Ideology and Utopia: 
Better Worlds in Speculative Fiction

J. Hughes Ph.D.

A curriculum in evolution

bulletUtopian Visions Before the 20th Century
bulletH.G. Wells and the Conspiracy of Reason
bulletIndividualism, Democracy and Collectivism
bulletEcology and Nature
bulletThe Future of Sex and Gender
bulletBioPolitics: Who Do We Exterminate?
Who Gets a Vote?
bulletMarxism and Science Fiction
bulletVisions of War and Apocalypse in SF
bulletPastoralism and Luddism in SF
bulletCyberpunk and Techno-Corporate Power

bulletSpeculative Fiction and Future Politics Links
bulletRadical SF and Political Futurist Writers

Utopian Visions Before the 20th Century

Edward Bellamy (1888) Looking Backward

William Morris (1887) News From Nowhere

William Morris' Socialism

H.G. Wells and the Conspiracy of Reason

Wells, H. G. 1933. The Shape of Things to Come. London: Hutchinson.
Technocrats construct World-State after nuclear war and establish a soviet-style socialism, which Wells saw as utopian.

Wagar, Warren. 1989. A Short History of the Future. University of Chicago Press.
A Marxist neo-Wellsian projection of the coming of world government.

Individualism, Democracy and Collectivism

Huxley, A. 1932. Brave New World. NY: Perennial Library.
Huxley's vision of drugged, genetically engineered dystopia.

___. Island
Huxley's vision of Buddhist-influenced utopia.

Skinner, B. F. 1948. Walden Two. NY: Macmillan.
A utopian community based on the philosophy of operant conditioning.

Heinlein, R. 1965. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Putnam's Sons.
Ahow-to, and why-to, manual for an anarcho-capitalist rebellion on the moon.

Le Guin, Ursula K. 1974. The Dispossessed.
A scientist from an anarcho-socialist society travels to a decadent capitalist society, and confronts the dilemmas of individualism and collectivism.
Clarke, A. C. 1986. Songs of a Distant Earth. NY: Ballantine.
A democracy is established world-wide through computer nets, and randomly selected representation.

Ecology and Nature

Clarke, Arthur C. 1957. The Deep Range. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
The struggle against whale husbandry and deep-sea exploitation.

Simak, Clifford 1965. All Flesh is Grass. Doubleday.
Intelligent flowers hold the answer to humanity's salvation.

___. 1952. City. Ace.
A collection of stories that are Deep Ecological parables of humanity's fundamental evil. Earth is inherited by intelligent animals and robots after humans migrate to Jupiter; the remaining humans on Earth become feral.

Brunner, John 1972. The Sheep Look Up. NY: Ballantine.
An early vision of future eco-horror.

Callenbach, E. 1977. Ecotopia. NY: Bantam Books.
The North-West United States secede and establish a Green republic. Not quite New Age in that the revolutionaries use anti-helicopter artillery and the threat of nuclear weapons to win secession, rather than psychic powers.

___. 1981. Ecotopia Emerging. Berkeley, CA.: Banyan Tree Books.
The revolution gets started in 1988 after the discovery of a viable solar voltaic cell by a teen-age Californian woman.

Le Guin, U. K. 1972. The Word for World is Forest. NY: Berkley.
A revolt of furry creatures against the alien imperialists, in defense of nature.

Harrison, H. 1973. Make Room! Make Room! NY: Berkley.
Extrapolation of overpopulation. The original version of Soylent Green.

Skonczewski, J. 1986. A Door into Ocean.
An all-female world that practices genetic/eco-system engineering for all needs, threatened by an authoritarian patriarchal imperialist world. The author is a Quaker, and the female planet fights back non-violently.

Hakim Bey on anarcho-primitives

The Future of Sex and Gender

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. 1979(1915). Herland. NY: Pantheon Books.
The first feminist utopia.

Russ, Joanna . 1975. Female Man
Men land on a planet colonized many years before, and discover that the women are reproducing parthenogenetically, and are doing fine without men.

Delany, Samuel R. 1984. Stars in My Pocket...
A literary science fiction masterpiece, centered on a gay protagonist.

________ 1975. Dhalgren. Bantam.

An literary epic novel of urban decay in a post-apocalyptic future, centering on a black bisexual man.

Piercy, Marge. 1976.Woman on the Edge of Time

An extremely influential socialist-feminist vision of the future, from the perspective of an Hispanic woman telepathically traveling from the mental hospital in which she is confined.

