I started a dystopian novel about this in 2016 and then stopped writing it because I thought it was unnecessarily alarmist.
This story never saw the light of day, but it was about a post-“shattering of the United States” situation. The Rural/Urban divide became sufficiently stark that the country’s unity became untenable. Instead of a “south/north” war or something like that, there were the United City States of America, which was a legal union of a majority of urban centers and their metropolitan areas.
It was supposed to be my little personal ramble on political philosophy, in which individual city-states, some of them renamed and some not, would adhere to specific working philosophies illustrative of their historical and geographical circumstances. The rural communities were a combination of small self-contained independent towns that traded peacefully with the UCSA, communes, and more hostile places that don’t take kindly to urbanites.
The premise of the story was inspired by a former friend of mine, a trans woman who used to be a fundamentalist and went into the army before realizing the error of her ways and turning into a walking communist meme instead. The idea for the character being, there’s some “well armed militia” of hyper-religious nutcases that keep barking a lot more than biting, about “taking back their country”. She was raised by these people, and then, for a reason not specified in the story, she goes into urban areas and gets de-radicalized by them… being nice to her and not actually being evil, and helping her with her transition and so on.
The story begins as the legacy of the Westboro Baptist Church gets reborn among these fundamentalist overmilitarized neo-fascists and she is re-radicalized against them now, and so decides to use her military training to go on a rampage murdering their community leaders to “cut the head off the snake”, due to a personal belief that it’s not really the people in these towns that are bad, but their leaders and the propaganda they’re constantly being bombarded with.
She gets caught, and convicted, but it turns out that for-profit prisons are still a thing in this world and an international corporation owns the one she would have been sent to. Instead of being sent to that prison, though, a representative of the corporation who goes by the name “Tetsugi Corporation, Branch Three” (he is one of many people who lease their lives for a period of five years at a time to corporations, and take on all of their legal accountability, in exchange for a ludicrous paycheck. Technically, his pronouns are “it/its”. It was my now-cold 2016 take on performative corporatist wokeness). Branch Three informs our protagonist (her name is Mary) that he is now in charge of her and he can put her in that prison anytime, but instead would request that she do the labour of a mercenary, enabling her to do exactly what she wanted to do in the first place because an anonymous client has it in his best interest.
This means that the next 3/5ths or so of the story are basically a road-trip from platonic dialogue urban center to platonic dialogue urban center, murdering specific political/religious/military leaders in between, while the cop who caught her the first time keeps tracking them down to figure out who this client is that is orchestrating the whole thing and how to stop them.
Then some twisty-twists happen and there’s a whole chunk dedicated to how Mary… hasn’t actually learned anything from her de-and-re-radicalization. She keeps doing whatever the next most extreme action is that she can do in order to attack perceived threats instead of defusing them, she keeps thinking that hostility and destruction are a solution and not an exacerbation of the pre-existing problem. She keeps fighting fire with fire and being surprised when she gets burned, when Branch Three isn’t actually a good guy, just an avatar for an international corporation that prioritizes profits. And… something something “the best way to be rid of an enemy is to turn them into your friend”, something something A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit and the ways in which climate change catastrophes can be survived if we stop looking for ways to cripple our ability to survive them. I didn’t really have a solid idea for the ending before I gave up on the whole thing.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post and it doesn’t necessarily represent the views of IWB.