Tag Archives: politics

The World’s Changing Around Us…

We’ve written a bit about politics of late, as it’s quite the year for it. Of course, our original thought was about how crazy politics in the United States is going… but then we got topped. I mean, when there was the Scottish independence referendum, it was an exciting shakeup of the status quo just that it happened, but it didn’t pass, and the world moved on…

And then Brexit.

And it’s painful to see that immediately after the vote already passed… after the Prime Minister resigned… that’s when people were looking up the question “what is the EU?” A backslide from the movement towards any idea of larger post-nation world government, the sort of science fiction thing I write about…

It’s a new world we’re moving into. It will be interesting to see what this means – for England, a country that I love; for the European Union, if this precedent is only the beginning; for Scotland, which seems to be thinking about independence again; for global economies and the way things are now.

What it means when the U.S. votes in November.

A united thought between this vote and the presidential one is immigration. I just looked up the world population… 7.4 billion. People moving and running into those that aren’t like them, that seems like something that’s just going to happen more. Science fiction talked about overpopulation and xenophobia and overcrowding plenty. We unfortunately may be hitting that point in human history – and science fiction rarely predicted that it went well.

So… yeah. This is going to all get interesting.

American Exceptionalism 2 – Science Fiction Today

Happy Memorial Day! So I wrote a post recently about the future of America, but then I found my notes about the post and realized I had left a bunch out. I had left out the history of America, the past, the exceptional parts of America. So I thought for Memorial Day, we’d take a look at that.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

-Declaration of Independence

It’s really pretty well wrapped up in that. One way that we discussed American history in my history classes was that it was a continual reinterpretation of this phrase. Through the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the rights movements of the 20th Century, and at this point right on up through the rights battles of today.

In there too – since it doesn’t say anything about specifically Americans being the ones with these rights – is the ideology that has led to so many people moving here. The history of the United States of America, and even the colony before it, is a history full of immigration.

Americans, what? Nothing better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out? You’re an immigrant too?

-Icky Thump, The White Stripes

Much like the racial and gender and all rights movements, there has been a long history immigrant groups having a hard time at first, and over time becoming more integrated. The Melting Pot that is America.

Okay, so this is part of a series in our Science Fiction Today posts, which is a bit awkward I guess since there’s not a lot of science fiction set in the past… until you think of Steampunk.

I mean, okay, how about the most painful representation of Steampunk… Wild Wild West. Even just having Will Smith as the lead is an interesting move historically – and a lot of Steampunk follows that same lead. There is far more diversity in Steampunk, more women in science, things like that. We take our thoughts about our current world, our future – and we apply it to the past in these stories.

There’s a lot of backlash to all of these changes throughout history, and we’re still feeling some today. The sort of American Exceptionalism I talked about in the first post, the sort coming up in the political discourse today, is about trying not to change. But it has changed – America is no longer a predominantly Christian society (a great read about that would be The Next Christians), and it’s increasingly diverse. By resisting the inevitable changes in our society, we’re maybe not living up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence.

If it’s Memorial Day, and we are honoring those who have fought for freedom, then let’s pause and think on what freedom means. For all people, born wherever, from whatever background, to whatever future – freedom. All created equal, and deserving of a chance.

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.

Why Science Fiction Today is Important

I know it has been a while since I actually wrote a Science Fiction Today post, but in the current political climate I am reminded why we started writing them in the first place. I am honestly sick of most politics today. We keep congratulating ourselves for throwing more and more money at situations without bothering to take the time to examine why things are happening. One thing I love about doing Science Fiction Today is that we can take a step back and imagine the entire world differently.

Part of what is great about trying to look at things from a science fiction perspective is you are no longer constrained by what the world looks like now. Some of the ideas we present really would not work in today’s world, but who knows where we will be in another 50 or 100 years and what could that mean for the problems that we are currently facing?

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Science Fiction Today – Solutions

This last weekend, we got to listen to a talk by a professor… Well, close enough, without going into details. He made a really good point, about our current American presidential election, which I think applies to American politics as a whole right now – and perhaps to world politics as a whole right now as well.

It’s that the politicians are focusing on the problems of the world now, without offering solutions. And he likened it to 1930’s Germany: they had problems too, like the Treaty of Versailles, the Stock Market Crash and ensuing economic collapse, and the state of the world… social and international. And they, like many other countries at the time, had ideologues and demagogues telling them all about their problems, sympathizing with them and empathizing with them and enhancing their anger. But then, not offering the solutions… and once we saw what the solutions were, well, it was too late and time for war.

Which all pretty well sounds like peoples’ opinions on what’s happening in the presidential race today. Anger. Lots of the problems being brought up – and not a lot of solutions being offered. And some of the ones we are hearing almost sound worse than nothing at all…

I was about to write all of this Monday, and we watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and that totally replaced my plans… but still, it needs said. We have a world full of problems – wars and civil wars, expansionism and posturing. We have places like the UK – with Scotland considering leaving the country, and then the UK considering leaving the EU. It’s like a nesting doll of a problem… The economy. Immigration and refugees. Water and climate and just everything else.

We’ve talked before about the idea of Wicked Problems – where we don’t have the answer of what the solution is, and you basically just have to try it. These sort of problems end up in the ideological, religious, and especially political realm. Where we collectively work on deciding – work on a solution.

But for that, we need options, and if no one is offering them in the political realm, then it’s time to look somewhere else. And for so many of today’s problems, I still say, Science Fiction is a good place to look. Taking an issue, and thinking of it in terms of the future. And then it’s a question of coming up with the vision of what the time between that future and the present looks like.

If there are political problems you’re wrestling with, drop them in the comments below. We’ll brainstorm solutions in the comments, or if big enough, they’ll get their own blog posts. Let’s work on solutions. Not on problems.