How much is political ideology dominating SFF?

Discussion in 'SFF lounge' started by Fried Egg, Feb 2, 2011.

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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    I came across this post on Ian Sale's Blog asking: Is science fiction becoming more politically polarised?.

    It's something I think about quite a lot having quite an interest in politics and economics. But what do you think? Is SF in your experience becomming dominated by poitical ideology? Is it becoming more left wing, right wing or just generally polarised in your experience?
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    alchemist

    alchemist Not on holidays

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    I haven't a clue, as I really haven't read enough to form an opinion, and I don't hang out in the virtual or real places where suvh things are discussed.
    What I will say, though, is that I'd be wary of any SFF author who claims to be anything with the suffix -wing, left or right. Trying to divide the human race into two mutually exclusive categories, based on their opinions, might satisfy people's need for simplicity, but it hides a wide variation. Anybody who calls themselves L/R wing has got to be at the extremes of the curve, and that level of ideology doesn't make for great reading (IMO).
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    J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    Second that. Tolkien had to fend off attempts to politicize LOTR, he had to insist it was just a story, a harmless, fun fantasy, and IMO SciFi should stick to adventure and new ideas instead of joining the muckrakers.
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    Rodders

    Rodders |-O-| (-O-) |-O-|

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    To be honest though, we'll always interpret things in a way that best suits or own perceptions.
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    digs

    digs Thicker than water

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    Interesting. It's not something I've given much thought to, and I probably don't notice it that much unless it's really overt - hi, Orson Scott Card - but I guess from the fantasy I've read (not sure about scifi) I would assume most of it is fairly liberal. That's not to say that all those books are 'dominated' by political ideology, more that they're influenced, however subtly, by it.
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    J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    Yeap. Haven't read much Orson here - is he left or right? - but anything preachy grates immediately. Still, impossible to write about future society without accounting for the politics of the era, and perfectly fine to write about politics... just don't like it when it's snuck in there to promulgate the author's leanings. There's non-fiction and a million newspapers and journals for all that.
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    digs

    digs Thicker than water

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    He's right-wing. He's a Mormon and a lot of his beliefs spill over into his writing, though to be fair I didn't pick up on any of it in his Ender's Game series.
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    Indeed, my impression after reading only "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" is precisely the opposite, quite left wing if anything.
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Handled right, SF is a fantastic place for politics. One can explore political situations that are highly unlikely to occur right here and now, like the anarchy of Anarres in LeGuin's The Disposessed or how technology might one day free humanity to fully live out the promise of the Enlightenment, as in Bank's Culture books.

    Actually, I'll go as far to say that if SF stopped taking on politics it'd wither and die.
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    Indeed, but do you think SF is currently dominated by any particular ideology?
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Hard to say. UK SF seems a bit more lefty-sons-of-Orwell in outlook, or that might have something to do with our dystopia fascination. I haven't read any right wing UK SF, though I've heard it said Neal Asher leans that way (not that I've read any.).

    Now that's not to say the US is without its leftwing writers, of course it is, but there is a greater acceptance of the right in SF over there, especially in the Millitary stuff. Liberarianism is a lot bigger over there than here (UK) too.

    Well, thats my overly-generalising 2 cents, anyway.
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    I think this is an interesting quote from a right leaning SF writer interviewed on the post Mr Sales alludes to-


    He admitted that “a close debate may someday rage. It isn’t raging yet because, for the most part, the leftist and rightist wings pretty much ignore each other,” with the lefties “fairly well cocooned by the magazines, the awards system, the reviewers, and no small number of readers who read only them, and the right by — I think — smaller groups of fans who are probably more loyal readers” than their opposite numbers.


    I'd say all the conventions I go to in the UK contain a majority of left-leaning people, though I've never done a census. Conversely, I've got one or two mates who read some of the Baen-type mil sf stuff who wouldn't generally be interested in the con-going life.

    In this respect, Eastercon 2011 should be interesting in that David 'Honorverse' Webber will be there. A chance for both wings not to ignore one another. Had to happen sooner or later. Politics is likely to rear its head at one of these panels and the bar chat might differ too, given the presence of Webber and the theme of Millitary SF draws a different crowd.
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    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    I couldn't see much of any religious or political pedantry going on in the Ender books or even in the Alvin Maker series. But there is plenty of Mormon-like family emphasis in the Homecoming series (Memory of Earth, Call of Earth, etc.). So much so that I abandoned the later novels.

    Couldn't begin to tell you if he's a lefty or a righty, but I suspect a conservative world view.

    I don't think Heinlein was a wild-eyed liberal either.
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I really can't see that present-day SF could be any more political than SF of the past. No, Robert Heinlein never struck me as a liberal either! There was much more polarisation of political views further back in the past - Central Planning, Communism, National Socialism and Fascism were all mainstream political views to hold - and it was under those times that HG Wells, George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Aldous Huxley wrote.

    Also, if you broaden the field from books to TV and Film, then I'm paraphrasing Gene Roddenberry, but he privately told friends that he was actually modelling Star Trek on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale. He also said that how by creating "a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."

    How old is Gulliver's Travels? 1726? If you count that as Fantasy (or proto-SF) it is also a satirical view of the state of European government at the time, and of the petty differences between religions.
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I've been reading the posts in answer to the original question which was actually:
    Is Science Fiction Getting More Conservative?

    That's another question entirely. I'd say that SFF is always going to be a product of its time and place of origin. Certainly the authors mentioned in the reply posts like Harry Harrison and PK Dick were not as Conservative as the four authors contacted for their opinion, but then those four authors do not form a representative sample either.

    Also, if the USA is more Conservative politically today, then it stands to reason that authors with Conservative views would be more popular. Whereas in the UK we are more Socialist and we get Iain M Banks' Culture ipso facto.

    Edit: Oh! And if you read the China Mieville interview right here at Chronicles, he says he is a Marxist.
    China Mieville Interview
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011
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    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    If you read Banks' travelogue piece, Raw Spirit, you get a very good idea of his leanings. Not conservative.

    As far as contemporary U. S. writers are concerned, I don't see the ones I'm reading espousing any establishment views, i.e., Nancy Kress, C.J. Cherryh, Kage Baker. And to give the men credit: David Brin and even Joe Haldeman don't seem terribly conservative. Maybe I'm reading the wrong books.;)
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Iron Council is probably the most marxist story I've ever read. Very refreshing actually, not the sort of thing that generally turns up in fantasy novels. The best thing is, though, is one could read it and never realise that, just read it as a good plot.
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    Certainly as far as British SF is concerned, I don't think it is in any danger of becomming too conservative.
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    jojajihisc

    jojajihisc vast and cool

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    I don't think so, but like most people I probably don't have a broad enough sample of books consumed to say for sure. There are lots of authors who I think I have a general idea as to what their political orientations are like Bradbury, Card, Heinlein, Ellison, Mieville and some others but whether those ideas make there way into their fiction I don't know. I'm not sure it'd be a problem if it did either. It's fiction after all and will be interpreted in a variety of ways.
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    thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Active Member

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    It's a very interesting topic of discussion. What sprang to my mind was Dr Who (Old and New), whose writers seem more lefty. There was an Old Who story with an evil dictator (played by Sheila Hancock) who was a parody of Thatcher and brought down by a revolution, for example.

    There's also been a shift in the nature of evil and morality, from the absolute black and white of Lord of the Rings to more morally ambiguous stuff from the people such as Joe Abercrombie. It reflects the post-war era (when the Nazis were near perfect villains) to the more subtle evils of today (terrorism, which is not defined by land borders but ideology and the people involved don't wear uniforms).

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