First Comic Previous Comic Random Comic Next Comic Current Comic
First Comic Previous Comic Random Comic Next Comic Current Comic

I like utopian science fiction. I think it's an important, underused genre.

Utopias tell you what their authour thinks is good, what that authour hopes the future will resemble. One of the most significant utopias of the past century is the Star Trek universe, and early Star Trek is a very good indicator of what Gene Roddenberry thought the world should be like - racially harmonious, culturally tolerant, post-capitalist, with a giant hierarchical military force that does more exploration and science than actual defense.

Most popular sci-fi these days is actually quite dystopian. Think of Hunger Games, Divergent... heck, the latest Superman movies have him in a darker-coloured costume and killing people because he thinks it's required for the greater good, and that's usually a sign that you're in an evil parallel universe. Grit, darkness, and oppression are the norm in today's speculative fiction, even the freewheeling fantasy stuff where it really shouldn't be necessary.

Utopian fiction is rare, and most people think that it's because it's hard to shoehorn drama into a perfect world. (It's not that hard, you basically have four options for plots: threat from without, threat from within, characters separated from civilization, new discovery that must be integrated.) I'd argue that dystopias are more common these days because of a general pessimism, because it's easier to use metaphor to criticize the world than to inspire it to become something better.

I'd like to see a college course on Utopias, in which utopian fiction of the past century is analyzed and compared. I'd like all the students to then have to write up their own Utopias - taking into account projected trends and technological developments - and subsequently criticize each other's work, pointing out unintended flaws and unanticipated consequences of their worldbuilding decisions.

Dystopias are important and have artistic merit. District 9 is a great metaphor for institutionalized racism. Hunger Games has a lot to say about classism. But I think it's equally important to be positive and optimistic, to write an equal number of fictional worlds in which problems are solved or solvable, in which goodness and kindness are common and rewarded, a world we'd like to see our grandchildren inhabit.


(Wednesday evening, INT: EB's room)

JH: Floorinovea?
EB: Lily's a very private person. I've known her for years, and this is the first I've heard of any sci-fi writing she's been doing. She says it's gotten a positive response, so I'm assuming it's online somewhere, but damned if I can find it.
EB: I've tried all different kinds of spellings, and this fiction site is the only thing that's even remotely relevant - a user called OrchidFire-zero-one has an account with the subtitle "Florenovia", but the account's been open nearly ten years and there's zero entries.
JH: What happens when you click "Show Mature"?
EB: Leave us.
JH: Us?
EB: Me and the horror.
JH: Ah, yes. Right. Godspeed.