Atwood, Margaret . 1986. The HandMaid's Tale
The U.S. has been taken over by fascist Christian patriarchs, who establish a caste system on the basis of gender, race, class and reproductive health. From the perspective of a "Martha" used to breed children for a member of the elite.

Gearheart, Susan. 1979. The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women. NY: Persephone.

A lesbian separatist fantasy, where the men are all bad.

BioPolitics: Who Do We Exterminate? Who Gets a Vote?

Stapledon, O. 1930. First and Last Men.
The novel that first articulated the possible future trajectories of human evolution, with each chapter describing a different step in a billion-year progression.

Heinlein, R. 1942. Beyond This Horizon. Fantasy Pub.
A future utopian society, with a strong welfare system, that confronts a coup by genetic engineers attempting to commandeer the gene bank. Recounts a previous defeat of the great Kahns, who had engineered super-specialized sub-species of humans, but been defeated by the more adaptive generalist humans.

Asimov, I. 1950. I, Robot.
The novel that first suggested a public policy that artificial intelligences be programmed to serve human interests before their own. Explores some of the ethical and existential dilemmas that ensalvement of AIs will create.

Dick, P. K. 1966. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? NY: Ballantine.
A 60s-influenced novel of cyborg-revolt that became the basis for the cyberpunk movie, Bladerunner.

Bujold, L. M. 1988. Falling Free. NY: Baen.
An engineer working in a far corner of the galaxy discovers a corporate plot to destroy mutant children that the company gene-designed with hands instead of feet. Hero asserts the rights of all sentient beings and leads a revolt.

Sterling, Bruce 1985. Schismatrix. NY: Arbor House.

Rival cultures of technological Mechanists vie with the genetically altered Shapers in space.

David Brin's UpLift Worlds

Marxism and Science Fiction

Asimov, Isaac 1951. Foundation. Ny: Avon.

___. 1952. Foundation and Empire. Ny: Avon.

___. 1953. Second Foundation. Ny: Avon.

Delany, Samuel 1966. The Fall of the Towers. Ace.
A quasi-Marxist tale of humans in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where workers are exploited by the rich in production and in war. The revolutionary intellectuals are pre-empted by a revolution of the underclass, which they then join.

Pohl, F. 1980. The Years of the City. NY: Timescape Books.
The utopian future is a decentralized participatory democracy.

Delany, S. R. 1976. Triton. Bantam.
The hidden politocracies in "open societies."

Visions of War and Apocalypse in SF

London, J. 1912. The Scarlet Plague. NY: Paul R. Reynolds.

Christopher, J. 1956. No Blade of Grass. NY: Avon.

Miller, W. 1959. A Canticle for Leibowitz. NY: Bantam Books.
Life and culture after the bomb.

Chrichton, M. 1969. The Andromeda Strain. NY: Knopf.

Hoban, R. 1980. Riddley Walker. NY: Summit Books.
A very literary approach to language and culture after the bomb.

Schenck, H. 1982. A Rose for Armageddon. NY: Pocket.

Pastoralism and Luddism in SF

Clarke, Arthur C. 1956. The City and the Stars. Harcourt Brace.
The boredom of both immortality in a technological utopia, and the stultification of a mystical/pastoral utopia.

Le Guin, U. K. 1985. Always Coming Home. NY: Bantam.

Le Guin fantasy of what a near-perfect, low-tech culture would be like, given that the Earth and all human information is being cared for by a self-aware computer network.

Cyberpunk and Techno-Corporate Power

Gibson, William 1986. Count Zero. NY: Ace.

___. 1983. Neuromancer. NY: Ace.

___. 1988. Mona Lisa Overdrive. NY: Bantam.

Rucker, Rudy 1982. Software. NY: Avon.

___. 1983. Wetware. NY: Avon.

Sterling, Bruce 1990. Crystal Express. Ace.

Ideologist of the Cyberpunk movement.

___. 1988. Islands in the Net. NY: Arbor House.

bulletThe Feminist SF, Fantasy and Utopia Site
bulletRepresenting the Other a course syllabus and immensing valuable curriculum guide, by Richard Dover "Embracing the Alien: Science Fiction in Mass Culture" John Rieder in Science-Fiction Studies, Volume 9 (1982), 26-37.
bullet"Cyberpunk as Social and Political Theory" Roger Burrows