Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Future Utopia In Brooklyn, 1992! (In Case You Missed It)

by Stephen J. Gertz

Brooklyn, 1992, a great place to live.

It is cleaner; you can eat off the sidewalks. It is more peaceful; on Sundays you can hear a pin drop. It is healthier, and generally better than ever before. A 2¢ plain, (seltzer, i.e. seltza!) presumably, still costs two cents. Mass electrification via solar power and mechanization have brought widespread prosperity, and the extremes of wealth and poverty have been shaved. The electric car is standard (though not a Prius in sight). Government and the economy have meshed as a cooperative commonwealth. All land is owned by the state; people lease the sites of their palatial  - yes, palatial - homes.; every house a McMansion. Men and women are fully equal. Religion and science have buried the hatchet and are now best buds; indeed science and religion are one. Color photography has finally arrived. Various super-duper gizmos have increased the breadth and efficiency of personal communications.  Contact has been been made with Mars. The borough is now part of the city of Columbia, formerly New York. War is a thing of the past. The whole scene is, as they say in Brooklyn, "Cherce."

Oh, and dogs now understand human speech and can respond with a code of staccato barks.

Big changes since 1893, when the above was predicted. Bigger than when Bohemia colonized the Williamsburg district, bigger than when its HQ (hip quotient) burst the thermometer and led to gentrification, bohemian exodus, and Starbucks.

Earth Revisited is one of the more unusual novels of Utopian literature, a genre that thrived during the latter part of the nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries.

In 1892 Herbert Atheron is a successful businessman with a wife and two children. Only fifty, he contracts a fatal disease; he is dying as the novel opens. He regrets his life of crass money-making and rues the loss of Teresa, a young woman he was in love with in youth but who had tragically died. He loses consciousness.

When he awakens, he is a twenty-seven year old named Harold Amesbury, a man who has been ill and delirious for the last three months, nursed by Helen, who brings him back to a semblance of mental balance and introduces him to the world, Brooklyn, one hundred years later, a place of "bewildering magnificence and beauty." 

Helen and Harold draw close but his obsession with the long-lost Teresa drives a wedge between them and she leaves him. He boards at a house owned by a medium who leads him on a spiritual journey through time and space to the now-evergreen Sahara where he meets up with Helen. They experience a spiritual mind-meld and learn that Helen is the reincarnation of Teresa. They marry, take the last exit to Brooklyn, watch a tree grow there, and live happily ever after.

Byron Alden Brooks (1845–1911) "was a native New Yorker, born in the small town of Theresa. He was educated at Wesleyan University. Brooks was a teacher, journalist, and inventor as well as the author of several other literary works. His first book was King Saul (1876). As an inventor, he produced improvements in typewriters and linotype machines; his most notable innovation was probably the first typewriter that could shift between upper- and lower-case letters" (The National Cyclopedia of American Biography).

Only one thing remains in Brooklyn 1992 as it was in 1892. Dogs cannot scoop up their own poop. And they call it utopia...

BROOKS, Byron. Earth Revisited. Boston: Arena Publishing Company, 1893. First edition. Octavo. 318, (4 publisher's catalog) pp. Publisher's blue cloth boards, lettered in gilt.

Bleiler, Science-Fiction the Early Years 277. Negley 149. Sargent, p.49.

Image courtesy of Lorne Bair Rare Books.

Read the entire text of Earth Revisited here.

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