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But the restless will have their outlets. If life in Celebration gets too tame, you can always surf the net via your own fiber-optic link. AT&T has struck a deal with Disney to hook up every single home in Celebration to a private glass-in-the-ground network. This high-bandwidth connection will hook up every residence to a community bulletin board, as well as the town school, local businesses, and the Internet. Of course, this brings up other questions. Data surfing to Dad's office or your AOL account is one thing, but will you be able to look for latex advice on Usenet's alt.sex.bondage? And if you get there, who will know about it? Surveillance, after all, is another hallmark of the Disney Corporation.

Probably, though, surveillance won't be a huge objection to those first residents of Celebration. No matter how much the Disney executives publicly deny it, (for example, Don Killoren in USA Today), much of the lure of Celebration is the notion of living in a Disney theme park. It's another kind of utopia, the Magic Kingdom's variation on the gated community. It's a place where each individual thing might piss you off—a cheerful rodent for a mascot; a mongoloid dog in a hat; a dyspeptic mallard with a voice like castrato Tom Waits and the personality of a low-IQ crackhead—but the power of predictability and perfection makes up for it. And utopias, despite our nascent fantasy novel images of them, have never been free or nice places. Every utopia, from Plato's Republic to the future world of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, have been places of iron-handed control over each resident's thoughts and actions. Everyone in the utopian community must be taught to cooperate "by persuasion or compulsion," explains Plato. Of course, he also believes in endless warfare and eugenics, but as far as we know, Disney has no plans for those activities. Rather, they've equipped Celebration with miles of walking paths and nature trails, mini parks and recreation areas. Once again, though, all these areas are pre-fabs, and if you should stray from the marked paths on the nature trails there will, no doubt, be consequences.

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But what will the consequences be? And what about dozens of other unanswered social questions afloat in this dream city? What about the first time some local teenyboppers are caught smoking dope or dry-humping in those 4700 acres of greenbelt? What about the first gay couple that moves in? What about the first drunken punch-out? The first case of spouse abuse? The first murder?

Many of the ideas behind such enterprises as Celebration are, at least, well-intentioned—the community BBS, guaranteed open areas and community spaces, a downtown district positioned to serve as a magnet for business and socializing (and not just as a piss-soaked holding tank abandoned to troglodytes and vampires after 5 p.m.). Still, the question remains: Can you engineer such habits as good behavior or even self-interest? Looking at history, probably not. Perhaps, though, Celebration will be the exception. After all, people who move into places like Celebration are true believers and zealots—like the first volunteers for long-term space station habitations. They are the souls ready, willing, and (perhaps) able to submerge their individual desires into the communal well, transforming the solo ambition at the heart of the American dream into a collective dream of the good life that America has always promised, but seldom delivered.

hallelujahAnd who can blame them? Utopian communities don't arise spontaneously. They're constructed in response to a culture that a large number of people no longer believe in. It's not the aspirations of the U.S. that these utopians have lost faith in, but merely the reality of the life that's been handed to them after they pledge allegiance and pay their taxes. So they choose to close ranks and build a parallel culture in an E-ticket version of Erewhon, where a mouse is king and a benevolent, moustached god named Walt watches over everything and everyone. It's a legitimate response, though not one many of us could handle. I know to me the whole thing sounds like life in hell, but with better merchandising.
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Richard Kadrey is a contributing editor at STIM.

Designed by Anselm Dästner

Illustrations by Nina

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