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The Power of Asking “What If?”: GOOD Magazine’s First Foray Into Sci-Fi

When GOOD Magazine asked me to pitch a sci-fi story for their Human Possibility issue last summer, I knew instantly that that I wanted to write about how the evolution of existing technology might change the fabric of our existence. What would “love,” that most basic of emotions, look like 100 years from now, especially if we had the tools to transcend our biology?

I tend toward the dystopic (writing about climate change will do that to you), but tried to envision a world in which my dark fears about the future had been replaced by hope. But I knew that for my character's sake, such a world could not exist until after humanity had worked out the issues that continue to condemn so many to perilous daily lives. From where we live now, on the cusp of 2014 – we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us.

I knew that if I were to create some kind of perfect, or at least better world, some basic rules needed to change. Women, people of color, the trans-gendered, bi and gay, the poor – millions continue to live in an emotional and legal netherworld. When the bodies we come wrapped in are dangerous just because their skin or genitals or DNA doesn’t conform to a privileged cultural norm, humans cannot evolve, even with technology’s exponential expansion.

One of the alarming possible futures that sci-fi writers obsess about, with good reason, is overpopulation. In my utopia, safe, healthy birth control is free and accessible to everyone 12 and over – and all reproductive choice is a given, not a political or religious football. We don't often discuss the fact that compulsory motherhood dominates most women's lives during their reproductive years. While I was working on the story, “leaning in” was the media’s obsession of the moment. But “having it all” isn’t the same thing for every woman – the childfree by choice need to occupy a seat at the table.

Before I sat down to write, I asked myself these questions: What if we were never shamed for seeking pleasure? What if freely and consciously choosing partners was a given for everyone of every background? What if we could choose when (or even if) we were meant to have children? What if most sexual hang-ups were merely fossils of a bygone era?

I believe sexuality has been exploited so efficiently precisely because it can be so liberatory; the Church knows exactly what it's doing. Let people experience intimacy and pleasure without shame, and there is no freedom they will be afraid to seek. And in a world in which healthy, conscious sexuality is a given, all babies will be born out of, and into – love.

This is the world in which Five Trillion, my story about giving birth in 2114, takes place. And I can’t wait for us to get there.

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