Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

In Vancouver, dystopian fiction writes itself

This week's news has columnist Stephen Quinn envisioning a dystopian, fictional world.

Tommy woke to the vibration of the phone, somewhere underneath him in the bed.

He felt around and finally silenced it. 6:01.

Story continues below advertisement

His container apartment – fourth up in the stack of five – was sweltering. The temperature hadn't dipped below 20 degrees all night. The air was heavy and wet – the condensation mixing with airborne ash leaving long, white trails down the blue paint. Still, he was lucky to have the place: A $1,700-per-month pod stacked on city land near the port until the developer decided to break ground. It was part of Vancouver's affordable-housing inventory and it was a score.

He stumbled to the window and pulled up the blind, praying for any small hint of a breeze, but there was nothing. The air hadn't moved in weeks.

He washed his face in the sink and watched as a sliver of pink light appeared on the mirror's edge. Behind him another blood-red sun was rising through the haze of smoke. "Here we go again," he thought.

This was Vancouver now, though the condition was supposed to be temporary. But the fires of the outlying districts hadn't let up and they were coming home to roost. The places where resources were harvested or dug out of the earth and the profits funnelled to city-dwellers had been left charred and empty by a seemingly endless season of fire. The smoke was a grim reminder that disaster was closer than anyone realized.

There were no clouds – only a strange pink light between the shadows. At night there were no stars – no way to map a course. No thousand points of light.

Tommy pulled on a Ramones T-shirt and clicked on his newsfeed.

Donald Trump, a former New York real estate developer, was now the President of the United States. Overnight, stock markets had tumbled after the President promised "fire and fury" on North Korea, where the son of Kim Jong Il was now Supreme Leader. Kim Jong Un was threatening the U.S. territory of Guam, vowing to target the island with missiles. The news this morning was that President Trump's "fire and fury" rhetoric was understated, and so he was doubling down on the threat.

Story continues below advertisement

Suddenly, people who hadn't thought about nuclear war in 40 years found themselves explaining the concept to their children.

In the United States, ignorance was no longer only bliss, it was a virtue. It was an opportunity. Information, education, science and critical thinking were the four borders that marked out the territory of the liberal elite. The enemy.

Real news was fake. Propaganda was real. The President spoke to the people in short, angry bursts on the Internet.

Cameras were no longer allowed inside press briefings. Only reporters from news outlets loyal to the President were allowed to ask questions.

In Canada, where the 45-year-old son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had risen to the same high office, the military was busy constructing tents to accommodate the influx of refugees crossing the Canada-U.S. Border into Quebec. Montreal's Olympic Stadium had become a makeshift refugee centre, with hundreds of ordinary citizens gathering to welcome those fleeing the United States – the majority of them Haitian.

In local news: three shootings in the space of 12 hours in Surrey, and the usual spike in fentanyl deaths following welfare day. A 19-year-old died after an argument about tossing a cigarette butt. There was a marine fuel spill overnight in Burrard Inlet.

Story continues below advertisement

Tommy pulled on his jeans and steel-toed boots and pocketed his phone. He had a long day ahead of him. At least 10 hours working as a rigger on the set of a high-budget U.S. science-fiction series, followed by another six hours driving Uber in his friend's leased SUV. They split the profits 50-50. Almost everyone under 40 in Vancouver had at least two jobs. It was the only way to get by.

He wound his way down the corkscrew staircase and pulled his bike out of the bike container, being careful not to startle the trio of bears rummaging through the dumpster in the lane.

He pulled on his mask and goggles and began pedalling west, toward Stanley Park.

The crimson sun lit the tops of the mostly vacant towers in Coal Harbour creating the illusion that they were ablaze. "No great loss," he thought.

He looked over his shoulder to the North Shore. He couldn't remember the last time he saw the mountains.

A slight breeze off the water carried with it a waft of diesel, thick and heady.

"At least it's a breeze," he mumbled to himself.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver

Video: Trudeau takes helicopter tour of B.C. wildfire damage (The Canadian Press)
Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Globe Newsletters

Get a summary of news of the day

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.