Contemporary science fiction and right-wing politics

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by J Ed, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. J Ed

    J Ed Follow Back Pro Expropriation

    Why is so much science fiction dominated by right-wing politics, both the far-right utopianism and liberal pessimism?

    While I have not seen any of the latest Black Mirror episodes, the recent discussion of the new Black Mirror has reminded me of the fact that Black Mirror is often riddled with the smug, liberal technocratic pessimism of its creator. The misanthropy in Black Mirror seems almost designed for you to cheer on the algorithims.

    Humans is even worse, portraying people who are against automation because the material conditions of their lives have gotten worse having lost their jobs as being the latter day equivalents of neo-Nazis or at best Trump-like nativists who can be civilised by the love of a good robot.

    To me, this all just gets a bit boring. If I want a reframed fictional narrative that just says 'market forces unstoppable, popular sovereignty morally culpable and outdated' I could just go on the website of the Guardian, the FT, the Economist or any of their equivalents.

    ...and this is all before you get to the far-right side...

    The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right—From ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ to Newt’s Moon Base to Donald’s Wall

    There are of course examples of left-wing sci-fi utopianism, though interestingly in this discussion with the author of the Daily Beast piece they hint at the idea that the most foremost example, Isaac Asimov is not that left-wing. There are more historical examples, such as William Morris, and a slew of Soviet and pre-Soviet Russian sci-fi utopias. There is some interesting Cuban sci-fi, but its themes are dystopian and pessimistic rather than utopian.

    Where is all the more contemporary, utopian left-wing science fiction?
  2. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    Pournell died this year. Footfall is a stinker as well

    Ian M Banks Culture is a utopian anarcho-paradise. Still external threats and questionable policies of intervention.

    I'd also add that to my eye, military sci fi has become a lot more distinct over the years. Not that it hasn't always been there in some ways, things like Haldeman's Forever War for instance but even that was contemplative and really a reflection of his vietnam. Today mil sci fi is almost its own sub genre.

    will think on the other bits
  3. J Ed

    J Ed Follow Back Pro Expropriation

    I'm sure you know a lot more about it than I do, it's only really a genre I have dipped into but the Black Mirror stuff has become unavoidable, will be v interested to read your thoughts.
  4. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    There are a couple of mechanisms at play in my humble opinion.

    1 - Dystopia are much more interesting to read and write. There is an inbuilt tension already that a utopia lacks

    2 - sf is usually a commentary of the present.
    NoXion and J Ed like this.
  5. DownwardDog

    DownwardDog Riding a Brompton with a power meter.

    Ken MacLeod's a trot and he's just signed a three book deal with Orbit/Hachette (his Mrs must want a new caravan) for his "Corporation Wars" trilogy which will probably have a Momentum-in-Space vibe.
  6. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    just one thought, something McLoed said of his Fall Revolution. He talks about that line from the communist manifesto 'the common ruin of the contending classes' hold on I'll find the quote.

    I think of this because the question you pose reminded me of it- perhaps its easier to imagine that a future utopia will be this right wing fantasy land if you don't think this model currently is wrong, but that it needs perfection. Which of course would link to far right SF, society, humanity perfected, The men of the New Republic. However not all SF written by people on the left is concomitantly dystopian.
    Fez909, crossthebreeze and J Ed like this.
  7. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    not a utopian (at least not the stories)
  8. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    The problem with Ken mcloud is that he is a mediocre writer and his stories are crap.
    campanula and maomao like this.
  9. DownwardDog

    DownwardDog Riding a Brompton with a power meter.

    Also, a central theme of KSR's Mars Trilogy is that we can suppress humanity's innate tendency toward competition and acquisitiveness if we can all just have enough meetings.
  10. maomao

    maomao 四月她爹

    I was literally about to post this. He's a mate of my mum's and I keep getting told I 'should' read his books but they're unreadable nonsense IMO.
    campanula likes this.
  11. DownwardDog

    DownwardDog Riding a Brompton with a power meter.

    He is a parvenu who owes his entire career to being a contemporary of IMB.
  12. J Ed

    J Ed Follow Back Pro Expropriation

    I really like the Mars Triology, and it's undoubtedly left-wing, but is it contemporary? I suppose what I'm thinking of is post-2008.
    NoXion likes this.
  13. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    There was one Ken mcloud that was ok, and I quite enjoyed it - the stone canal. That unfortunately prompted me to read a few others, which turned out to be boring.
  14. DaveCinzano


    likesfish and Terry Manners like this.
  15. JimW

    JimW 支那暗杀团

    Fair few women writers were better like Le Guin and Piercy iirc though not really my genre.
    Terry Manners likes this.
  16. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    your tastes are wrong and I shall disagree vehemently. another time.
    Dom Traynor and likesfish like this.
  17. TruXta

    TruXta tired

    Bacigalupi, Atwood, KRS, Banks just some examples of contemporary SF authors that are popular and not right wing.
  18. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    Louis Mcmasters Bujod wrote a fair few that were good- swashbucklers but knowing and thoughtful. The hero is a brittle boned wreck with a big mouth and the plots put him right where the square jawed rocket man would be, to great results
    bimble likes this.
  19. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Categorising sf and sf writers as either left or right is a truly dull, pointless and (liable to be) inaccurate pastime. Atwood, for example, would not describe herself as left wing.
    Terry Manners likes this.
  20. strung out

    strung out (",)

