An Unusual Threat to Utopias

One of the themes of Kingdom Come is to examine what our culture takes for granted and look at it in a new light.  When someone gives their word in Kingdom, because they are often poor, it is the only way they can be trusted.  Your word, then, is your life.  Fail to uphold your promises and you find yourself ostracized from the community into more dangerous territory.

There are so many novels about dystopias these days that I decided to write an utopian story instead.  Dystopias, if they end positively, are often about hope (Fahrenheit 451).  If they don’t end well, they are about warning of what could happen (1984).  So what are the famous novels about utopias?  Quick think of one.  It’s a little harder, isn’t it?

In an utopia, you must have a threat to an idyllic setting whereas in dystopias, the setting itself is the threat.  In an utopia you are brought to the edge of losing everything its members hold dear.  My Kingdom Come and Shadow Oaks novels are both set in utopias.  In the first Shadow Oaks novel, it’s an arsonist who threatens to burn the town down and destroy the midwestern Shangri-La.  In Kingdom, the threat is far more subtle.  The world is slowly losing its charm because of an ineffective king.  It’s a lesson that, in order for something to remain healthy and viable, one must work at it.  Whether it’s a home, a job, or a marriage, one element of success is to avoid complacency.

I find complacency to be an agent of evil that people ignore.  The villain in Kingdom is not the traditional characterization on purpose.  Often an antagonist is angry, strong, loud, overbearing (Voldemort in HP).  The opposite type is cunning, subtle, sneaky (Wormtongue in LOTR).  Most famous villains have one of two faults: anger or pride.  The other five deadly sins are not often used.  When was the last time you saw a lusty or a gluttonous villain?  I decided my villain was going to exemplify sloth.  This doesn’t mean he’s so lazy as not to be a threat.  Sloth is a difficult sin to define, but in this case, it is the avoidance of doing the right thing – even when, and especially if – the right thing is difficult to do.  Sloth is the silent majority who watch their society crumble around them.  Sloth is the person who chooses to say what people want to hear not what people should hear.  Sloth undermines the brilliance and creativity of mankind.  It whispers into one’s ear: “It’s not worth the effort.”  “You can’t fight City Hall.”  “Nothing good ever comes from sticking one’s nose into matters that don’t involve them.”  “Keep your head low and you won’t get hurt.”

That’s sloth, and I find it fascinating that people uphold these sayings and this mode of thought as truth.  Kingdom Come is meant to be a mirror to society, to challenge the negative behaviors we uphold as truths and ask the questions.  Are they really true?