As a teen, I was completely enamored by the genre of science fiction. From H.G. Wells and the invention of the time machine to Philip K. Dick's novels about altered perception and authoritarian society to the light-hearted nature of Star Trek: The Original Series – in this genre there's something for everyone to enjoy. Sincerest apologies to all you Star Wars fans out there, but I am a Trekkie all the way.
Give me some futuristic attire, parallel universes, or science and technology that I hope to live to see become a reality, and I am here for it. Of course, my favorite aspect of the genre is the inevitability of piercing societal and philosophical criticism and the hope of a better tomorrow. Science fiction gives authors the freedom to expand their worlds beyond what we can see and to posit an imaginative universe with their own set of rules to regulate it. Blaire Grady’s newest foray into fiction is her progressive science fiction story Redfin.
Now, what do I mean when I say a “progressive story”? Grady is offering a unique opportunity to her fellow writers and science fiction enthusiasts with her latest project. To people like me. She is asking us to take a journey with her through the world she has created. Critiques, like this, will appear as part of her Redfin blog series as she embarks on a chapter-by-chapter release of her project. This will provide a public forum for professional readers, writers, and editors, while also increasing organic readership with you - the audience. Her meticulous story editor Michaeli Knight is already on board. As is her gifted illustrator Bruce Rolff, who created the stunning cover art for Redfin.
Redfin takes place in a near-future dystopian world wherein society has rebounded from a cataclysmic event only to find humanity’s new norm has divided the world. It consists of mostly peaceful networks of people in a vast but interconnected land. Where you stand in this milieu seems to depend largely on a few factors: your socio-economic status, your geographical location, and the color of your skin. A timely topic, if there ever was one.
Those with wealth and connections form small networks in which a panel of elders oversees each network’s industry. They are composed of two classes, as so often is the case, the upper class, and the working class. The world is then further divided into two sections: urban (Urb) and rural (Burb). The Urb is ruled by the affluent with highly desirable skill sets, and the Burb focuses on the agricultural needs of the many.
In the new world order, there is no crime, as the few citizens that survived have banded together to preserve the world for future generations. Yet Grady is smarter than your average pageant contestant to know that world peace does not solve all of our problems as a society. While people are not necessarily forced into staying within their given network, their innate sense of duty for the preservation of humankind keeps them from exploring. This seems to instill a deep sense of ennui, especially amongst the working-class youths.
Enter the Redfin, a mysterious supernatural creature whose visage is transformative, able to appear in almost any form. Redfin is tasked with delivering messages to help guide humanity. As a reader myself, I am intrigued to learn how the Redfin will influence the characters and how far they may go to make sure their message is heard.
In chapter one of Redfin, we find ourselves following the story of our sweet yet seemingly troubled protagonist Ray Williams. Ray is a resident in the Burb and a member of the lower class. Without the pressures and expectations that family and society place on the individual, children are often able to befriend others with relative ease. This was the case for Ray and her childhood friend Melanie St. John.
They began as friends, yet as they aged their dynamic shifted. Their friendship weathered as time had changed them both in an incongruent manner. The Williams family had always relied on the St. John's family for shelter and sustenance. They even bestowed the title of elder to Ray’s parents which elevated their standing. In exchange, the St. John’s family supplied the Williams family with hard labor in their rural community of Tallulah Gorge. The families are inextricably intertwined.
Ray, no longer a carefree child, finds herself caretaker to Melanie’s daughter Nicole. I believe this relationship is meant to represent a much needed existential reprieve from Ray’s otherwise burdened life. In a sweet yet telling moment while playing an innocent game of make-believe we see Ray’s fiercely independent side. She lectures Nicole on why we should be loved freely in and of ourselves with no other end in mind. And reminds Nicole that life isn't always a fairytale. An apt lesson in life I have had to remind myself of many times over the years.
When this upsets Nicole, Ray realizes the disparity with which they were raised. Ray’s family, while held in high regard, is by design subservient to the St. Johns. Nicole will want for nothing, not food, nor shelter, nor status. As a member of the upper class, her life is privileged in a way that Ray has never experienced. Yet, because of her status, Ray is able to recognize that Nicole's life will be negatively affected too. As she bore witness to with her mother, Melanie, before her. If only everyone was as successful at self-reflection and self-assessment as she appears to be in this moment.
Ray deescalates the young child's tantrum and agrees to the possibility of exploring the creek for crayfish after some rest. The pair sit for a moment in the plush grass and watch the clouds drift by in the sky. As Nicole falls asleep Ray is reminded of how Melanie similarly had fits as a child. Ray goes on to describe the mental and physical abuses she endured as a youth, by both Melanie and Melanie’s late mother Eleanor.
I believe at this point it is possible to view Melanie and Ray's relationship through the framework of the master-slave morality of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Melanie possesses master morality, which values pride and power above all else. Ray possesses slave morality, which values kindness, sympathy, and empathy. In this case, Melanie would judge her actions as either good or bad and might see “reprimanding” Ray as a good action. Ray would evaluate actions as having either good or evil intentions. Ray would, of course, see Melanie’s physical abuse towards her as an evil or a vice.
A morality, according to Nietzsche, is inseparable from the culture that values it. This forces me to ask the questions: Does the upper class indeed create the moral framework in the former township of Tallulah Gorge? Or, are the St. Johns a family of wicked people who have too long been in a position of privilege that they have forgotten their sense of moral goodness? And if so, might it be Ray’s purpose in life to establish a sense of good-natured morality in Nicole, as her de facto mother-figure?
While Ray considers her life's purpose, and her future with Nicole, the child awakens from her peaceful slumber. When she looks into the sky she sees a cloud shaped like a crayfish. Nicole excitedly points it out to Ray. Ray takes this as a sign of something good to come, and it fills her with a sense of hope. Was this message delivered to her from the heavens? Or was it the Redfin?
Grady seems to acknowledge the idea that hope plays an important role in regard to human motivation. I think this is so important as a starting point for her story. With the difficulties we, as humanity, have had to face in the last few years, it is so refreshing to read a narrative about hope. Massive global death counts, government uprisings, political instability, war, famine, homophobia, and racisim – these are not new problems. These are systemic issues. Simply living in the world can be such a burden. Hope is linked in its nature to many other mental penomena, such as desire, happiness, and optimism. Who couldn't benefit from a few more of those virtues in their lives?
Check back soon for the next installment of Blaire Grady’s Redfin.
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