Issue 6: Industry | 553 words
With Witch-in-Residence, we at Speculative City imagine a co-created speculative world based on real questions that we place in speculative spaces. Our Witch-in-Residence, through her working knowledge of the world and the magic within it, answers questions from beings who seek advice when they find themselves confronting difficult or confusing situations. Think of Dear Abby with a much more interesting fantasy twist.
Questions or letters for next month’s column are welcome! Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will map your question to our speculative world.
Dear Witch-in-Residence, a.k.a. the past,
I am from the future. It is a post-nuclear holocaust time. We are three brief generations from the fallout, those few of us who remain, and have cobbled together a society for each other. It is a hard world, but ours, and I love it fiercely. I would never jeopardize what we have.
I recently found a nuclear power station, out of commission, but with enough surviving manuals and books and charts. I think I could get it running. Should I? We’d have power; we’d have electricity! Heat! But this is how the old world was destroyed, and not that long ago. What do I do?
Dear Future Man,
This is way above my pay grade. I am not at all equipped to answer this question. From what I know and where I am sitting in the year 2019, here’s what I can offer: I’m so sorry, muffin. That sounds intense and terrifying and hard, and like something more than one person should have to shoulder. In this situation, I would turn to one of my favorite pieces of advice, which is to talk to your community. That’s often hard, but when it happens, it’s also often where the healing happens. Unfortunately here, to talk to them—your people, your partner or close friend, your wise elders—is also to share knowledge that is in itself dangerous. The nuclear power station is a powerful resource and a secret one that you’ve just found. Secrets rarely stay secrets, and never if you share them.
A question I can ask, then, is: do you think this can stay secret? You say you found it—will someone else? Is there a set of shared laws or beliefs whereby your society will not take up nuclear power? If so, is anyone else in your society likely to have the same thought as you, if you do share knowledge of this place’s existence? If you can’t prevent this coming to light, how would you try to guide the resultant debate? With whom could you ally yourself to help in this?
Again, no answers here beyond seeking help from immediate counsel. My first instinct was to give you the address of the White House, tell you to write them, or maybe the Department of the Interior – but, uh, we don’t have any experts in those places right now. May I suggest you write another letter, perhaps with answers to some of the above questions, and send it to – oh, I don’t know, how long can it take to undo the damage of the current administration? 2028? Try 2028.
And if you can, keep us posted.
Hilary Berwick is a writer, coder, researcher, and meditation practitioner from Brooklyn, Oakland, Texas, and some points in-between. When she’s not growing plants, reading books about Pagan rituals, or playing RPGs, she writes queer radical speculative fiction and loves on her bigheaded dog.