Oh my God! Jeanette Winterson has written a science fiction novel, The Stone Gods, as a speculation. Nor has she taken the marketing escape of disguising her presence by the addition of the cunning initial. There she is, in plain sight, unadorned, investing the enterprise with the gravitas of her literary reputation. As Ursula K Le Guin remarks, Winterson commits genre.
The story appears to involve a parable of our own world, allowing Winterson to derive her own dystopia from Orwell’s tradition of extrapolation. Unleavened by reality or experience, the future is a hell of advertising and reality television. Did she read Pohl and Kornbluth? Whilst Winterson’s themes of abandoned childhood and the nature of adoption inform much of her fiction, this departure allows us to see how literati react to the symbols of ecological disaster and despair.
The banal title invokes the destruction of Easter Island as symbol for the future of this Island Earth. What limits the visions of the future that mainstream writers depict as a simplistic outlier. The acceptable vision of the future is the resource crisis, the one that swamps our media daily, and forms the backdrop of Winterson’s love story.
The choice of future does not negate the quality of the story, and Winterson serves up a provocative narrative. Yet, does her painted future display a certain narrowness. The degrading and deserving darkness that many prophecy as the outcome of the civilisation they revile is easier to write than the complex and enriched society that few foretell and fewer understand.