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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.

On Gaming and Cultural Literacy

If you are a parent or you plan to be one, you’re gonna need a gaming console unless you absolutely can’t afford it. Sooner than you think.

Gaming has been a pervasive part of the culture for so long, it’s not unheard-of to meet a 50-something gamer. Half of hardcore gamers or former gamers are women. So there’s a good chance that once your kid starts school, he or she will have at least one friend who’s not only REALLY into gaming, but has a parent or grandparent who actively encourages the interest and is willing to share tricks.

The old stereotype of the gamer as a disaffected white teenage boy using the games as an escape from society hasn’t held for at least 15 years, if there was ever any truth to it at all.


An old, old line by internet standards. The “serious intellectuals” were calling bloggers basement-dwelling cheeto-eaters when the blogosphere first became a thing.

Lots of successful, well-adjusted people of all backgrounds are gamers. It’s a legitimate, mainstream social activity.

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