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Showing posts from March, 2011

Science Fiction can Show Us the Ultimate Bigot

This post has been in the making for longer than usual, but there is a reason for that: given that I left First Contact and Space Opera out of my list of preselected sub-genres for this study, the issue of bigotry and racial difference seems to have lost the prominent place it takes on those other stories.

In the sub-genres I have labelled as politically relevant, bigotry can certainly be found, and it does play an important role, just not as clearly defined as you could find it for example in C. J. Cherryh's Faded Suns Trilogy, where mistrust and fear for the other is the driving force behind the entire plot of the series, and the inevitable search for understanding upon which one human being embarks.

It must also be taken into account that when dealing with science fiction race has entirely different meaning, it no longer is about skin color or national origins, it can perfectly be of an entirely different animal family; while we evolved from mammals it is absolutely possible t…

Can Governments be Openly Controlled by Corporations? Science Fiction Thinks it's Possible

We have all said it at one point or another, or at the least heard it, Government is controlled by big money. But if this really is the situation, it is done so behind closed doors and always with a public facade of not doing so; then what would happen if one day government decided it no longer cared about its image of independence from the corporate world?

Then most likely we would have a government openly controlled and run by corporations and other enterprises, for the benefit of the few. This has been illustrated most clearly in Space Merchants written by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth back in 1958.

The world in which the story takes place is one that we can be scared of as easily (maybe even easier), than they were back in the late fifties when the book was first published. Big companies have taken over the American government, so much o that Congress is no longer composed of state elected officials, but instead it's comprised of the representative of big companies, such a…

The Fear of Totalitarianism in Science Fiction

Hand in hand with personal freedom comes another of Science Fiction's great concerns: the emergence of totalitarian states. Once more this is a western fear, or more exactly, a fear of democratic regimes; the greater the freedom of the society from which the author is writing, the greater the repression of the totalitarian regime created is.

This takes us to a new question, mainly what exactly is a totalitarian regime (and is it really so bad?). First off it involves an absolute control from the state on everything, and I mean everything, including most of the times the way the people living under said regimes think. Probably the best known totalitarian regime is that of George Orwell's 1984, at least it's the one most easily identifiable as totalitarian, but there are many others, and not all so easy to spot, like for example the "democratic" government found in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

This is one interesting issue, where a supposedly free regime, li…

Science Fiction's Fascination with Personal Freedom

Probably the most recurrent issue in the whole of Science Fiction is the ways in which technology and scientific advance affects personal freedom. The ones that have feel good quality, such as Startrek are generally those that see a positive influence arising from technology, a "civilizing" influence, and that is translated into a greater personal freedom.

On the other end are the harshest dystopias, where societal control over the individual is absolute (such as The Handmaiden's Tale and 1984), in which even thoughts are controlled. And all manner of stories in between, and in all kinds of sub-genres; but the question remains as to where does this fascination come from?

One hypothesis is that this fascination comes from the British and American origin of most Science Fiction (specially in the early days of the genre), and the fact that both their democratic systems are based on personal freedom, and that is probably the defining element of their socio-political regimes.…

Recurrent socio-political issues in Science Fiction

Having narrowed down the list of SF sub-genres in which Political issues are relevant, the next logical step is to look at the socio-political issues that have been recurrent in SF in the past 60 or 70 years (after world war II). One would think that in all these years the socio-political concerns of SF authors, and readers, would be strikingly different, but oddly enough they are quite similar (if not identical), and in a sense that validates them.

So far I've determined the importance of a given issue by the number of stories dealing with a specific issue, as well as the time span covered by the publication of said stories. The higher the number of stories, coupled with a longer lifespan of the issue (not the popularity of the story); this lifespan is measured in terms of a given issue being treated on several stories published in different years.

The following is the list I work with, but if you have other issues that should be included in it be sure to let me know about them…