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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. Hence the question, and fear, of what would happen if personal freedom were taken away? This is not an issue that would arise in soviet Russia, or in theocratic Islamic nations, not even in Democratic Latin America where personal freedom is severely limited by economic shortages and underdevelopment.

Going back to The Handmaiden's Tale, many reviews and comments I have ran across talk of how the situation of many women in present day middle eastern countries resemble that of Offred in the novel; the same can be said of the late regime of Saddam Hussein, where a minority group held power by force, and imposed its belief system on the rest of the population. Could a writer in one of nations write a novel like Atwood's? I sincerely doubt it, maybe for some of the radicals in the regimes I have talked about would probably consider the book a Utopia, instead of a Dystopia, and would probably write a novel detailing how a sudden granting of personal freedom to the population would destroy their society.

What do you think of this hypothesis? what would be a dystopia for a different culture?


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