and Public Relations,” as well as the post of “High Marshall, or Commander-in-Chief, of the Minute Men … an innocent marching club.” In Len Deighton’s “SS-GB” (1978), spies operating in German-occupied London after a Nazi victory don’t just risk life and limb, they defy the foreboding “section 134 of the Military Orders of the Commander-in-Chief Great Britain.”
Of more recent vintage is the futuristic America of Omar El Akkad’s “American War” (2017). A nation scorched by climate change and ravaged by combat, it still retains the penchant for establishing bureaucracies and issuing dictates. El Akkad’s struggling heroes deal with cumbersome entities like “the Mississippi River Protection Agency,” “the Department of Energy Security” and, of course, the “Condolence Payment Department of the Joint Compensation Office.” It’s the 2070s, sea levels have risen and war stalks the land, but government — and government’s fussy linguistic style — endures. If you’ve never heard of the Keene Act, ask any of the legions of devotees of Alan Moore’s 1980s “Watchmen” comic book series, and they’ll tell you: a 1977 act of Congress that outlawed “costumed adventuring,” driving most masked heroes into retirement or extralegal activities.
[ Read our review of Omar El Akkad’s “American War.” ]
Such speculative legislation is not incidental. Amid all the careful laying in of detail that we authors humbly call “world-building,” the language of law and policy does a special kind of work. It is powerful because government is powerful, and its power permeates our lives in ways large and small, whether or not we are paying attention.
This is more or less the point of George Orwell’s “1984,” of course. As in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” — which shares the crown with “1984” for most important speculative novel of the 20th century — the more omnipresent the role of the law, the less visible it becomes. We learn early on that in Oceania keeping a diary is “not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there are no longer any laws),” but if caught doing so one could be “reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by 25 years in a forced-labor camp.” To enforce these nonexistent laws, Orwell gave us the most famous imaginary cabinet departments of them all: the Ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty and Truth.
A very different alternate-universe England is that of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, starting in 2001 with “The Eyre Affair.” Fforde’s engineering of postwar Britain includes not just a lot of bizarro genetic science and winking literary jokes but also a comprehensively detailed investigational infrastructure. Thursday is an officer of SO-27, a special operative of the Literary Detective Division; her father, Colonel Next, was a member of the ChronoGuard, affiliated with the Office for Special Temporal Stability. In the follow-up series, officers investigate crimes in children’s literature under the auspices of the Nursery Crime division. (Obviously.)
Fforde’s speculative universe is playful; Orwell’s is cautionary and high-dystopian. The tonal range of the genre extends yet further, into worlds that feel not only intricate, but grounded — imaginary universes that are every bit as fanciful, but feel less so. For Everfair, the titular African nation of Nisi Shawl’s magisterial 2017 novel rewriting the history of the Belgian Congo, the author created an entire country and its institutions from scratch. Kingsley Amis likewise builds a complete legal language suited to the alternate England of “The Alteration” (1976), in which the Reformation never occurred — Martin Luther having reconciled himself to Catholicism and become Pope Germanian I — and laws are not laws at all, but “Acts of Convocation.”
Of course, suspension of disbelief is involved: These laws and statutes and cabinet departments never sound quite real. On the other hand, consider that the language of public life, of real life, often has a certain invented ring to it. Think of all the scraps of language that float into everyday consciousness from the public sphere: Sarbanes-Oxley. The Department of Homeland Security. How about the long-awaited Mueller report? Say it a few times and it starts to sound like make-believe. Little wonder that authors seize on the same sorts of phrasing so their make-believe worlds might feel less so.
Sometimes writers don’t even have to invent. I remember being astonished by the chutzpah of Michael Chabon’s premise for “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” (2007): the endangered Jews of Europe being handed a scrap of Alaska instead of Palestine. And I remember my subsequent astonishment to discover that Chabon had stolen the idea from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, who first proposed it in 1938.
(I performed a similar maneuver when I was working on my novel “Underground Airlines” and seeking a historical event that would sweep the Civil War from American history. In the end I needed only to resurrect the Crittenden Compromise, a set of statutes that was really proposed, really debated and really voted down by Congress, thank God, late in 1860.)
In all these books, the ineffable language of public life performs a subtle kind of trick, marking out what makes a particular imagined universe different and — simultaneously, paradoxically — rendering it utterly, often chillingly, familiar.
There is perhaps no better example than Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America,” which gave us a vision of the rise of homegrown anti-Semitic fascism that felt unsettlingly plausible when published in 2004 and which has aged distressingly well. After the election of the pro-Hitler candidate Charles Lindbergh on an “America First” platform, the looming menace to the book’s main characters is not a torch-wielding mob, but “compliance with a request from Homestead 42, Office of American Absorption, U.S. Department of the Interior.” Historians will tell you there never was a Homestead 42, nor an Office of American Absorption. But they might mention instead “Executive Order 9066” and “Public Law 503,” promulgated by the real-life President Roosevelt and the United States Congress and providing for the incarceration of more than 100,000 real-life Japanese-Americans.