    Kim Stanley Robinson is continuing to write similarly themed SF now
  21. TruXta

    TruXta tired

    Not right wing either.
    Terry Manners likes this.
  22. yield

    yield zero

    Mordi and Terry Manners like this.
  23. maomao

    maomao 四月她爹

    Does Mieville count? He was, until recently at least, a trot.
    Terry Manners likes this.
  24. campanula

    campanula plant a seed

    I am reading quite a bit of SF which veers into environmentalism, rather than strictly Left politics - Watts, Julie Cernevada, KSR, Paolo Bacigalupi (just finishing the Drowned Cities trilogy). About to embark on Chris Becketts new one (America City) -I know him so fairly sure it has a Leftish slant but will have to have a bit more of a think about this (when my consciousness is not encased in snot). Apart from miltary sf and space opera, I am a bit uncertain why it should appear that sf has been colonised by the right.
    Gramsci likes this.
  25. mojo pixy

    mojo pixy unquantifiable hazards

    At the risk of being a self-promoting twat, I'm trying to write some fantasy (one book has sci-fi elements) which come from a strongly lefty perspective (I consider my politics very much of the left). The one I'm writing now is meant to be the story of a kind of egalitarian revolution against an oligarchic elite, in a fantasy world. In all of them (3 done, one in progress) I've tried to avoid the usual fantasy tropes, and to include some social commentary, though also tried not to make it too awkward or jarring.

    Anyway. I write more than I read at the moment so that's my contribution to the thread done :thumbs:
    NoXion and J Ed like this.
  26. Wilf

    Wilf Meeting few of his KPIs

    I suspect we'd disagree as to whether anti-tech stuff is a marker of right wing politics, but that's by they by. For me, I've always thought that even ostensibly left wing SF/fantasy has a problem with the collective. In fantasy, the hero/heroine opposes tyrannical rule, but usually in the name of the true heir to the throne. No opposition to the notion of proper authority. In parallel, the SF hero/heroine discovers what is 'going on', pretty much the conspiracy theorist who discovers a real conspiracy. Their version of putting the world to rights is the Scooby Gang, nothing really engaging with social forces. In fact 'the masses' may play a role in the denouement, but the first have to be 'roused' by member of said Scooby Gang, not a social process.

    Worst example I can recall of someone who claims anarchist credentials, whilst building a career out of the 'heroic' is Michael Moorcock. Outside of his gods, goddesses and heroes, the odd 'civilian' might have a walk on part, but for the remaining 99% of the story the masses are unenlightened and off stage. He's had to address this in interviews, but never come up with a satisfactory defence afaics. Of course he's not really an anarchist, nor even a liberal anarchist. Those problems in his writing mean he's actually a liberal full stop.
  27. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist slowtime

    Yes traditionally but the genre has moved on and even at its time had other writers who weren't so as you describe. The dominant voice hasn't been the totality of it. Again to quote something I like which relates to your first paragraphs:
    now that is on fantasy. But if we can say that the first examples of 'scientific romance' were adapting the elements of the phantastick (lol) to 'modernity' as it was then. Well, there is a lineage, HG Wells was a huge eugenicist, Huxely was of a similar bent but cloaked it as a morality tale with the Savage as the conscience of his piece, Heinlen the so-far-anti-state he's basically extreme right-libertarian and recons incest is OK, Arthur C Clarke a great teller of stories but a nonce and orson scott car who's supposedly thoughtful and deep Enders Game was nothing so much as a paen to necessary sacrifice an exploration of militarism and done through his sterile lense. Yes, there is a lot of reactionary sci fi and fantasy out there but there is also a lot that is not. The forces of reaction have been strong in trying to take these spe fictions back to the old school, this is actually a good sign. Theres more of us now than them here. Look at the pathetic sad puppies slate rigging attempt at a Hugo awards two years back (theodore beale, r/w mental MRA gamergate etc)

    asimov was a massive sexist who morally justified a sentient robot slave caste. Bring me more names and I shall judge them (and find them wanting)

    I don't know that sci fi from a left writer is dying, nor that the form prohibits it. Never has.

    rambling thoughts here
    Dom Traynor and maomao like this.
  28. redsquirrel

    redsquirrel This Machine Kills Progressives

    Contemporary utopian sci-fi but not necessarily left-wing - Shine
  29. DownwardDog

    DownwardDog Riding a Brompton with a power meter.

    There's his Science in the Capital trilogy where the incoming POTUS, in an episode of intense KSR wish fulfillment, is a cross between Bernie Sanders and Bono.

    He's now reached that stage in an author's career where he's writing the same book over and over again. Look! Things might get a bit flooded because of climate change!
  30. likesfish

    likesfish officaly hardest and most tooled up urbanite:)

    MacLeod is perfectly readable

    Charles Stross laundry files are good too though his latest includes a massive rant about corruption in the UK. although having someone very much like gove end up being castrated and mind-wiped by alien demons along with the rest of the cabinet is :D
    19force8 likes this.

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