Skip to main content

Politically Relevant Sub-Genres of Science Fiction - Part 1

In order to move forward, and closer to the subject matter of my research, it's necessary to take the sub-genres from the last post and analyze them in order to determine in which of them political thought has the most relevance. I have to admit that my reading list has been focused mostly on a couple of genres, and if you disagree with my conclusions and think that I should expand into other sub-genres please let me know.

It can be argued that most of Science Fiction has at least some sort of political background and relevance, but what I'm really looking for is stories where the political aspect is central to the story, not just decoration. So based on the list of sub-genres from the precious post, I have selected the following as those most relevant, ordered according to the importance political thought plays in the overall sub-genre:

1. Dystopia / Utopia
2. Soft / sociological science fiction
3. Alternate history
4. Apocalyptic, holocaust, and post-apocalyptic
5. Near-future science fiction
6. Cyberpunk
7. Cross-genre
8. Military science fiction

Dystopia is at the top of the list, and paired with its counterpart Utopia, because the very essence of the sub-genre is socio-political conflict. The character in Dystopian stories are just a view point for a run down, bleak society; Orwell's 1984 is told from the viewpoint of Winston Smith, Fahrenheit 451 is told from the viewpoint of Guy Montag; The Handmaiden's Tale is told from the viewpoint of Offred. The same can be said about Utopia, the relevant aspects are in the society and not the characters. Subsequent posts will deal more extensively on this issue.

Soft / sociological science fiction is less straightforward in this regard, for many of the stories center completely on the development of the character, with the social background an excuse for the specifics of said development, as is the case with Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness; there are also other stories where character development, while still important, are not as strong as the socio-political background they're set in, and once more the best example comes from Le Guin, but this time on The Dispossessed.

As I have said before all other sub-genres might contain elements of political background, and even though I have also said that Alternate History is not entirely SF, I have included it in this list because when the works are Science Fiction they tend to have a focus on the socio-political aspects of this alternate reality they speak of.

The next on the list is Apocalyptic, holocaust, and post-apocalyptic SF. More often than not these stories have an action/adventure plot, with the Apocalypse as landscaping, like in Frederik Pohl's Wolfbane, but more often than not you can catch glimpses of the social, and therefore political, structure emerging from the catastrophe, and in some cases, such as Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle the action scenes are a result of the new social order emerging in the midst of the chaos.

In order to keep these posts to a reasonably user friendly size I have decided to break this one up, so wait for the second part for the other politically relevant sub-genres. And once more if you agree or disagree with any of the things I said here please let me know.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My top 5 political science fiction books

I have been working for a long time on this post, and I'm still not 100% sure about it, but one thing is certain, if I keep on waiting for it to be "perfect" it will never be published, and besides this is my personal list, so if you disagree with the inclusion (or exclusion) of a given book, please let me know in the comments. These are five individual novels that have shaped political science fiction over the past century, and as such I have chosen them as five must reads for anyone interested in this subject; I am working also on a post about sagas, trilogies and series, so you will not find here some titles that would seem obvious otherwise.
1. A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Coming from a society as structured and divided by social class as early 20th century England, this is one sharp critique of the direction society was taking at the time, and even today it still has some troubling warnings to be heeded. If you haven't read it be sure to grab a copy of it…

George Orwell's 1984... Defining Government Surveillance and Citizen Paranoia since 1948

This blog cannot not be complete without an article that deals with probably one of the best known political sci-fi stories of all times: George Orwell's 1984 (Signet Classics). This is probably the best known authoritarian model in contemporary literature, as it gave us terms we now use colloquially, such as "Big Brother Is Watching", and evidently the whole concept of government as an unwanted Big Brother snooping into our private lives, looking for ways to control us through propaganda and mass media.

One of the most interesting details about this story is the fact that Orwell was a member of the British Communist Party, and had been highly critical of them, as can be seen in Animal Farm, where he portrays the communists as the pigs who overthrow the human masters, only to become just like them in the end, which is a theme he will go on to expand on in 1984, when he talks about the way that revolutions work, and how they are nothing more than a change in the name of …

Rediscovering a love for Space Opera

Recently I decided that dystopias, post-apocalyptic scenarios and deep examinations of the human spirit were tiring me, I decided to look for something a little less demanding intellectually, and decided to turn to space opera, looking for fast paced, thrilling, action packed stories that were straight forward and didn't need to be read two or three times to find the hidden meaning behind the characters words and actions, but being the kind of reader that I am, and despite my earlier decision to keep space opera out of these little forays into the deeper meanings of Speculative Fiction, I find myself writing this article.

First off, there is a ton of Space Operas out there, many of them so bad that I couldn't go beyond the first chapter, in which the scantily clad heroine is chased by the bug-eyed monster... oh wait, that was actually a 50's movie, but you get my meaning. Those are precisely the kind of things that had led me away from space opera as a worthwhile sub-genr…