I’ve been indulging in a lot of make-believe lately. Every chance I get I’ve retreated to my own fantasy world. Not the one you might expect — not the one
with the magic, although I love that world, too.
This fantasy world has a lot in common with the America I live in now. With one slight difference: people don’t eat animals. In my fantasy, starting in 2006 climate change was taken seriously, and it started a food chain reaction that slowly built as factory farms were eliminated and animal products become prohibitively expensive. In my fantasy world, by 2016, only very wealthy people still eat animal products. Everyone else eats grain meats and nut milks. And you know what? They are satisfied with the change. It’s still McDonalds and really how much taste difference is there between gluten nuggets and chicken nuggets or between soy burgers and cow burgers?
In my make-believe, as government regulations come online, at first some people don’t eat animals because it’s expensive. As time goes on, the products get more and more expensive and the culture begins to shift. And then people don’t eat animals because, well ugh, who would do that? It is similar to the shift in how we now view bear baiting or other blood sports.
This is the fiction I’ve been writing lately, and I think it’s just a way for me to cope with the unbearable sadness of living in our current world. I move through my day surrounded by meat eaters, and I just want to scream at them. The meat eaters that I know personally, almost 100% of them have an animal companion. They love one and eat the other, and it makes me want to scream and cry.
But I can’t scream at them; I used to be them. So I wrack my brain trying to figure out how to make them see. I’ll come home and tell my partner that I planted a seed of veganism because I mentioned Meatless Mondays to a coworker. What a rousing victory. And then I turn on my computer and I go to the place where things are better — my alternate USA.
In my alternate USA, a Republican president named Charlie Thompson, a former Texas governor, has to deal with the one-two punch of hurricane Katrina in 2005, followed the next year by hurricane Lili which destroys parts of Houston. It’s the wake up call that he needs to get serious about climate change.
I’ve written three short stories in my little world and then I told myself that I needed to get back to that other fantasy world, back to Orishea and back to my fantasy novel, The Soul Thief. And certainly that world has a vegan theme, too and there is a whole damned culture that doesn’t eat animals or their products! But it’s not America and I can’t use it as a way to daydream a culture shift that would change the people who ride the bus with me. As much as I’d love to wake up and discover that I can heal people like Indira does in my book, I know that’s not going to happen. But could the events in my “alt USA” stories really happen? Yes, I think so. I don’t wish ill on Houston or her people, but I do think that it will take a few disasters like Katrina and Sandy to make people pay attention to the planet and then the inroads we’re making with veganism and animal rights will get a huge shot in the arm from environmental activists who finally make the connection.
But until that happens, I’ll find solace in make-believe.