With “The Plot Against America,” Roth is playing the speculator’s game at its most sophisticated level, pulling us deep into a reality that is at once impossible and plausible. At least as impressive as Roth on this score is Leni Zumas, whose novel “Red Clocks,” envisioning a near-future fetal-rights dystopia, was published last year. The hero, a single schoolteacher longing for a child, is constrained by the “Personhood Amendment,” and “one of the ripples in its wake: Public Law 116-72 … also known as Every Child Needs Two.”
[ Read our review of Leni Zumas’s “Red Clocks.” ]
Zumas’s inventions have the same effect Roth’s do — what all author-speculators aspire to do in some way or other: braid together the language of the real world with the language of the invented, in order to give us a vision not just of what might be, but of what is.B:
解跑狗高手【济】【颠】 【我】【是】【谁】，【我】【在】【哪】【儿】，【这】【里】【又】【是】【哪】【里】？ 【阿】【弥】【陀】【佛】，【贫】【僧】【肯】【定】【是】【活】【在】【梦】【里】！ “【哼】【哈】【哈】【哈】~【济】【颠】，【我】【看】【你】【往】【哪】【里】——” 【声】【音】【戛】【然】【而】【止】。 【那】【是】【一】【颗】【巨】【大】【的】【骷】【髅】，【好】【似】【是】【由】【无】【数】【小】【骷】【髅】【组】【成】【的】【一】【颗】【巨】【大】【骷】【髅】。 【浑】【身】【妖】【气】【翻】【滚】，【魔】【气】【四】【溢】【看】【起】【来】【如】【同】【是】【魔】【神】【降】【临】，【气】【势】【惊】【人】。 【他】——
【风】【漓】【湮】【垂】【在】【身】【侧】【的】【手】【有】【些】【无】【力】【地】【握】【了】【握】，【开】【口】【道】：“……【她】【当】【时】【为】【了】【留】【住】【你】【的】【魂】【魄】，【使】【用】【禁】【术】，【将】【自】【己】【反】【噬】，【魂】【飞】【魄】【散】【了】，【我】【寻】【遍】【妖】【冥】【两】【界】，【也】【只】【找】【回】【了】【一】【魂】。” 【当】【时】，【君】【陌】【闫】【为】【了】【救】【温】【小】【艾】，【为】【了】【救】【死】【去】【的】【无】【辜】【冤】【魂】，【耗】【尽】【灵】【力】，【魂】【归】【天】【地】。 【温】【小】【艾】【赶】【在】【他】【神】【魂】【彻】【底】【消】【散】【前】【活】【了】【过】【来】，【不】【顾】【劝】【阻】，【使】【用】【禁】【术】，
【她】【并】【没】【有】【想】【到】【的】【夜】【斯】【络】【这】【么】【快】【就】【找】【到】【夏】【家】【来】。 【纪】【梦】【梦】【强】【颜】【欢】【笑】：“【我】【就】【是】【知】【道】，【所】【以】，【我】【刚】【才】【已】【经】【说】【了】，【你】【不】【需】【要】【放】【在】【心】【上】，【我】【不】【会】【借】【此】【强】【迫】【你】【娶】【我】。” “【既】【然】，【你】【有】【自】【知】【之】【明】【就】【最】【好】【了】。”【夜】【斯】【骆】【转】【过】【身】，【再】【也】【吝】【啬】【给】【她】【一】【个】【目】【光】：“【不】【过】，【今】【天】【的】【事】【情】，【你】【可】【以】【提】【出】【任】【何】【条】【件】，【我】【都】【会】【答】【应】【你】。” 【纪】【梦】
