Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pipe Dreams and Premonitions-Part One

Politics intrudes upon science fiction. That's the issue I'm exploring in this series. But is that really the case? Does politics intrude? Or is science fiction in its essence political? Do political ideas come in from the outside, spoiling the fantasies of the science fiction fan? Or are they already there, built into science fiction, maybe even forming its foundation? If science fiction is about the future and progressivism is also about the future, what is to separate them? You might say that science fiction is fiction--a fantasy about the future--whereas progressivism is a worldview, a philosophy grounded--as its adherents believe--in history and reality. The former speculates on what the world of the future might be. The latter describes the world of the future as it should be, again among those who adhere to that philosophy. Progressivism, then, is utopian; stories of utopia fall within the realm of science fiction. Science fiction, founded on rationalism and a "faith in the infinite future," also tends to be utopian; science fiction authors slide easily into progressivism (1, 2). So I'm not sure they can easily be separated. Science fiction may very well be the literature of progressivism.

I hope that I have shown that Utopia--a perfect society--is impossible, the reason being that we are imperfect and imperfectible, and that if we are to be forced into a perfect society, we must be stripped of our humanity. Every Utopia, then, is a Dystopia. Every one that has been tried has ended either in dissolution or disaster. None has ever succeeded. Millions have perished in the process. There isn't any reason to believe that Utopia is a possibility, yet there are those among us who believe in it and strive for it the way a Christian believes in and strives for his Jesus. But where does the idea of Utopia come from? And what does it have to do with science fiction? As Mr. Owl said, let's find out.

To be continued . . .

(1) Or if they wish to give warning, they write of Dystopia.
(2) I wouldn't want to attempt a list of science fiction authors by their political philosophies, but a list of progressivist, leftist, or socialist authors would include Edward Bellamy, Jack London, H.G. Wells, George Orwell (who nevertheless wrote 1984), Frederik Pohl, Judith Merril, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut (paradoxically the author of "Harrison Bergeron"), and Margaret Atwood.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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