So I’m having this debate with myself about the setting for one of my novels-in-progress.

The novel is a political thriller. At present, it is set in the near-future in the United States. All the events in the story take place in the run-up to a heavily contested presidential election.

There’s a reason for this: I am exploring some recent trends in politics and the media, and what they mean for the individual in today’s society. Only with more explosions and sex than that sentence would suggest.

Well, maybe not more sex, considering some of the recent scandals involving politicians.

But now I’m thinking, do I want to set it here in the near future, or come up with a more fractured dystopia than the one we’re already living in? Maybe project current trends forward fifty or a hundred years? Or set it in a made-up country? Or both?

There are arguments in favor of (and against) the different approaches, naturally.

In favor of keeping it in a near-future America: I can use people and places as a shorthand for general concepts — e.g., present and past political figures, D.C., Hollywood, San Francisco, Detroit, etc.

Also, writing about present reality in your own country is just generally easier than writing about a different era or country.

But…well, then you have to keep things believable for the present reality. Your main characters can’t be too outrageous. You have to rely on things – technology, social trends, political and corporate entities, etc. – that exist or are at least plausible in this society.

Do-able, certainly. But is it as much fun to write? Or to read, for that matter?

Back in the eighties, I was a big fan of the Max Headroom show. It took place in this warped futuristic dystopia where the media conglomerates pretty much ran the show (as opposed to present reality, in which the media are manipulated at least as much as they manipulate).

I can see creating a similar world for my characters to play in.

And I think it would be a lot of fun to do so. Even if it would be a lot more work.

Thoughts? Suggestions? (Please?)