Science Fiction Since 1970

Our Progressive Forecasts?

Image by Brian McGowan.

This article was originally submitted for consideration by a forthcoming encyclopedia. Owing to format and length concerns, the editors requested a substantial revision but acceded to this draft’s publication in another venue. As a short survey as opposed to a substantive history, it is impossible to deny that there are gaps, including the absence of personages that might scandalize some readers. I can only respond with my deepest apologies for such offenses and suggest consultation with The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, a far more substantial and thorough accounting. A word of deep thanks and appreciation to Paul Buhle, a pen-pal whose wisdom, memories, and openness models how the word comrade might truly be defined.

Science fiction, known by its shorthand abbreviation sci-fi, has a deep link with the socialist project dating back to the days of the Second International. Alongside the typical literary osmosis that occurs when authors absorb radical politics of their contemporaries, there is a distinct history of the genre’s texts serving as an imaginative laboratory for socialist/communist prepositions and/or propositions. The epistemological horizon of utopia invites these experiments in the imagination, sometimes resulting in practical consequences. For instance, Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887, one of the foundational time travel texts in the genre, catalyzed the creation of an entire political movement of clubs seeking to nationalize the means of production, hence their nomenclature as Nationalist Clubs. This trend has amplified in the last 140 years (though Bellamy might have been horrified to see how many forecasts have instead served a different side of class struggle).

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Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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