The Obsolete Present

Rhobin Courtright’s topic for her fellow bloggers is “How can contemporary fiction cope with the rapid changes of today’s world?”

Last century, this was no problem. While life has always been full of surprises, at least there was an illusion of predictability. We were Bertrand Russell’s chicken.

You don’t know the story?

Every morning, the farmer came with a bucket of food. So, the chicken learned to welcome the sound of his footsteps, and eagerly came running. Then, one morning, the farmer came bearing an axe instead…

When the rate of change was relatively slow, we could write fiction set in the real world, and expect it to stay reasonably appropriate for years. But now, if we include current affairs, something presently believable could be as dated as, say, Macbeth in a few years, or even a few months. Just think, in December, 2019, no one thought a war between the USA and Iran to be all that threatening. Then Trump had to assassinate a person, supposedly to prevent war. The result is an escalation of tensions as I write, and by the time this essay is published, we may again have thousands dying and suffering for no reason but to pander to one person’s ego.


I have tried to cope with the volatility of the present in several ways. One was to write historical fiction. Guardian Angel is set in the 19th century, which is not at all changeable. That’s why I returned to it after a long gap, and finished it. That activity provided relief from presentitis.


Hit and Run is set in 2015, but doesn’t read like ancient history, because it ignores politics and other things you might see on your TV (if you have one — I’ve liberated myself from that monster since 1975).

A short story that was last month’s Rhobin’s Round assignment is Labels. I enjoyed writing it, and the comments have been complimentary, so if you haven’t read it, please do now. That’s set today, but, like Hit and Run, it is basically independent of current affairs.

This was not possible for the Doom Healer series, because environmental catastrophe, politics and other current affairs are integral to the plot. Here is my solution, after advice from several of my friends. I am still open to feedback.


Right. I am giving you a magic wand loaded with one wish. The wish cannot be selfish. Please record below how you are going to change reality, then visit my fellow bloggers:
Skye Taylor
Rhobin L Courtright
Judith Copek
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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12 Responses to The Obsolete Present

  1. judyinboston says:

    Writing historical fiction is one solution. There are countries (not too many) where technology is not so omnipresent. Everyone is criticizing Sanditon for committing sins about the place and time and how people behaved. Our current society is not that structured. Or is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      You know what, Judy? I had to look up what Sanditon is. You see, I am liberated from TV. 🙂
      No, our society is chaotic. The politics are so confusing and changeable that a tragedy like a 7.2 earthquake in the Caribbean barely makes the news.

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  2. okwriter says:

    One wish, and how to change reality. In this tumultuous world we are now living in, appears unreal, like another war you mentioned. I think my one wish would be that every person think about how their action will affect another person and try to always make that action a positive one for the other person. I think it’s another way of saying – the Golden Rule. Beverley

    Liked by 1 person

  3. fionamcgier says:

    My wish would be for humans to realize that all life is inter-connected. The trees, the bugs, the animals, we are all God’s creations, and we all matter. How can you enjoy killing a creature “for fun”, then expect us to believe that you care about life? How can you rip little babies and toddlers from their parents’ arms, and put them into cages, then call yourself “pro-life?” We should all treat each other with respect. It’s not a coincidence that a universal precept in every single religion that has ever gripped the imaginations of human beings, includes a variation on the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If we all lived by that, what a wonderful place this would be!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Wonderful comment, Fiona. Thank you.
      I’ve read a senior nun say, the so called pro-life movement is pro-birth. She, like you, is for life.
      I think a large proportion of humans are young souls, and still need to learn the lesson of empathy. Because of our insane global culture, they are more likely to become billionaires and politicians, because they have no qualms about riding over others.
      That’s why money is not worth its cost.
      🙂
      Bob

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  4. Skye-writer says:

    My wish would be to live as long as my grandmother did and personally experience just as many innovations. But that would be just for me. For the world I’d wish for universal respect for life. All life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rhobin says:

    I liked your word ‘presentitis’ — it is so apropos. I agree writing without today’s ever-changing media and tumult makes a story in some ways more timely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Rhobin. The more I think about it, the more appropriate. “-itis” means inflamed. We DO have an inflamed present. I’ve just read, there are fires in the Canadian Rockies, bad enough that smoke has got to New York. And it’s winter there!

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  6. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Sounds like cheating to me, Margaret. 🙂

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  7. Margaret Goodman says:

    My one wish would be that I get a million more wishes and that I learn before each wish is granted, including this one, how that wish will be granted, and that I can rescind the wish if I don’t like how it will be granted. For instance if I were to wish for world peace, the granting would not be to kill off all the human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

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