Utopian Foresight

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Last week, I had a short essay published in Slate that discusses the failure of recent popular science fiction to imagine Socioeconomically Less Awful Futures. This failure is, in many ways, understandable, given how Socioeconomically Awful the present is, but I suggest that it might be interesting to conceive of science fiction as a genre with a special power to help us think rigorously about what kind of future we’d prefer to live in. There are a few examples of recent fiction in this vein, but I think we need more — and more ambitious — efforts at Utopian foresight.

I wrote the piece as part of a series of posts by Future Tense promoting the release of Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It’s an anthology that tries to imagine such positive futures, though there are a variety of themes and political perspectives in the anthology (not all of which correspond to my own). I contributed a story called “Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA.” The story’s not exactly about economic inequality, but it responds to the Pretty Awful socioeconomic world imagined in my first novel, Pop Apocalypse.

On the whole, the story’s a bit less dystopian, and a bit less satirical, than Pop Apocalypse, but it’s also a kind of mini-sequel in that the story imagines a possible tactic that might help overcome centralized control and surveillance of the Internet (what I call the mediasphere).