Writing the future

Local author and activist Elaine Graham-Leigh introduces her debut science-fiction novel

Elaine Graham-Leigh (credit Piers Allardyce)
Elaine Graham-Leigh (credit Piers Allardyce)

My debut novel imagines a future where humanity has gone to the stars, but taken exploitation and oppression with them.

The Caduca tells the story of two women – an alien diplomat and a human guerrilla fighter – caught up in events when the major power in the galaxy sets its sights on Benan Ty, a poor ex-Terran colony planet.

In the past year or so, many of us have probably had moments of wishing ourselves a million miles away from here. It’s not surprising that sales of books in ‘escapist’ genres such as science fiction and fantasy increased over the last year.

Although set nearly 900 years in the future, The Caduca is rooted in the politics of today’s world. For me, the best science fiction isn’t so much about the future and technology as it is about the present. The point is to use an imagined future to ask why the world is as it is, and how it could be different.

In The Caduca, I’m looking at imperialism and resistance; at bombing countries in order to ‘save’ them and how to fight back without becoming as bad as the powers you’re opposing.

So, what does this have to do with Enfield? It’s not, of course, that we’ve faced an alien invasion, nor that we’re living under a murderous dictatorship, as the people of Benan Ty are at the start of the novel. These are, however, ideas that I’ve been working out over two decades of being a local political activist, from marching with Enfield Stop the War in 2003, helping to organise last summer’s Black Lives Matter protest in Palmers Green, to being part of Enfield Climate Action Forum.

Local campaigning, whether on local or national issues, might seem a world away from wars on imagined planets, but the questions are the same. How can we work together? What can we do when we can’t trust those in power? And can we really change anything?

The Caduca is a way of exploring those questions, as well as, I hope, providing some much-needed escapism and entertainment. Sometimes you have to stand far, far back to see what’s right in front of you.

‘The Caduca’ by Elaine Graham-Leigh is published by The Conrad Press:
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