A Realtopia: so called because these events are not post-apocalyptic, but take place in times that resemble our own.
The nation’s dictatorial and decadent regime under President Jocelyn has been overthrown by a coalition of bordering states; they together, the G.R.A., practice a hybrid of social reform and technological control. Anton Leonhardt has grown up without attachments. He falls in love often, and lacks emotional self-control. The ease with which he can be exploited makes him the center of operations for Herward, a soldier of the G.R.A.; the Utdrife, the disinherited of the peninsular Hidtha tribe; Palma, a general of the resistance; the Swisshelm sisters, poor academics who deal in bitter humor, unreconciled to the loss of the old regime that predated Jocelyn; and Mary Wainwright, a dilettantish reporter who loves Anton.
Anton Leonhardt, a rootless outsider galvanized by the leveling influence of foreign invasion and civil unrest, dreams of—at last—a role. He waits by the window, overlooking the causeway, for Palma’s instruction. She comes, and tells him to expect tourmaline . . . an assignment, or a clue; by word of mouth, or symbol.
The messianic General Palma believes those called must subsume themselves to the cause. She sees Anton’s disaster as an unready soldier’s weakness. She will save him, not because the G.R.A. watches her protégé closely, but because a leader bears the risk for the least of her followers, and must, at any sacrifice, bring them home.
The Hidtha Ftheorde yet holds a father’s hand over the Utdrife rebels. By this channel, General Palma has won Anton’s release, to the house of Mrs. Leonhardt, under the false identity of Anton Leonhardt. But nothing is secret to the G.R.A. Corporal Herward, offering favors and confidences, arrives.
Herward’s attentions hew to a line of persuasion, by design dependence-making. Yield, accept that you were tortured for the good of the state; that many have paid and must pay for the sins of the Jocelyn regime. Anton, the warier for wanting Herward’s friendship, sees how they would imprison him on his mother’s street. And more, he wants a name of his own, remembered; the Swisshelm sisters’ respect . . . Palma’s love.
Herward, now Sergeant, finds in his new assignment, punishment. His advocate would like him to see opportunity in supervising this snowbound mountain outpost, taming its soldiers’ wolf-pack mentality. He’d thought himself on track with the new regime, but after his mistake with Anton, understands the mechanisms of the G.R.A. do not permit an intelligent supporter to enfranchise himself; rather, they raise and abase friend and enemy alike, until all the population are leveled.
But in his private heart, he has resolved to fight. Mary Wainwright arrives, and Herward sees a way.
Herward’s gamble undergoes a change of custody, when the Ftheorde and his men intercept the group. Now Mary, the more fluent speaker of the Hidtha language, becomes the negotiator. In the city of Sedtok, Herward meets up with his disapproving major, and Jovie Swisshelm, as they settle on Anton’s terms of freedom.
Palma in her prison cell bides with patience, observing all she can, allowing the warden to befriend her, as his friendship may be needed in return. She is confident the G.R.A. methodology will not sway her. Anton and Mary visit. Palma tries Anton’s receptiveness to a job she has in mind, and boldly, speaking in code before her monitor.
Tenets of the G.R.A.
Artificial shortages. The sense of personal control is detached from the obtainment of food and other necessities. What can be had, when it can be had, where it can be had, are for periods restricted, with restocking inconsistent. The citizen will focus attention on the getting of bread; this being all important, he will not adhere to cause-mongers who exhort anti-government action. His “eyes on the G.R.A.” is a goal achieved by providing sporadically generous rations, taking advantage, then, of inherent superstition, encouraging the belief that the next time of bounty is just around the corner, and that trouble-stirrers may deprive him of this.
Breaking population centers, to eliminate regional identities. Populations are moved to equalize each of four super-regions, NE, NW, SE, SW, called departments, to equalize in importance major cities, equalize quarters within cities. No population after resettlement will be composed of more natives of one area than another. There will be no northicization, thus no tendency to gentrification; no southicization, or tendency to impoverishment. All identifying names associated with local history: statues, parks, highways—all commemorative, therefore partisan, public expressions, are replaced with generic name/number combinations.
Back-technology. The G.R.A. makes work for everyone by reverting to earlier practices of mail delivery, paper record-keeping, door-to-door deliveries of foodstuffs, broken franchises (producers of goods and services state-owned, but not centralized). The worker who makes enough to sustain life, with a modest disposable income for pleasure, who has simple repetitive tasks to perform, who in obedient service to the state, expects the reward of a pension, will conduct himself in a quiet and citizenly manner.
Continual movement. Every worker who has achieved status after a period varying with the job, will be moved to a new job, likely a new quarter, if not department. These are mechanisms understood to prevent proud attachment to one’s labor, to see it “owned” by the worker; therefore to foster healthy dependence on the G.R.A.
Property ownership is eliminated. Stress on resources is prevented by making all properties equal. Wealthy and poor neighborhoods are not permitted, thus few housing shortages are anticipated. Substandard or inefficient buildings are replaced or rehabilitated.
Industry that is not dependent for procurement on geography or geology, is to be broken and redistributed, for equal representation in the four chief departments. There can be no center of technology or textiles, no irrigation schemes to favor traditional farming regions, no tourist trade incentives; but each department produces commodities used by its citizens, and provides for their needs in education, medicine, recreation, etc.
The Hidtha Language