Science fiction for socialists

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Science fiction for socialists
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6079_Smith_W

Neat list.

I would have put The Man in the High Castle on there, and 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Also, I am surprised there's nothing by Vonnegut or Lessing.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Vonnegut is an astonishing omission, as is Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. And I'm only a casual fan of the genre. I'm not familiar with The Man in the High Castle. Can you sell me on it?

The list isn't perfect, obv. But it's a nice way to open up an interesting topic. Nice to see ol' Ed Bellamy there.

6079_Smith_W

I don't think any list like this can be perfect, so I don't really see the omissions as flaws.

The Man in the High Castle is, on the surface, more speculative fiction - about a United States occupied by Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. I think it's relevant because of how it turns North American notions of imperialism, racism and culture on their head (without resorting to jingoism in the process). I think it's a great novel for other reasons which I won't give away.

I was also thinking of something by J. G. Ballard, but more because of its critical look at culture, political systems and technology. I wouldn't say it would necessarily point one in the direction of socialism as a remedy.

 

 

ygtbk

I guess China Miéville was too modest to put himself forward, but some of his work (e.g. Perdido Street Station) is strikingly original and is pretty clearly political.

I think James Blish (Cities in Flight), Stanislaw Lem (The Cyberiad), and Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash) might belong on the list, but trying to narrow down to fifty is pretty tough.

 

ygtbk

@ bagkitty: I read The Algebraist about five years ago, liked the alien characters and the overall flow.

A few more possible additions to the list:

1) Vernor Vinge (A Fire Upon the Deep)

2) Frank Herbert (Dune)

3) Thomas Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow) (maybe not science fiction?)

4) Robert Anton Wilson and the other guy (The Illuminatus Trilogy)

5) William Gibson (Neuromancer)

6) Larry Niven (Ringworld)

I guess the Atlantic is not just a pond after all.

6079_Smith_W

I thought about Gravity's Rainbow, and V, though no, I think they are just great books. Not socialist except perhaps in their critique of our society.

And Dune, it's practically medieval IMO.

 

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

@Catchfire: The Dispossessed is #23 on that list - hardly omitted.

I give the list a big thumbs down - too British, too "literary", and way too obsessed with dystopian fiction. As someone in the running to be the biggest Iain Banks geek on the planet, I am still gob-smacked that The Use of Weapons is on the top of his list.

Given what I perceive to be the author's biases I am amazed that Richard Morgan's Market Forces isn't listed.

And how on earth did he miss including Joanna Russ on his list?

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

@ygtbk... hmmm, maybe Gibson should be included as part of that whole dystopian thing the author of the list seems so enamoured with.

@6079... Dune? Feudalist, definitely.

6079_Smith_W

Actually I like Dune for the fact that the plot is driven by intrigue and naked power, plus its proto-steampunk anti-AI style. It's almost enough to make me overlook the thinly-veiled eastern stereotypes.

And re: dystopia, I'd say that applies to Ballard too, although much of his work is far more surreal, and I'd say grounded in our world than your standard apocalyptic fantasy.

Now if we were to expand the list beyond "socialist" to "progressive" there are other books that would make the cut. Dhalgren, for one.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

@6079.... if we go for progressive as the standard, I think the only real debate is which of LeGuin's books comes out in first place and which is relegated to second.... The Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed (or is that The Dispossessed or The Left Hand of Darkness?).

 

Tehanu

That's my bagkitty! Nobody can top Ursula LeGuin.

Catchfire, The Dispossessed is on that list. To my relief. I would have included just about any other of LeGuin's novels as well (particularly LHOD), but it seems it was one book per author.

Interesting list and worth mining for reading ideas - a number of books/authors on there I haven't read or even heard of.

Unionist

I guess you wouldn't call them fantasy or science fiction, even though they feel like it: Riddley Walker and Cloud Atlas.

6079_Smith_W

I'd call Riddley Walker sci fi - if only because of that wierd wiggly ardship of cambry. And also, a good choice.

(edit)

And for some reason, The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Road popped into my mind.

Fidel

Kin-dza-dza!

The Time Machine -(Class conflict in the future)

H.G. Wells wrote:
“The too perfect security of the Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of degeneration, a general dwindling in size strength and intelligence.” ― The Time Machine

 

Caissa

Started Ringworld on Sunday evening and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

ygtbk

Caissa wrote:

Started Ringworld on Sunday evening and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

It's quite ambitious in scope and it delivers. My personal favourite of Niven's is "Protector", for the way it incorporates premises that I absolutely can't believe and yet makes them plausible in-story, but Ringworld is probably his best-known work.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Why Smug Atheists Should Read More Science Fiction

Thus it is with religious experiences — other people can speak about their profound experiences of the divine, which seem immensely real to them, but may sound like a crazy delusion to the rest of us. People experience raptures and witness miracles, which can't be documented. And there are plenty of people who've had out of body experiences or near death experiences, which may or may not have a neurological explanation. One of science fiction's all-time great writers, Philip K. Dick, had a religious experience where he felt as though he saw God in 1974 — and this experience informed his increasingly weird writing for the last eight years of his life.

