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Humanist Archives: Sept. 23, 2019, 5:49 a.m. Humanist 33.266 - dystopia in current science fiction

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 266.
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    [1]    From: Jim Rovira 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction (34)

    [2]    From: Simone Hutchinson 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction (36)

    [3]    From: Robert Delius Royar 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction (29)

        Date: 2019-09-22 20:19:06+00:00
        From: Jim Rovira 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction

Willard --

There are a number of subgenera of science fiction. One of them is just
what you describe, called by some "mundane" science fiction, or science
fiction that's closer to our current timeline and posits a more immediate


It's described about halfway down the page.

I think I understand what you're seeing, but I don't know that it's
actually a recent trend. I think television might be more inclined toward
"mundane" science fiction than more futuristic just for budgetary reasons:
closer to home/ our time would probably be lower budget to film. Zombie
film/TV is probably relatively cheap to shoot too. There's big budget
television too, but not everything can be big budget.

Jim R

> I suspect that more than one observer of popular culture, especially of
> > science fiction (broadly conceived), has noted that nowadays it tends to
> > be preoccupied not with a distant but a near-term future or alternative
> > present, often with the minimum of technologies that we do not currently
> > have. Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror is a good example.
> >
> > I'd be very grateful for pointers to cultural criticism of this sort.
> >
> > Yours,
> > WM
Dr. James Rovira 

        Date: 2019-09-22 18:33:42+00:00
        From: Simone Hutchinson 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction

Jordan Peele's 'Weird City' TV series on YouTube has much in common with
Black Mirror.

In literature, the New Weird (or simply, weird fiction) includes
science-fiction dystopian themes that are set in the near future and
include novel technologies. Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy is a
good example, the first book of which, Annihilation, has already become a
cult classic and was adapted for film by Alex Garland (previous films
include Ex Machina and The Beach). VanderMeer's fiction deals with
environmental politics, and he has contributed a great deal to the "Cli-Fi"
genre (as in climate fiction). Also look up Louis Armand, whose cyberpunk
aesthetic and metafictional techniques echo the postmodernist cynicism and
baroque style of the established SF writer and critic, M. John Harrison,
and whose series of novels practice a capitalist critique that I find very
similar to that which I read in M. John Harrison's recent opus, the
Kefahuchi Tract trilogy. Another writer of interest might be China

Some links:

I co-run an independent publishing press, which publishes weird fiction and
experimental literature in a print magazine called Mycelia. Many of the
authors have written about near future realities where our bodies or our
social lives are affected by imagined technologies. It seems clear to our
editors that our turbulent times, in the technological as well as political
sense, are influencing writers to imagine potential future scenarios for
all manner of people living in a range of societies and economies.

Simone Hutchinson
Founder & Managing Editor of Mycelia

        Date: 2019-09-22 10:59:10+00:00
        From: Robert Delius Royar 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.265: dystopia in current science fiction

I think the dystopian element of science fiction is older and more
prevalent than the last 30 years. And the near-future aspect is not so new
either. The gothic romances that integrated science into the plots imagined
futures that turned the promise of science into horror. A. E. Hoffman, Mary
Wollstonecraft Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville (*Moby Dick*
was surely near-future science fiction), Jules Verne, H. G. Wells all wrote
either dystopian fiction or fiction that turned the promise of scientific
discovery into horror.

As for near-future, some of the 1960s' sf posited a future of 30-40 years
away. PKD wrote a few novels set in the early 21st century (in our past,
today) and even in the late 20th. Some of these include Mars colonies,
post-apocalyptic cities, etc. Today, some of the adaptations of his work
change the time so that it is not in the past. Then, there is Kubrick's
2001 and the Andersons' Space 1999 which were imagined in the near
future of their creation dates.

If we remove the near-future aspects from the issue, then novellas such as
Wells' Time Machine or films such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis are
acceptable examples of sf-imagined dystopias. If we accept that Lovecraft
was part of the science-fiction canon, then we have a strong connection
between sf and gothic horror. Even Plato's Timaeus has dystopian elements
given the eventual fate of its "utopian" society, albeit in the Star Wars
distant-past model.

               Robert Delius Royar
 Caught in the net since 1985

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