And the winnah is...
By a hair, it's the city of Naypyidaw! Because it's REAL
Well, the "win a copy of Tor's gorgeous new edition of Metatropolis contest" is over, and the prize goes to Jim Rion, for alerting us to a dystopian nightmare that's actually being built over in Burma. Now, I gotta admit, some of the other entries were weirder--flying blimp refugee housing for a flooded New York, for God's sake? Thanks to Jon Hansen for that one. And what about Arcosanti and Biosphere 2? (Thanks, Neth Space!) The obviously-his/her-real-name Potato gave us perhaps my favourite, which was the microwave indoor heating system (or Personal Pain Ray) and, well, that's just damned weird. Millennially weird, actually.
And yet... with a little twist of perspective, I could actually see most of these ideas being implemented. The common thread in the designs I ultimately didn't pick was that they were largely motivated by genuinely reasonable concerns about function and efficiency, albeit usually hypertrophied compared to the rest of the body that usually goes into a good design. Microwave heating as a way of saving 75% of heating costs... okay, I can sort of get that (though if I had to choose, I think I'd bury my house in sod before prying the door off my microwave oven).
I really wanted ideas that had at least reached the municipal planning stage, however--proposed, not just thought of. Most of these wonderful plans have, alas, not been seriously taken up by any real municipality.
It came down to sheer lunatic inventiveness vs. sinister Orwellian reality. The other big contender was Shimizu Corporation, whose website contains not one, or two, but seven gobsmackingly wild visions of future urbanity. In the end, it was the fact that Naypyidaw really exists that pushed it over the edge for me. I mean, come on--a city built with extra-wide roads that can double as military runways? A place where the military 'fortress' and government quarter are literally walled off from the rest of the city? --Where not even the families of government workers are allowed to visit? (You too could live in a colour-coded apartment block, whose roof colour can tell the air force exactly which units to precision bomb to take out entire sectors of the bureaucracy.) Where key government officials and high-ranking military personnel live in a dedicated system of bunkers and tunnels 11 kilometers from the rest of the city; but there's waterslides and not one, but two golf courses for the happy citizens?
Ah, Naypyidaw. It'll make a dandy theme park some day.
Incidentally, what stunned me was that nobody mentioned Dubai. What the frack? Was it too ordinary for you guys? Did I miss the memo and is Dubai reasonable or something? Or just so obviously the elephant in the room that nobody felt it worth mentioning? Not citing Dubai... now that's weird.
So, anyway--Jim, I'm just coordinating with John Scalzi about getting you your book. And thanks for bringing just a little grim, dystopian magic into all our lives!