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October 29, 2008


JS Bangs

The letter is a ham-fisted attempt at the genre of dystopian SF—a genre that has been pretty solidly left-wing since its inception.

Hmmm? You're overlooking the dystopian novel: 1984, which is famously anti-communist. (Orwell himself was a socialist, but that's not much evident from the book.) And if we're talking about inceptions, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We appears eleven years before Brave New World, and is again anti-communist and anti-collectivist, as might be expected from someone who had lived through the Bolshevik Revolution. And don't forget Ayn Rand's libertarian Anthem. Finally, the book Children of Men I understand to be from a conservative Catholic, and was butchered in transition to the movie to make it seem liberal.

So I don't think your statement that dystopias are predominantly left-liberal is supported at all.

(Aside from that: Focus on the Family, please get your mitts off my genre. Now I have to go wash it. Thanks.

The Fredosphere

> "Maybe it's just me, but I find it much easier to believe".

It's just you.

Gabriel Mckee

Fredosphere-- Oops, I hadn't finished typing that sentence. I've fixed it now, so it may not be just me anymore.

JS Bangs-- I don't see 1984 as conservative in the least; in fact, it almost made this list. (I limited myself to Brave New World from among the "classic" dystopias because I thought it fit my point a bit better-- but just a bit.) I *do* see Orwell's socialism in 1984, particularly in light of Animal Farm, which I consider a companion volume-- a parable of how communism turned into de facto fascism. Anti-communist (or, better put, anti-Stalinist or anti-Soviet) doesn't mean conservative, and many of the most prominent European communists-- including Orwell, Zamyatin, and Arthur Koestler-- were all socialists or otherwise left-wing. 1984 and We are both, to my mind, left-wing dystopias and not right-wing ones.

I haven't read the novel Children of Men was based on, but I wouldn't call its adaptation "butchering" at all-- I think it's one of the finest SF films ever made. Whatever changes they had to make to their source material to produce it are permissible, given the quality of the end product. By the same token, one could add the film of "Starship Troopers" to this list-- which satirizes, among other things, the brilliant-but-reactionary Heinlein novel on which it's based.

As for Ayn Rand, I prefer not to expend very much mental energy acknowledging her, but one could probably make a case that she was co-opting the subgenre just like James Dobson is.


I toyed with the idea of posting something about that 2012 letter but decided that would be giving it more attention than it deserved and I didn't feel like controversy that day. But I'm glad you took note of it. I noticed the reactions from evangelicals over at the Christianity Today blog when it was posted were mostly negative - I think these endgame conservative scare tactics are backfiring, at least for the time being.

Re: Children of Men, P.D. James is a conservative Anglican, not a Catholic. But yes, the book can be seen as a culturally conservative critique of today's secularized Britain. Though she's a good enough writer that it's not just a political tract. I hear the movie is quite different in its emphases.

I think dystopias come in all political flavours, but there probably are more left-leaning ones overall.

Tim R. Mortiss

What, exactly, is a "real" dystopia? Maybe one which spouses political postulates you happen to agree with?

I thought that science fiction supposed ability to "predict" the future was a red herring anyway.

"how communism turned into de facto fascism"

This makes as much sense as saying that nazism "turned into de facto communism".

If there were more communist countries which weren't police states, perhaps then it would be less of a stretch to assume that tyranny and mass murder are not part of its essence.

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