“Civilization” — Vylar Kaftan

Vylar Kaftan writes speculative fiction of all genres, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and slipstream. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, GigaNotoSaurus, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Cosmos, Escape Pod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Sybil’s Garage, The Way of the Wizard, and in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities. She lives with her husband Shannon in northern California.

If you were young in the 1980s, you probably read at least one Choose Your Own Adventure novel.  Getting to pick your own way through the story always seemed so thrilling, until you came to the end and realized no matter what choices you made, it always turned out the same.  Sometimes you even found yourself stuck in a loop, repeating the same stupid action over and over.

It was good training for real life, wasn’t it?

Our next story isn’t a cautionary tale of government gone bad or a social principle run amok.  It’s quite simply an analysis of civilization, and the chilling recognition that for good or bad, people in groups just can’t seem to get things right.  Historians will agree:  society after society keeps making the same ridiculous mistakes.

Just like your characters did when you steered them through those Choose Your Own Adventure books.