And science fiction is full of characters who experience visions that are outside of linear time, or beyond cause and effect. In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, the Foretellers of Gethen go into a "kind of trance" that involves "self-loss" and allows them to see something of the future through extreme sensual awareness. In Frank Herbert's Dune, Paul has visions that are as much mystical as scientific — though they involve "a kind of Heisenberg indeterminacy," where Paul's seeing affects what he sees. Science fiction also has its fair share of psychics and visionaries, who are viewed as lunatics, but who see a deeper reality than the rest of us can perceive.

And in Olaf Stapledon's First and Last Men, this sort of cosmic vision eventually leads to humanity awakening into a kind of "cosmic spirit" which encompasses all living things. There's also tons of science fiction which deals with humanity reaching the next stage of evolution — which frequently has some quasi-religious overtones, as in some of Arthur C. Clarke's work.

In any case, plenty of people have personal experiences, which could be immensely meaningful or could just be their own faulty perceptions. They can't say which is which, with an absolute certainty, and neither can any of us, from the outside. Once you've read enough science fiction, you start to allow for at least the possibility that other people might be seeing stuff that you can't see but which still affects you in some massive, important way.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Well, as a very smug atheist, who reads a lot of science fiction, I must admit that I find people speaking (or writing) about their religious (and/or spiritual) beliefs, experiences, musings or whatever to be directly comparable to them talking (or writing) about their masturbatory practices. There is nothing wrong with it per se, it is just something that I am not usually interested in. If I was interested, I would ask them.

Sven Sven's picture

bagkitty wrote:

Well, as a very smug atheist, who reads a lot of science fiction, I must admit that I find people speaking (or writing) about their religious (and/or spiritual) beliefs, experiences, musings or whatever to be directly comparable to them talking (or writing) about their masturbatory practices. There is nothing wrong with it per se, it is just something that I am not usually interested in. If I was interested, I would ask them.

Smile

6079_Smith_W

That notwithstanding, the Nine Billions Names of God is a great short story, even if Clarke stretches the laws of physics as well as metaphysics.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I'll confess to a bit of trolling with my post :)

I'm neither a smug atheist nor an avid sci-fi reader, but I thought this linkbait article would incite some discussion.

6079_Smith_W

I don't think it's trolling. I don't want to make this drift any further, but it seems very congruent with Albert Einstein (an atheist himself) and his view of spirituality and atheism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

I think it makes good sense, and while the same can't be said for some SF (Canticle for Liebowitz, anyone?) I think it doesn't challenge atheism or science. Nor should it, especially since a lot of good SF deals with pushing those boundaries of fantasy anyway.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

It's only trolling because I knew it would stir up some posters in this thread. Ford knows we've been over the atheist/agnostic/immanence debate many times over the years. I don't think it's drift, since this is all part of the Sci-Fi/Socialism continuum. But it is trolling when you post something relishing the reaction you'll get!

(Although I must admit to my despair that bagkitty's response was way more measured than I would have liked. Don't worry, I'll keep trying!)

6079_Smith_W

Maybe this will do the trick:

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

^^ HUGE thumbs up, two of them.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Catchfire wrote:

It's only trolling because I knew it would stir up some posters in this thread. Ford knows we've been over the atheist/agnostic/immanence debate many times over the years. I don't think it's drift, since this is all part of the Sci-Fi/Socialism continuum. But it is trolling when you post something relishing the reaction you'll get!

(Although I must admit to my despair that bagkitty's response was way more measured than I would have liked. Don't worry, I'll keep trying!)

So sorry to disappoint you Catchfire. Here's a little something to help you deal with that... I am, of course, assuming you already have a pair of tweezers... given your comment above, I think that is a pretty safe assumption.

ygtbk

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I don't think it's trolling. I don't want to make this drift any further, but it seems very congruent with Albert Einstein (an atheist himself) and his view of spirituality and atheism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

I think it makes good sense, and while the same can't be said for some SF (Canticle for Liebowitz, anyone?) I think it doesn't challenge atheism or science. Nor should it, especially since a lot of good SF deals with pushing those boundaries of fantasy anyway.

If we're looking for a science fiction novel treating religion seriously then it's worth re-reading Blish's "A Case of Conscience". So far as I know Blish was an atheist, but the concerns of the main character (a Catholic priest) are presented sympathetically.

6079_Smith_W

See.... bagkitty has no interest in getting converted. He's after the top spot.

Caissa

For trolling in the Science Fiction thread Catchfire deserves a one light year suspension. Wink

or a mandatory reading Canticle for Leibowitz.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Caissa, I went to Catholic school. Obviously I was forced to read Canticle in tenth grade. For my sins.