Science Fiction Today – American Exceptionalism

One of the most American things I've ever seen...

One of the most American things I’ve ever seen… 

Something that has been a big topic this year has been America as a superpower – America the Great, It’s a topic probably in most presidential election years, but especially this year. The idea of American Exceptionalism is old, perhaps, tied up in revolution, manifest destiny, and all the rest; but it is most especially a result of the Cold War, and the need to posture from a position of strength against the USSR.

However, not a lot of Science Fiction includes a strong America. Indeed, often not a lot of nations at all. Sometimes a world government, and sometimes corporations are the new organization of power. Or some of both. Or a breakdown of society after an apocalyptic event. Or a new government arising after such a breakdown, like in The Hunger Games.

The main country I see showing up in a lot of Science Fiction is England, because England prevails. Takes them back to the Blitz I suppose. England just kind of keeps prevailing…

Still, throughout all of that, there’s not a lot of nations in Science Fiction. Instead, it tends to be a view past them, to either a united front or back to smaller and local force. Or perhaps to some form of future Americanization. Where does America go in all of this?

One answer might be that we still kind of see it, see democracy in action, when you get to multi-world governments. Like the Federation in Star Trek or the government on the Citadel in Mass Effect. In those examples, it’s the whole world being represented by the one agency, the one government. The whole human race.

And so maybe that’s the view we should be taking. It’s not about what’s only good for America. Not in the long run. The smaller and more local we’re thinking – even if that’s a nation – the more that we resemble a dystopia. The broader we look, the more we think of the whole world, the whole race – the more that we resemble a utopia.

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2 responses to “Science Fiction Today – American Exceptionalism

  1. Even those with a unified world government usually have smaller nations in the background. Mass Effect had the Alliance, but I think one of the Codex entries (yeah, I’m that nerd) said that earth was still split into nations, with the Aliiance serving as the face to the galaxy because of political pressure. And some of the best Star Trek came from the writers ditching the space-is-utopia idea and throwing a lot of disparate governments and cultures together (like Cardassians and Bajorans!)

    You might be right that broader shows a greater good, but it also hides the bad. Going in-depth should just be to tell a dystopian story (at least I think so.)

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  2. Pingback: American Exceptionalism 2 – Science Fiction Today | Comparative Geeks

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