“Broad Dutty Water” is set in the future after climate change has raised the ocean levels many feet leaving Caribbean islands mostly submerged. Jacquee lives on a floating artificial community but as the story begins is flying away from an atoll where she had snuck away to have a brain implant. Accompanying her on this adventure is an uplifted pig called Lickchop, who already had a brain implant. Jacquee is young and headstrong, ignoring her mentor’s advice, her doctor’s advice, and her friends’ advice getting herself and Lickchop nearly killed but having quite an adventure. “Broad Dutty Water” is the cover story in the latest issue of F&SF.
I read “Broad Dutty Water” because I wanted to read some recent science fiction since I’ve been gorging on old science fiction for months. This abrupt switch has given me an interesting perspective contrasting old SF with new SF. This also comes after I’ve been watching several videos on YouTube that list the best science fiction coming out on film and TV. There has been an overwhelming number of post-apocalyptic movies produced in the last few years. And quite a few movies and shows that people call dystopian. Watching all those previews made me feel folks don’t have much hope for the future.
Should we call “Broad Dutty Water” a post-apocalyptic story because it’s about surviving in a world much different from now? Has civilization collapsed or merely adapted? Jacquee lives on a floating community that looks for new ways to survive and thrive. It’s a positive portrayal. Its citizens are tech-savvy, printing parts for machines like an ultralight plane, and science-minded enough to exploit biological mutations in the climate changed ocean.
I’m currently addicted to watching YouTube and I’m seeing a lot of videos predicting the collapse of civilization. The future is very dark for many young people. Personally, I don’t believe we’ll stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere or correct the flaws of capitalism, so I expect the collapse of our current global civilization in the coming decades. But does that mean doom and gloom?
Isn’t Nalo Hopkinson giving us a positive view of the future in “Broad Dutty Water?” Sure, the story ignores all the suffering involved in a major paradigm shift, but isn’t that good? Don’t we need science fiction that imagines a post doom world with a positive perspective?
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, a great percentage of SF stories were about apocalypses. People thought the human race was about to blow itself up or wreck the environment. But there was also a lot of science fiction about bright shiny futures. Ever since An Inconvenient Truth I’ve worried that young people didn’t have much of a future. That the science fiction I read only seemed positive about the far future.
I think we need more science fiction like “Broad Dutty Water” that imagines thriving in a post-doom world. Yes, we’ve fucked the planet over big time, but that doesn’t mean we’re all heading into a Mad Max future. Stockpiling AR-15 ammo isn’t the best way to prep for the future.
One other comment on “Broad Dutty Water.” Hopkinson uses dialect in her story. Dialect is hard to read, and most writing teachers tell budding writers not to use it. However, I thought it was effective here. The story is set in the Caribbean and in the future, so people will sound different. Maybe writing teachers are wrong.
James Wallace Harris, 12/6/21