novelist and playwright Sarah Schulman is turning to science fiction
because it's the only way to capture how surreal her world has gotten.
Her next novel, Mere Future, takes place in a future New York
where everybody works in marketing. I talked to Schulman about her
novel, which comes out next year, and asked her why satire always seems
to take place five minutes into the future.
Schulman's novels include The Child, Rat Bohemia and People In Trouble, which she accused the musical Rent of
stealing scenes and incidents from. She's the co-founder of the New
York Experimental Film Festival, now known as MIXand and in its
twentyfirst year. She's produced about 15 plays, and written
extensively about the history of the AIDS crisis.
In Mere Future, everybody works for the same giant
corporation, known as the Media Hub, and the only jobs are in
marketing. "It's the only job that's left." Different divisions within
the company compete with each other, creating the illusion of a free
market. "There's an illusion of difference," she explains. "It's like
Banana Republic and the Gap being owned by the same company, but you
think that they're competitors." And a new political messiah comes
along and becomes mayor of New York. People expect massive change from
this new leader, and they get it — but it's not what they were
expecting. There's some kind of massive twist, which Schulman won't
reveal yet, which comments on the fact that change, in our current
system, is often an illusion.
I asked Schulman if her "everyone works in marketing" plot was sort of paying homage to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and she said no, it's just a slightly enhanced view of where we are now. She hadn't read Max Barry's Jennifer Government.
Schulman adds that Mere Future isn't satire — it's
"heightened reality. There's so much lying and pretense about who we
really are and how we're living. If you remove that, and just talk
about it truthfully, it sounds like science fiction."