Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason laments the world’s energy crisis and failing environmental policies in every project he touches. The novel LoveStar is his latest manifesto.
LoveStar is an allegory and an eerie assessment of what might happen if our tech-crazed world were to spin out of control.
We take every idea and go to the extreme. In the past, that has happened to almost every ideology—religion, technocracy, fascism, communism, corporations. When writing, I was thinking about what was on the other side of the unregulated free-market utopia. The constant online existence. Google fences keeping our reality within certain limits. Endless marketing opportunities change our interactions into commodities. Everyone becomes his own Big Brother.
You’ve been likened to Orwell, Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams.
Vanity alert! It’s hard to deny the influence, though. I have always loved authors that play with ideas and use absurd ways to reflect society. Vonnegut and Orwell are best known for their imagination and parables, but I see personal things in their books and how they approach issues in essays. There are nods in my book to Richard Brautigan and Icelandic writers like Gyrdir Elíasson and our romantic poets. I love books with a high concentration of ideas and strangeness. If a book was a drink, I need to take shots of something that is close to 50%.
Your first book, Dreamland, A Self-Help Guide to a Frightened Nation has been called a “devastating polemic.”
My background is in poetry, children’s books, theater, and fiction, but I found it more urgent to define reality than to create more fantasy [with Dreamland]. Iceland’s energy authorities and government went mad; the world saw the epic fall of our banking. In terms of energy and environment, it was more extreme. Iceland’s greatest natural gems were offered as cheap energy to companies with ruthless reputations. We were told we had to sacrifice nature for the economy. In fact, we sacrificed both. We were told, if everyone maximized their profit we would all gain. In fact, we all lost.
What do you think of the state of the world today?
Where to begin? I want to be optimistic, but in the banking crash, guys with Ph.D.s became greedy monsters, gobbling up our common goods and using their skills to mislead us. We can’t stop making weapons, chopping forests, or building dams. Earth’s resources are limited, and man has become one of the forces of nature. I went to Greenland and saw a dam site where Alcoa wants to get energy for one aluminum smelter—they need more energy than is used by one million people. Why are they there, almost at the end of the world? Because it is the end. Every other possibility has been exploited or harnessed. Mankind is facing huge problems, yet we are more focused on quarterly earnings.