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SF Tidbits for 8/23/06

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

1 Comment on SF Tidbits for 8/23/06

  1. Why do Libertarians love Science Fiction?

    The short answer is that science fiction of the ‘hard sf’ John W. Campbell school of writing glamorizes and romanticizes the industrial and scientific revolutions. Libertarianism and free-market conservatives also see the glamour and romance of the industrial revolution. It is difficult to be in favor of science and progress without being impressed with the sheer romance and wonder of the adventure of progress, to delight in skyscrapers and submarines and supersonic planes, computers and cathode rays, and other breakthroughs of human inventiveness that the industrial revolution ushered into human history. So it is a small step from being a fan of giant jet airliners to being a fan of rocketships.

    If you are a fan of inventors, science fiction offers you an easier market for exploring your ideas as a writer than does, say, a western or a romance genre. Hard Science Fiction is quintessentially American: a popular and unpretentious melting pot of ideas in favor of individual liberty and the promise of human progress. Libertarianism is also quintessentially American: it is as fervid and utopian as the Puritan movement which founded the country, and takes certain strands of American political philosophy, the free market and the rugged individualism of the pioneer, and draws them out to their logical (some would say absurd) conclusions. The spirits of both have many points in common.

    Again, if libertarians are concerned with the nuts-and-bolts of their proposed libertarian utopias, it is a natural step to portray these fictional societies as the backdrop to a story set in the future: if you are going to speculate about possible economic and political systems, speculative fiction easily lends itself to your needs.

    For similar reasons, we would no doubt see more socialist SF, along the lines of Bellamy’s LOOKING BACKWARD, or Wells’ FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, if those ideals had not lost popular currency after Lenin and Stalin, Mao and Castro, showed the world the bloodthirsty beast behind the high-minded mask.

    I do not see a similar overlap of taste and thought in fantasy. Modern “elf operas”, if anything, glamorize medievalism, monarchy, or exotic pagan gods, and not can-do Yankee know-how. The ferocious scorn of Ayn Rand toward anything mystical or old-world does not sit well with the gentle nostalgia of twilight-haunted Edwardian elflands. Factories in fantasy stories are all in Mordor.

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