Science Fiction Is for Socialists?


china mieville
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SF author China Mieville (The City, Embassytown) lists 50 science fiction titles of particular interest to socialists. Interesting to see the overlaps with what turns up on similar lists for libertarians.

A smattering of Mieville's picks and justifications below, with links to Reason's coverage of same.

Iain M. Banks—Use of Weapons (1990)

Socialist SF discussing a post-scarcity society. The Culture are "goodies" in narrative and political terms, but here issues of cross-cultural guilt and manipulation complicate the story from being a simplistic utopia.

ReasonWhat to Do When You Can Do Anything, by Peter Suderman, February 2013

Edward Bellamy—Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

A hugely influential, rather bureaucratic egalitarian/naïve communist utopia. Deals very well with the confusion of the "modern" (19th Century) protagonist in a world he hasn't helped create (see Bogdanov).

Reason: Looking Back on Looking Backward: Edward Bellamy's famous utopian novel is set in today's America. Are we living his crazy dream? by Tom Peyser, August/September 2000

Octavia Butler—Survivor (1978)

Black American writer, now discovered by the mainstream after years of acclaim in the SF field.Kindredis her most overtly political novel, the Patternmaster series the most popular. Survivor brilliantly blends genre SF with issues of colonialism and racism.

Reason: The Parables of Octavia Butler: A science-fiction writer's rich libertarian legacy by Amy Sturgis, June 2006

Ursula K. Le Guin—The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)

The most overtly political of this anarchist writer's excellent works. An examination of the relations between a rich, exploitive capitalist world and a poor, nearly barren (though high-tech) communist one.

Reason: Ursula LeGuin: Novelist by Jeff Riggenbach, December 1979

Ken MacLeod—The Star Fraction (1996)

British Trotskyist (of strongly libertarian bent), all of whose (very good) works examine Left politics without sloganeering. The Stone Canal, for example, features arguments about distortions of Marxism. However, The Star Fraction is chosen here as it features Virtual Reality heroes of the left, by name—a roll call of genuine revolutionaries recast in digital form.

Reason: Anarchies, States, and Utopias: The science fiction of Ken MacLeod by Jesse Walker, November 2000

Philip Pullman—Northern Lights (1995)

Pullman let us down. This book is here because it deals with moral/political complexities with unsentimental respect for its (young adult) readers and characters. Explores freedom and social agency, and the question of using ugly means for emanicipatory ends. It raises the biggest possible questions, and doesn't patronise us that there are easy answers. The second in the trilogy,The Subtle Knife, is a perfectly good bridging volume… and then in book three,The Amber Spyglass, something goes wrong. It has excellent bits, it is streets ahead of its competition… but there's sentimentality, a hesitation, a formalism, which lets us down. Ah well.Northern Lightsis still a masterpiece.

Reason: A Secular Fantasy: The flawed but fascinating fiction of Philip Pullman by Cathy Young, March 2008

Ayn Rand—Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Know your enemy. This panoply of portentous Nietzcheanism lite has had a huge influence on American SF. Rand was an obsessive "objectivist" (libertarian pro-capitalist individualist) whose hatred of socialism and any form of "collectivism" is visible in this important an[d] influential—though vile and ponderous—novel.

Reason: All over the place.

Via io9.