Source: The Daily Targum
Written By: Zachary Matusheski
Submitted by: Lesmond
In the past, science fiction was written off as a literary form for dreamers and surrealist artists. Today colleges and universities around the country offer classes and seminars that discuss this valuable expression of politics and culture.
No matter what politico-cultural orientation, a science-fiction work can inform your understanding of ideologies. For example, if your spin is of an anti-corporate flavor, Jennifer Government by Max Berry may scratch your itch. Barry’s second novel focuses on a society so dominated by corporate power that people’s last names are their jobs, taxes are illegal, and the police do not enforce the law unless they are privately contracted to.
Science fiction is not for only left leaning critics. Ayn Rand, a darling of the right and founder of the philosophy called Objectivism, authored many best sellers in the mid-20th century that took a completely different approach than Barry and writers like him. In Atlas Shrugged, one of her most famous opuses, a society coming apart due to a dictatorial government is saved by the actions of a railroad executive named Dagny Taggert. Whereas the corporate influence is looked down upon in Jennifer Government, Rand valorizes CEOs and industrialists.
Science fiction can go beyond discussion of politics to discussions of more general definitions of societal movements. For the most of the 20th century, the concept of modernity was raised as the highest value, the highest goal nations and peoples should take. Society became focused on spreading technology. For example, groups like the World Bank promoted projects focused on internal development in developing countries designed to aide distinctly modern enterprises. From a more cultural perspective, social norms were changed in major ways in this country due to the rise of the automobile and the communication revolution. Yet, few people outside of science fiction asked important questions about these developments.
Enter Brave New World. Aldophus Huxley’s seminal novel discussed the divisions between the modern world and the “savage” world. In the modern world, people are numbed to their emotions under a drug called soma, they never age, and their monogamy is not valued. Sounds good? While it seems that their lives are wonderful, Huxley proves that their lives are without meaning. Huxley does not leave it there however. He sketches a “savage” world described by intense pain and tight social structures. In the end, he desires, as many science fiction writers do, to challenge understandings of the cosmic order that follow simplistic, dichotomous outlines.
Fundamentally, what these disparate examples prove is the power of science fiction as a canvass to explore political ideology, philosophy, and society. Science fiction allows writers to dream but yet, because of its nature, also grounds them in reality. James Caverly’s article touches on this phenomenon beautifully. While he recognizes that some technologies discussed in I, Robot and Back To The Future Part II have not taken off, developments that model them have. So read on and discover what tomorrow will be by reading about its manifestation in film of today.