Diamond Age 75 (30)
October 6, 2019
One in a series of posts about the 75 best science fiction novels published during the genre’s Diamond Age era (from 1984–2003, according to HILOBROW’s periodization schema). For Josh Glenn’s complete Diamond Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
Octavia E. Butler’s Earthseed adventure Parable of the Sower (1993).
Lauren Olamina, a teenager living in a gated community outside of Los Angeles, suffers from hyper-empathy; she viscerally feels whatever physical pain she witnesses. However, in the not-too-distant future (the 2020s), when the social order begins to collapse due to global warming, economic stagnation, racism and sexism, and extreme wealth disparity, Lauren’s condition may prove to be a super-power, of sorts. If she can survive, and find people she can trust — then Lauren’s prophetic “seeds” — her ideas for a new social order, one based on a religion that will teach self-sufficiency and a radically new understanding of what God is — may have a chance of finding purchase. The story, told through (rather stoic, matter-of-fact) journal entries, details the brutal events that come to pass during the early days of America’s collapse, as well as Lauren’s efforts to found a utopian “Earthseed” commune in northern California. Now that it’s nearly 2020, Butler’s depiction of what’s to come — including a president who aims to make America great again by suspending minimum wage, environmental, and worker protection laws — feels depressingly, chillingly accurate.
Fun facts: The first in a two-book series. The book’s title is borrowed from a parable that Jesus tells (in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15) about a sower whose seed falls on various patches of ground, most — but not all — of which are inhospitable.
DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: William Gibson | Bruce Sterling | Margaret Atwood | Ann Nocenti | Frank Miller | Alan Moore | Octavia E. Butler | Iain M. Banks | Grant Morrison | Neal Stephenson | Jonathan Lethem | Charles Burns | China Miéville.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.