There are various ways of doing it. A lot of the 19th-century utopias were essentially guided tours. They were written by people who really did think those ideas should be implemented. They put it into fictional form to show what it would look like. Then you get more extreme, less realistic examples, like W.H. Hudson’s A Crystal Age, a wonderful William Morris type society in which people are doing a lot of weaving in beautiful stained-glass houses in the woods.
But the catch is that nobody has sex – they’re not even interested in it, except these two tragic figures called the mother and the father who have to do this awful thing that everybody pities them for. Then the unfortunate mother has to do this horrible thing called giving birth. But it’s a tragedy because our traveller from the past falls in love with one of these beauteous maidens who doesn’t know what he’s talking about – “You want me to do what?”
In this book, and The Year of the Flood though, there’s this utopian vision emerging from a spiritual survivalist movement, God’s Gardeners …
… well, they’re holding the fort. But this kind of thinking has been built into mythology for a very long time. Deucalion’s flood. Noah’s flood. Utnapishtim’s flood in Gilgamesh. There’s always been some kind of thing that’s wiped out quite a few people. Actually, as Homer presents the Trojan War, Zeus says at some point that there are too many people; we have to get rid of some of them! But there’s always the seed of beginning again. Nobody can actually go so far as to say it’s all going to be wiped out and then there’ll be nothing.
In MaddAddam, the people holding the fort systematically harmonize themselves with the things that, quite literally, fall outside their square. They have their boundaries, they have their adversaries, and they ally themselves with them, in the end.
Have you read 1491? It’s about what North and South America were like in 1491, after which the mortality rate was something like 95 per cent. It’s probably the biggest mass extinction of human beings that has ever happened. Black Death was 50 per cent, overall. Ninety-five per cent is really pretty high. But that is not the first bottleneck the human species went through, which we know from counting back through the mitochondrial DNA. We have had ups and downs, as with any species. If you follow whooping cranes, they were down to 25 in the world; they’re now up to 600. Now those are going to be somewhat inbred. It is a problem.
So is a bottleneck coming again?
I’m not a prophet. What I’m saying is: You can kill a lot of them, but until you kill every last … until you kill it down to the nub … That’s true of every animal, including us.
A strange month to not be a prophet, with so much of what you predicted in the first two books of this trilogy coming to pass: lab-manufactured meat, and news of approval being given in Japan to grow human organs inside pigs.
They’ll grow kidneys first, like I said would happen. They’re trying to put this law in place that says you can never have human cortex tissue in an animal. Dream on. Somebody’s going to do it, just to see what happens.
That must be one of the strange realities of working on a project that’s this future-oriented and that took this long.
To see it come true. I know. It’s scary. But as usual I didn’t put anything in at the beginning that wasn’t already in process. The question wasn’t “Will they be able to do it?” but “Will they keep trying to do it?” And the answer is “Yes.”