Sunday, September 12, 2010

Leftist science fiction

Mack Reynolds. Reynolds' novels feature "hyper-industrialism", where most of the necessities of life are provided by highly automated factories and most people do not perform productive labor (they're supported monetarily by the Negative Income Tax). He also features a professional-managerial "meritocratic" ruling class. Sadly, most of his work is out of print, but it can still be found in used bookstores.

Notable works (that I've read) include Commune 2000 A.D. (1974) and The Towers of Utopia (1975).

The works of Greg Egan. Many of Egan's works — especially Diaspora (1997); Schild's Ladder (2002), and Incandescence (2008) — describe a post-industrial "virtual" society, where consciousness is implemented both biologically and electronically. Productive activity is entirely voluntary and ethical beliefs have widespread agreement and near-uniform compliance. Although perhaps Utopian, these works are probably the best fictional description of a classless society. He also discusses a more contemporary vision of a politically isolated left-anarchist society in Distress (1995). He seems extremely liberal/progressive, atheistic and not particularly religion-friendly (see especially his novellas Oceanic and The Moral Virologist). In addition to political philosophy, his novels and short stories explore subtle philosophical issues of ontology, epistemology and ethics.

Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, especially the original series, is often considered socialist, depicting a society without money. Later series use the often slightly ridiculous alien Ferenghi to poke fun at modern capitalism.

If anyone has any suggestions, please offer them here in comments. I think science/speculative fiction is an excellent medium for discussing and exploring political philosophy and philosophy in general.

Update: China MiƩville's Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read (thanks to a commenter)


  1. Thank you for that! I'll try to look out for those authours and books in bookstores, albeit it'll have to be a used bookstore.

  2. Have you read Reynold's versions of Edward Bellamy's Utopian fiction Looking Backwards and Looking Backwards: from the Year 2000? The technological predictions are wildly overoptimistic, but the social structure is quite interesting.

  3. Have you read Reynold's versions of Edward Bellamy's Utopian fiction Looking Backwards and Looking Backwards: from the Year 2000?

    I don't think so. I'll keep my eyes open for these.

  4. As far as I know, all of Greg Egan's work is in print. You can read many of his works online on his website.

  5. Try Iain M. Banks "Culture" novels. Pretty mainstream but no less worthy for it.

  6. My Web site, Les Pages aux Folles, began as a way of putting my social and political satire out where people could read it. If I had to place myself on the political spectrum, I would say that I was "progressive;" I will make fun of both right and left but, because of my personal commitments, I tend to make fun of the right far more than the left.

    One of the features that I have accumulated over the years on the Web site is the Alternate Reality News Service. The basic conceit is that there is a news organization that send reporters into other universes and has them write about what they find there. (And, here, you thought I wasn't going to get to science fiction!) Although the subject matter of the writing careens wildly between politics, technology and just plain loopy concepts that occur to me, there is a progressive/humanist core to the writing that is an artifact of its genesis.

    I currently have two books in print, Alternate Reality Ain't What It Used To Be and What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children's Toys. But, I'm not soliciting sales (necessarily). All of the material in the books can still be found on my Web site (in the Archive section). As well, 3 new Alternate Reality News Service articles appear in the New section every third week (you can watch as the third collection is created).

    I think this fits the posting criteria...

  7. You can post a link to your site.

  8. theObserver: your link is broken

  9. Did you see China Mieville's 50 books that every socialist should read?

    I think Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, and Ian Watson are all leftists.


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