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Sean Vivier makes apps for a living. Otherwise, you'll probably find him writing or dancing. Learn more at seanvivier.com.

"Lord, save me from sequels."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Nothing. Thank you for coming in. We wanted to discuss your story, 2021."
"Happy to."
"Thing is... this story doesn't really come together for us."
"What does that even mean?"
"Okay, look. It feels like you rushed this into being without any real thought. Let's start with the pacing."
"What's wrong with the pacing?"
"The story starts with a coup attempt. It ends with the loss of a longstanding war. In between? It's a conflict about whether or not to take medicine."
"Well, the vaccine debate is the main conflict of the story."
"It's not an interesting conflict. You didn't even give the vaccine serious potential side effects so the other side is understandable. You made it a miracle drug. The entire plot only happens because you handed the idiot ball to half the population, so you can Make A Point about the other side."
"Well, now, the real conflict is trust in the system as society frays.--"
"It's a bad polemic. The only other tension, if I can even call it tension, is a debate about an infrastructure bill. It's more procedural than principled, down to what order to... zzzzZZZZ... Huh? Whut? Sorry. I fell asleep for a second. Seriously, this is Trade Federation level. No one cares."
"You know what? I'm just trying to take your notes from 2020. It's not about purest evil any more. It's a little more nuanced."
"So nuanced it's boring. Like... look at your new leader character. What... what even is this?"
"I abandoned the man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, just like you said. Now it's a well-meaning man who isn't perfect. He's not pure good. He's not pure evil. He's just kind of... there."
"He's just kind of meh, is what he is. He's not someone we can root for, except in that he's not the racist lifelong con man who tried to end democracy. Which is such a low bar."
"I... just... I have to work within what came before."
"And another thing. So much of this is self-indulgent. You put a pedophile on trial, and you make sure the witnesses name drop your previous villain several times. That's petty. Then you have Texas post bounties for abortions, which is beyond dystopian and ridiculous. Or this paramilitary child soldier gets away with murder because the judge takes a shine to him and tips the scales. Please. Or how a handful of private space flight companies revolutionized reusable launch vehicles to make space flight easier and more affordable and more accessible, only to face ridicule. That's not how people respond to scientific advancement. Or this dumbass chant everywhere. Fuck the President, fuck the President, over and over. Nobody is going to embrace that, let alone an entire political movement. Then you go and kill off the most beloved character in the epilogue. You need to kill your darlings."
"Okay, how would you do it different?"
"I'd end the plague storyline. You've let it go too long, and it should be over now. Have everybody take the miracle cure because it's the only decision that makes sense and get things back to normal. Get rid of the wildfire and extreme weather stuff that you mostly ignore anyway. The infrastructure bill is world building. Pass it or don't, but don't drag it out. Skip the coup attempt. Make it a series of peaceful protests instead, to link it to the previous story. Then concentrate on the tough decision to withdraw from the occupation of another country, knowing the consequences of either choice are both unacceptable--a real Kobayashi Maru. There's actual drama in that, and you can actually understand why people would disagree. I mean, as is... are there even any coherent themes in the story?"
"Themes? Yeah. It's the new leader as he confronts the damage from the old leader. It's the triumph of well-meaning mediocrity over malicious incompetence."
"It's boring, is what it is. The entire experience is frustrating. Nobody wants to immerse themselves in this. We'll have to decline 2021."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Author Comments

This serves as a sequel to my story 2020, right here in Daily Science Fiction.

- Sean Vivier
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