A serial novel by Roy Lincoln Karp
The Future will be Cooperative is my latest endeavor as a writer: a serial novel presented through journal entries and letters written in the year 2026 as a family grapples with the challenges of accelerating climate change and joins a growing movement to build a more democratic, sustainable, and cooperative economy.
This project has required me to step out of my comfort zone as a writer, into what I hope will be a productive learning zone. Like all new ventures, I am both excited and nervous about it, which I hope will add to the energy and vitality of the writing. I consider myself a meticulous editor and relentless self-critic and I don’t generally share my writing lightly. When I first started writing a column for the Dorchester Reporter in early 2018, I had to get over the trepidation of releasing my work into the wider world every few weeks. I am now making a concerted effort to get over the fear of sharing my fiction writing.
Over the years, I have dreamed up dozens of characters and storylines and have developed plotlines for entire novels. However, that creative thinking and careful planning has yet to get me over the hump of actually sharing any of these stories with anyone other than my wife, who I should add has provided nothing but support and encouragement. So the ideas have languished in character sketches written in my notebook, drafts of opening chapters, synopses, and story maps.
That all ends now. I am yanking off the proverbial band aid. I have begun to develop my main characters and a few supporting characters, and have written the opening scenes. But beyond that, I do not know where it will end up. The story will be told in the first person, as I mentioned, through journal entries and correspondence between the protagonist, his wife, and their school age daughter. They will be writing about events as they unfold in an ongoing present, unsure of what lies ahead. Like you as the reader and me as the writer, they don’t know what will come next.
Finally, a few quick words about serial novels. This way of presenting a work of fiction in installments over a period time was far more common in the 19th Century, popularized by its most well-known practitioner, Charles Dickens. The serial fell out of fashion by the mid-20th century, although arguably it lives on in the form of the television series and film sequels.
Even in its written form, the serial has been making a bit of a comeback. The popular and prolific Alexander McCall Smith of No. 1 Ladies Detective fame tried his hand at the serial novel with his 44 Scotland Street series. He recently shared the story of his inspiration for that project:
44 Scotland Street came about as a result of a conversation I had in California in Amy Tan’s house with Armistead Maupin, whose “Tales of the City” stories were serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t write a serial novel.” The Herald had asked me to write an article about that particular trip to America, and in it I mentioned that it’s a pity newspapers don’t publish serial novels any more. Shortly after that, Iain Martin, who was then editor of The Scotsman, invited me to lunch. ‘You’re on,’ he said. ‘Write us a serial novel.’Source: https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/culture/books/capital-letters-for-alexander-mccall-smith/
I can assure you the story behind The Future will be Cooperative includes no literary luminaries. The seed of the story was first sewn in my mind while shopping at Target, the lone business remaining open in the otherwise abandoned Berkshire Mall. I was on summer vacation with my wife and then 5-year old daughter, looking to pick up a few staple items to get us through the week. The empty mall provided an eerie glimpse into the future, a contemporary ruin in our midst. I immediately thought it would make a great setting for a novel.
That seed continued to grow. The experience made me think of other modern ruins, like the abandoned pier in Brighton, England, which I saw when was twelve years old. I recently wrote about that experience in an essay, How to travel in a pandemic. My creative mind also travelled into the not-so-distant future as I pondered what would become of the detritus of our consumer culture. A story began forming in my mind. I imagined the mall being taken over by a group of idealistic squatters, the parking lot and giant roof turned into lush gardens for growing food, the abandoned stores converted into shared housing, workshops, a lending library, and a school. These thoughts and images have been bouncing around in my head for over a year now, but I have never put them down in writing. That is, until now.
I invite you to join me on this creative journey. You, the reader, are the final piece needed to bring this story and its characters to life. For your time and support, I offer you my sincere gratitude.