Award-winning novelist and playwright Sarah Schulman is turning to science fiction because it's the only way to capture how surreal her world has gotten. Her next novel, Mere Future, takes place in a future New York where everybody works in marketing. I talked to Schulman about her novel, which comes out next year, and asked her why satire always seems to take place five minutes into the future. Schulman's novels include The Child, Rat Bohemia and People In Trouble, which she accused the musical Rent of stealing scenes and incidents from. She's the co-founder of the New York Queer Experimental Film Festival, now known as MIXand and in its twentyfirst year. She's produced about 15 plays, and written extensively about the history of the AIDS crisis. In Mere Future, everybody works for the same giant corporation, known as the Media Hub, and the only jobs are in marketing. "It's the only job that's left." Different divisions within the company compete with each other, creating the illusion of a free market. "There's an illusion of difference," she explains. "It's like Banana Republic and the Gap being owned by the same company, but you think that they're competitors." And a new political messiah comes along and becomes mayor of New York. People expect massive change from this new leader, and they get it — but it's not what they were expecting. There's some kind of massive twist, which Schulman won't reveal yet, which comments on the fact that change, in our current system, is often an illusion. I asked Schulman if her "everyone works in marketing" plot was sort of paying homage to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and she said no, it's just a slightly enhanced view of where we are now. She hadn't read Max Barry's Jennifer Government. Schulman adds that Mere Future isn't satire — it's "heightened reality. There's so much lying and pretense about who we really are and how we're living. If you remove that, and just talk about it truthfully, it sounds like science fiction."
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