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Home / Articles / Arts / Seen Local /  America's final city
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Tuesday, Jul 19, 2011

America's final city

Across eight alternate futures, sci-fi is not kind to San Diego

By Dave Maass
BlueShift_ComicCon_2061_600px San Diego Comic-Con 2061, after the sea levels have risen 21 feet -

As a geek mecca, San Diego is increasingly becoming a favorite locale for science-fiction creators, if only because of the marketing potential of inserting the San Diego Convention Center into the plot.

We surveyed how artists and writers have treated San Diego across the multiverse and the metaverse and discovered that no matter how they imagine it—flooding, earthquakes, societal collapse, hot inter-species lesbian action—the city is doomed.

Marksman (Nos. 1-6)

Marksmen #1, Benaroya Publishing/Image Comics

In writer David Baxter’s comic, by the late 21st century, “New San Diego” is the last city in America. The nation has disintegrated into a wasteland after a civil war over dwindling resources. San Diego has survived only thanks to the leadership of its scientists, the strength of its military personnel and the discovery of a new desalination technology that allows for drinkable water, which the city doesn’t share with the outside world. In fact, these leaders demolished most of Downtown and turned the broken buildings into a wall around Petco Park and everything west of it. The convention center is a military base, while Coronado is an airfield. The first issue of the Benaroya Publishing/Image Comics series debuts at Comic-Con.

Aquaman, “American Tidal” (Vol. 6, Nos. 15-20), “All Fall Down” (No. 37)

In 2004, DC Comics published a six-part Aquaman storyline that began with everything west of the San Diego Zoo sinking into the ocean after an evil, unknown force creates an artificial earthquake. About 400,000 people were presumed dead for a month, until Aquaman discovered that thousands of survivors were trapped beneath the Gaslamp, breathing water and living off rockfish. A rampaging Aquaman tracks down an unethical scientist who added a “genetic anomaly” to the water supply, which made people mutate into marine beings. Downtown is rebuilt as “Sub Diego,” policed by Aquaman and his Latina sidekick, Aquagirl, until the treatment wears off and Sub Diegans start drowning again. Aquaman uses some Sea-God knowledge and his magical left hand to lift Sub Diego back onto land.

The Lavenders,

Set in the year 2107, this manga-style web comic presents a “Neo San Diego,” where vampires, werewolves and humans get along (and get it on in bubble-boobed, girl-on-girl shower scenes). Most of Neo San Diego is an island after a catastrophic earthquake strikes at the nexus of the San Jacinto and San Andreas fault lines in the mid-21st century. Though it hasn’t made an appearance in the comic yet, East County, including El Cajon and Lakeside, is partially submerged, making it the Venice, Italy, of southern California. The comic was created by Michael Prokop, an Alabama resident who lived in San Diego for 26 years.

Rainbow’s End 

Retired San Diego State University mathematician Vernor Vinge is credited with the concept of the “technological singularity,” the point when computer superintelligence emerges and the “human era will be ended.” His Hugo-Award-winning novel, Rainbow’s End, is set in 2025, right on the cusp of the singularity— the virtual and the real are merging as humans are constantly jacked in to the network through their clothes and contact lenses. They communicate on a near-telepathic level. Automatic cars drive the roads, though San Diego is described as almost unchanged suburban sprawl, while part of East County is a disaster area. The book centers on the Geisel Library at UCSD, one of the only buildings to survive the “Rose Canyon Earthquake,” where technologically lagging citizens still use laptops and plan ways to defend library books from destruction.

Blue Shift,

A cross-media sci-fi series, Blue Shift is set in the 2060s, when ocean levels rise 21 feet after the Greenland ice sheet breaks off. Based on actual flood-map predictions, large stretches of formerly coastal land are underwater—though less so in San Diego, where the expanded convention center is only partially submerged. So far, the Blue Shift series includes online comic books set in New Orleans and an online novel set in New York, but the overall storyline will also include San Diego in a planned video-game element. As the creators told CityBeat last year at the convention, their version of San Diego has grown to between 40 million and 46 million people and become extremely conservative. San Diegans are implanted with body chips that identify levels of residency (citizen, guest worker, etc.) and the amount of water they’re allowed to consume.

Sleep Dealer

In the future, U.S. companies solve the problem of undocumented workers by erecting an enormous wall and setting up cyber-sweatshops in Tijuana, “The City of the Future,” where workers can plug in for days to operate machinery in San Diego remotely and women can sell their memories over the internet. This low-budget, 2008 film by Alex Rivera speculates on what the American Dream might look like “five minutes into the future.”

Demolition Man

In this 1993 Sylvester Stallone-Wesley Snipes action flick, a massive earthquake struck southern California in 2010 and the mega-city San Angeles was rebuilt from the ashes of San Diego and Los Angeles. In the year 2032, crime has all but been eliminated through massive social control and the reprogramming of felons while they serve time in cryogenic stasis. Sex is banned, cursing is penalized with a fine and no one uses toilet paper anymore. Worst of all, every restaurant is Taco Bell.     

Green World, Cliff

Cliff Hangers, Jerry Spivak

Local artist Jerry Spivak imagines San Diego as a city transformed by green technologies. In Cliff Hangers, he digitally paints Downtown skyscrapers as jagged spires, with a long tube in place of the Coronado Bridge. In his second work, Green World, he paints the view of Mission Bay from his Clairemont home—lush with flora, rockets weave between buildings made of energy-efficient windows. Spivak tells CityBeat via email that he’s no longer going through a “green” period. “There is too much of this attitude of a ‘human pestilence’ bringing about the downfall of nature and how the elite, environmentally friendly globalists can save the natural world from humanity,” he says.

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