Katrina Stonoff

Apparently I Am Psychic

Remember how I mentioned yesterday that I started plotting a futuristic novel a few years ago?

When I ran across my notes recently, I was shocked by my own prescience. So many things I predicted would result from some of the things happening then, truly are happening now.

For instance, “alternative facts” and “fake news” made it difficult to distinguish reality from fiction because my characters can find sources that appear credible to back up completely opposing perspectives. As a result, people are committed to their pre-existing worldview, even when there’s clear evidence to the contrary.

Sound familiar? I even had a plague that would force people to isolate in their homes. It permanently changed society.

When I found the notes, maybe a month ago, I started world building. It was mostly for fun (and it was fun!), but I really didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, most of what I wrote was history: a description of the events that led from our culture to this futuristic North America where two diametrically opposing cultures exist in parallel.

Then I took an online workshop* on worldbuilding presented by author Henry H. Neff. It was one of THE most useful, specific workshops I’ve ever attended. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he told me exactly how to do a task I was attempting for the first time.

Under Henry’s direction, I started writing detailed notes about my new world, quite different from ours. I thought about politics, technology, and cultural concepts from clothing to food to architecture.

What was most fascinating to me was how much I was discovering the cultural aspects rather than choosing them. So many details were specifically driven by historical events, core beliefs, or geographical details.

For instance, when I tried to picture what my characters wear, it was pretty obvious. During the decades when the plague was decimating the population and people were hiding at home, they wore clothes chosen for comfort rather than looks.

When the virus mutated, and they could venture out again, they weren’t willing to give up their comfort. Plus, my fictional society is much less face-to-face. Most interactions outside the immediate household take place on the 2170 version of the internet.

Here’s what I wrote about fashion:

They dress in simple, comfortable clothing, largely made from cotton (grown in great swatches in the middle Uscan plains). Garments tend to be loose and comfortable (descendants of the T-shirt and sweats they wore during the PanDays Isolation), primarily grey, beige or taupe. Black and white are considered statement colors.

Makes sense, right?

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Not a week later, I received a catalogue from a clothing company I’ve never heard of. And every … single … page showed an outfit that was EXACTLY what I was picturing.

Every outfit. Without exception.

Baggy clothing. Monochromatic tones of beige or gray. No color. Very little true white or black.

Look at this outfit, for instance. Those pants are corduroy, but they look like sweats. Those are not cheap clothes (the twill jacket costs $389), but they look just like my COVID gray sweats and baggy sweater.

It gave me goosebumps. I felt like someone had hacked my computer to create this line of clothing. Or picked my brain through the ether.

I think I’ll keep exploring the story. See what else I can learn about our future.

*The workshop was part of a Summer Success Series offered by Free-Expressions, the folks who put on Donald Maass’ Breakout Novel Intensive Workshops. I participated in all but a couple, and each one was top notch. They’re talking about doing another series in the fall, and I highly recommend them.


Categories: Writing