“【好】【大】【的】【口】【气】，【我】【倒】【要】【看】【看】，【你】【如】【何】【活】【着】【从】【这】【方】【天】【地】【出】【去】！”【彭】【飞】【声】【音】【冰】【冷】，【狰】【狞】【可】【怖】【的】【脸】【庞】【满】【是】【杀】【意】，【位】【于】【浩】【淼】【气】【流】【中】【的】【彭】【飞】，【抬】【起】【了】【手】【掌】，【对】【准】【了】【远】【处】【的】【曾】【毅】，【五】【指】【缓】【缓】【弯】【曲】。 【曾】【毅】【瞬】【间】【感】【受】【到】【了】【来】【自】【四】【面】【八】【方】【的】【压】【迫】，【那】【是】【比】【清】【安】【大】【牢】【里】【赵】【四】【五】【的】【气】【场】【还】【要】【强】【大】【数】【百】【倍】【的】【压】【迫】，【发】【出】【压】【迫】【的】【人】，【似】【乎】【是】【老】【天】【爷】解跑狗高手【有】【些】【人】，【在】【面】【对】【第】【七】【重】【天】【时】，【很】【容】【易】【度】【过】【此】【劫】，【而】【有】【些】【人】，【或】【许】【耗】【尽】【一】【生】，【都】【走】【不】【出】【那】【道】【门】【槛】。 【经】【过】【一】【番】【厮】【杀】，【玄】【月】【背】【着】【苧】【茜】【杀】【出】【了】【重】【围】，【只】【是】【身】【后】【还】【是】【有】【一】【批】【人】【穷】【追】【不】【舍】。 【对】【于】【玄】【月】【来】【说】，【他】【已】【经】【手】【下】【留】【情】【了】，【便】【没】【有】【伤】【到】【五】【位】【天】【罡】【星】【君】，【只】【是】【杀】【了】【一】【些】【天】【兵】【以】【及】【天】【罡】【兵】。 “【怎】【么】【办】，【他】【们】【还】【是】【穷】【追】【不】【舍】
【孤】【侠】【很】【好】【用】。 【这】【点】【江】【洵】【要】【承】【认】。 【孤】【侠】【这】【家】【伙】【是】【有】【很】【深】【的】【躲】【藏】【技】【巧】【和】【精】【准】【的】【动】【态】【视】【力】【捕】【捉】【能】【力】。 【这】【取】【决】【于】【常】【年】【东】【躲】【西】【藏】，【在】【抢】【怪】【得】【手】【后】【被】【各】【路】【高】【手】【追】【着】【打】【养】【成】【的】【躲】【避】【功】【底】，【至】【于】【动】【态】【视】【力】【上】【的】【捕】【捉】【能】【力】，【这】【就】【是】【天】【赋】【能】【力】【了】。 【没】【有】【一】【点】【天】【赋】，【他】【能】【在】【拾】【荒】【者】、【验】【尸】【官】【上】【有】【如】【此】【建】【树】【吗】？ 【马】【踏】【飞】【燕】【可】【能】
PS：【第】【二】【更】【奉】【上】！ “【额】” 【看】【到】【手】【机】【收】【到】【新】【的】【信】【息】【的】【提】【示】，【穆】【皓】【轩】【急】【忙】【点】【开】，【不】【过】，【随】【后】，【就】【有】【点】【傻】【眼】【了】！ 【并】【不】【是】【他】【预】【想】【的】【金】【泰】【妍】【给】【他】【发】【过】【来】【的】【照】【片】，【而】【是】Tiffany！ 【是】【她】【穿】【着】【那】【件】【粉】【红】【色】【的】【蕾】【丝】【花】【瓣】【圆】【领】、【印】【花】【裙】【摆】【的】【礼】【服】【照】【片】！ “【欧】【巴】！【怎】【么】【样】？【还】【可】【以】【吗】？” 【照】【片】
【因】【为】【嘲】【笑】【裴】【少】【彦】，【所】【以】【自】【己】【反】【倒】【是】【紧】【张】【了】。**【馨】【默】【默】【地】【擦】【去】【笑】【出】【来】【的】【眼】【泪】，【牵】【起】【了】【少】【彦】【的】【手】。 “【傻】【不】【傻】【啊】【你】。”【她】【伸】【手】【揉】【了】【揉】【他】【的】【发】，【他】【被】【她】【立】【即】【推】【开】：“【这】【是】【花】【了】【一】【早】【上】【做】【的】【造】【型】，【别】【碰】【坏】【了】。”【他】【赶】【紧】【对】【着】【镜】【子】【又】【理】【了】【理】【头】【发】。 **【馨】【再】【次】【笑】【得】【握】【住】【了】【嘴】，【总】【而】【言】【之】，【今】【天】【的】【裴】【少】【彦】【的】【确】【有】【些】【不】【同】。
【五】【大】【世】【家】【任】【何】【一】【个】【单】【拎】【出】【来】【的】【族】【长】【都】【做】【不】【到】，【但】【是】…… 【不】【代】【表】【五】【个】【族】【长】【联】【合】【起】【来】【做】【不】【到】【啊】！ 【再】【联】【系】【君】【正】【初】【之】【前】【说】【的】【那】【个】“【反】【叛】【者】【计】【划】”…… 【君】【喻】【言】【非】【常】【敏】【锐】【的】【察】【觉】【到】，【那】【股】【她】【一】【直】【都】【有】【所】【察】【觉】【但】【是】【却】【未】【曾】【直】【面】【的】【暗】【流】，【已】【经】【在】【她】【不】【知】【道】【的】【时】【候】【开】【始】【愈】【发】【汹】【涌】【了】【起】【来】。 【楼】【列】【清】【几】【个】【人】【折】【腾】【了】【许】【久】，【发】【现】【并】