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Kings of a Dead World: Why We Tell Sleep Dystopia Stories in an Age of Climate Change

But that’s the factor, Mollart says, when Den of Geek speaks to him about his new ebook: “Time’s like a false constraint, isn’t it? You’ve got the sun coming up, the sun coming down—there is an obvious set of divisions of how people spend their time. But the whole hour and minute thing—we’ve made these false constraints that we as society have put onto things. It’s humans grappling with what’s in front of them in nature, isn’t it? It’s this whole thing we can’t control, so we try to control it by putting our own constraints on it.”

False or not, these societal constraints have created an inverse relationship between sleepers and wakers, their actions balanced by time zones that dictate when half of the world ends the day whereas the opposite half is simply starting. In fiction, this dynamic is much more pronounced, with characters transferring by means of the dream realm at cross-purposes to at least one one other, whether or not it’s the Inception crew planting concepts three layers into the slumbering unconscious, or Tyler Durden puppeting the Narrator’s physique for cross-country flights to discovered Fight Clubs everywhere in the nation. Kings of a Dead World alternates between the views of Ben, an octogenarian whose age belies his revolutionary combating spirit, struggling to take care of his sick spouse Rose throughout their temporary time Awake; and Peruzzi, a Janitor who has the Sleeping world as his playground but suffers an existential lack of goal.

Being the sleeper is simple, or so we expect: Sleep Donation posits that donating sleep is as painless and noble as giving blood. That’s the get together line for the Sleep Corps’ champ recruiter Trish Edgewater, who convinces the dad and mom of new child donor Baby A that she has a surfeit of the stuff, and to not give could be to doom the nation’s insomniacs to an agonizing, brutal, pointless dying. For Baby A, or Washington Irving’s archetypal snoozer Rip Van Winkle, or the Narrator, they get to get up into a modified world. It’s the individuals watching them sleep, transferring by means of the insomniac hours, who need to do the precise onerous work of breaking and reshaping the world.


In the Narrator’s case, Mollart says, “[he] can’t break out of the cycle that he’s in without inventing someone to tell him how to do it, which is just such a modern male thing. We’re rubbish about talking about our feelings; we’re rubbish about facing responsibility for ourselves.” Toxic masculinity is a recurring theme in Mollart’s work, from his prior novel The Zoo to his subsequent project: “We’re the shit half of the species, and I just think male friendships are really interesting. Most blokes have one real strong relationship, often from your childhood, and you become really mirrors of each other. That’s kind of what the Tyler Durden/Narrator [dynamic] is like. Blokes egg each other on, [and] it’s difficult for men to show affection to other men, it’s just sad. As long as that continues, we won’t break the cycle of nonsense of male violence and the patriarchy that we’ve got unfortunately still.”

The Tyler/Narrator dynamic performs out in the connection between fellow Janitors Peruzzi and Slattery: colleagues, quasi-friends, and companions in crime. While their decadent existence spoil them with at-home gyms and Brave New World-inspired raves each three months, Slattery tempts Peruzzi into in search of out higher highs than capsules and intercourse. Their explorations into the Sleeping world at first faucet into a Fight Club-esque awakening of the blood, solely to tip into Project Mayhem ranges of voyeurism and violation in pursuit of affirmation that what they do truly issues.

Despite these outbursts, the Janitors stay a shadowy presence in the lives of the Sleepers, watching them however not motivating them to Sleep. That incentivization comes from this world’s new-old non secular order: the chronological trinity of Chronos, Bacchus, and Rip Van. “In a world where you hit a cultural stop,” Mollart explains, “where it goes from this to this, it felt to me that you would go back to something quite primal.” He turned to historic mythology for the personification of time (who oversees the Sleep/Wake cycles) and the god of partying (who rewards the Janitors for his or her onerous work). But it was fairy tales that supplied a folkloric Jesus Christ determine for the Sleepers in Rip Van, a determine who each prolonged Sleep cycle appears to evangelise, I did it, and you’ll too. I lost twenty years, you can provide up three months.



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