How sci fi is Detroit?


A lot of things come to mind in a lot of minds in a lot of places around the world when my city Detroit is mentioned. Sometimes it’s good, like the music of Motown. Or the legacy of the Motor City, the city that put the world on wheels. Other times the name association game is a little less fun to play, like the daily association we seem to have with high crime, political corruption,  and devastated neighborhood landscapes.

But the one topic that I can guarantee does not come to mind when one engages in a discussion about Detroit is science fiction.

Not that I’m shocked by the omission, because to look around the city at first glance there admittedly isn’t much that would make anyone start thinking about distant planets and alternative universes. Or stark yet beautiful dystopian horizons and landscapes where the rules of death and existence are altogether different than anything one might recognize back on this side of the galaxy.

Whoa. Wait a minute…

OK, back up. Sure, there was Robocop. And yeah, that was kinda fun in a dark, perverse sort of way. But Robocop could have really been done in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago and it still would have worked out just fine. Imagining Detroit in the future as a dangerous, lawless place didn’t take much imagination at all, and truth be told there really wasn’t much Detroit about the movie at all. You might say it was rather lazy on that front. Now take out the word  ‘rather’.

But wouldn’t it be something if…

Stark yet beautiful dystopian horizons where the rules of death and existence are altogether different…

Those who follow Detroit, and there are a rather large number who do for an equally large number of reasons, are well aware of the inch-by-inch steadily improving narrative that is beginning to accompany Detroit based on the hopeful feeling that maybe, just maybe, the Detroit comeback might be the real deal this time around. If so then nobody will be happier than me to be here and feel the warm tide of rebirth and renewal wash over us all. But a big part of creating a different future begins with the imagination. Las Vegas as a gambling mecca was largely conceived in the imagination of one of this country’s most ruthless and notorious gangsters, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. If imagination can build a city like that…

Which is why I love science fiction and fantasy. It stretches the imagination like no other literary genre except possibly horror, of which I’m also a major fan. And looking at Detroit through the lens of an unshackled imagination, I’m thinking there’s room here for an entirely new breed of urban science fiction and fantasy that could put this city on the map in a whole new way…

This is being cross posted on Detroit Ink Publishing.



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Writer and musician.

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