* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Street Level Zero

27 February 2003
James looks forward, back and down

I won't specify a year, because if I do, then I'll look as naive as all those other sci-fi writers that predicted flying cars and space hotels for 1993.

Civilisation never changes. The same patterns continue, and are still continuing before our very eyes. Human population grows at an ever increasing rate. People flock to cities in order to find work and prosperity. At the same time, there is increasing pressure on rural areas to provide for more people. Smaller towns and villages were abandoned, and then cleared to make room for ever larger hyper-efficient farms. Still the trend goes on. People increase in number, more land is needed to graze or grow food, people must accumulate in cities, which have less to room to expand, because the farms need the land.

Nature is not an external force, but the result of countless individual creatures fighting to survive in the environment. The simple constraint on space means that human cities, as they could not spread outwards, must spread upwards. Huge towers grew into the sky, as the countryside gradually encroached on the city outskirts. Still no equilibrium has been reached - all that happens now is that farming techniques are become more efficient, more advanced. In some places, governments have spent to create the first multi-storey farms. Plants as well as humans have left the ground to enter the sky.

Back to our cities, and those sci-fi writers. There will be no flying cars. Too much power is required in too little space, and it will always be easier for men to build roads than to make cars fly. But cars will metaphorically fly, along with trains, bikes, and people themselves on huge soaring walkways that curl through the gaps between the towers, layer upon layer. It's these roadways and layers that have become the modern symbol of humanity - inspiration to a generation of artists and architects alike. But I am neither. My interest is in what has been going on beneath the beautiful swooping curves for several generations. A political secret that has been forgotten.

As our cities grew upwards, the bottom levels, Street Level Zero, were gradually abandoned. Starved of light, and drowning under the waste of the countless levels above, the ancient parts of the city became empty and toxic. Meanwhile, in the upper reaches, our government of the time decided to solve the problems of our overcrowded prisons (humanity had ended the death penalty a century earlier) by sending parties of prisoners into SLZ on "exploration an excavation service". The policy did not last more than ten years, as the public outcry grew and more and more people disappeared. Of the hundreds that were "sent down", only a handful survived to be rehabilitated. But their stories tell of the prisoners' attempts to survive on the underbelly of humanity. No expeditions were made to discover the fate of those that remained below.

But now humanity is faced with another hurdle of scarcity. The earth is becoming starved of the raw materials needed to build our cities of glory. Joachim has funded my department to explore the SLZ and to harvest the mineral-rich building materials of the ancients. He presumed that there would be little evidence of the Downers, thinking the heavy toxic atmosphere would have broken down their starved bodies centuries ago. But he underestimated mankind's adaptability and resilience. The story of the revolt starts here...


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
16 October 2003. James writes: Jakesy's School of Urban Driving
24 September 2003. James writes: Chapter One
4 September 2003. James writes: The Silicon Soul
14 August 2003. James writes: A Room With 100 Seats
24 July 2003. James writes: English For Beginners
3 July 2003. James writes: Coldplay are crap. Discuss.
9 June 2003. James writes: It Takes All Sorts
22 May 2003. James writes: Lesson 2: Buying his Gran for a tenner
1 May 2003. James writes: Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
10 April 2003. James writes: Character Building
20 March 2003. James writes: So This Is It. What Are We Going To Do About It?
27 February 2003. James writes: Street Level Zero
6 February 2003. James writes: Reference: James Noteworthy
16 January 2003. James writes: Kissing George Clooney for just £99!
26 December 2002. James writes: Hongkong In Four Tableaux
5 December 2002. James writes: We Are Your Idea
14 November 2002. James writes: The Knight Of Spring Fervent
24 October 2002. James writes: Go On, Be Honest
7 October 2002. James writes: Cold Comfort
12 September 2002. James writes: Peas In A Pod
22 August 2002. James writes: Seed Investment
1 August 2002. James writes: We Are QPR
11 July 2002. James writes: The Road to Ossuna
20 June 2002. James writes: Pret A Teleporter
27 May 2002. James writes: A Play On Words
2 May 2002. James writes: Labour Saving Device
8 April 2002. James writes: Beggaring Belief
14 March 2002. James writes: Small Things
18 February 2002. James writes: Drop Dead Letters
24 January 2002. James writes: High-Rise Rhapsody
27 December 2001. James writes: My drift's too hip to resist.
6 December 2001. James writes: My Lord Has No Nose
12 November 2001. James writes: A Job For Life
18 October 2001. James writes: Which is the cleverest animal?
24 September 2001. James writes: Interview With An Automatum
30 August 2001. James writes: Each To Their Own
6 August 2001. James writes: An Escape, In Sonata Form
12 July 2001. James writes: Truckloads Of Goodies
18 June 2001. James writes: There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
24 May 2001. James writes: It's All True - The Paper Says So
30 April 2001. James writes: A Letter From Prisyn
16 April 2001. James writes: I Quit
15 March 2001. James writes: An Essay In Procrastination
15 February 2001. James writes: Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater
22 January 2001. James writes: The Future And The Pasta
28 December 2000. James writes: Never drink with men in red
4 December 2000. James writes: The Underground
9 November 2000. James writes: Right answer. Wrong answer
16 October 2000. James writes: The March of Proudfoot: Part I
21 September 2000. James writes: You haven't got a chance
28 August 2000. James writes: Bad, man. Wicked
24 July 2000. James writes: I play games with street lamps

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