Tag Archives: Utopia

Introducing Science Fiction Saturdays!

Hello dear readers! We’ve been looking for some new ongoing series to run, and one that has been kicking around is a Science Fiction series. Since alliteration and the Internet are good friends, Science Fiction Friday or Science Fiction Saturday seemed good… and we’re going with Saturday!

If you’ve been reading us a while, you know that we love Science Fiction. We used to have a number of ongoing Science Fiction based series which we did not carry over to the new site necessarily, but which might be something you can expect to see on Science Fiction Saturdays. Here are some of the science fiction related articles you might see:

  • Science Fiction Today. This was one of the most fun series that we’ve run on Comparative Geeks. I think that the explanation of what the series was about was best explained as being about Wicked Problems: social or technological issues today that, in science fiction, we can look at the world after a resolution of the problem one way or another. We also tended to look at how science fiction often looks at both sides of a resolution, towards Utopia or towards Dystopia.
  • Science Fiction and Religion. This series kicked off after reading the book A Case of Conscience, and got us thinking about how science fiction either has religion but lacks aliens, or the opposite. There are some interesting topics or case studies there, and there may be some more to explore in the future.
  • Products of the Apocalypse. Okay, it needed a name, and here it is! This is a new series, exploring the thought that, if society started to crumble or we ended up in a post-apocalyptic setting or dystopia, what about our everyday items? What can we not survive without, or what would be good to have? We’ll see how this one goes, but there’s plenty to talk about here if all goes well!
  • Hannah’s Star Trek posts. Part of the reason that Saturday seemed like a good day for this is that Hannah already runs a Star Trek post each month, generally on the first Saturday. They’ve been great so far, and there’s a lot more Star Trek for her to watch as she goes through all the series!
  • And more! Yeah, probably doesn’t need an explanation.

So come back each week for more Science Fiction goodness! And do you want to write something for Science Fiction Saturday? Have an idea for something for us to write? Let us know in the comments below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter!

Book Review – Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End CoverRecommended to me a few years ago during, of all things, a job interview, I recently finished reading Childhood’s End (1953) by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. In the same set of recommendations as A Case of Conscience, the book that got my whole Science Fiction and Religion series going. As this might be considered the formal end to that series, maybe it’s fitting.

One of the most interesting things, in my edition at least, is the introduction by the author written in 2000. An interesting year for Clarke, given that his great saga began in 2001… Anyway, he focuses on two interesting things in the introduction. One is that he felt like the movie Independence Day owed a lot to him, and his opening chapter. An alien invasion arrives, and pulls into the sky over all the major cities of the world all at once, trailing their reentry burn. I think that Clarke might have had a better mental image than what he put on the page… because I wasn’t seeing the similarity other than the base concept.

The second was that he was apologetic about the plot content of the story… but didn’t feel that it overpowered the book. That’s probably true, but we can get to that… The story ends up, however, in a very supernatural place, as an explanation of why the invading aliens end up not aggressive, but peaceful. That leads me to the story, so let’s start there!

Continue reading

Book Review – Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End CoverRecommended to me a few years ago during, of all things, a job interview, I recently finished reading Childhood’s End (1953) by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. In the same set of recommendations as A Case of Conscience, the book that got my whole Science Fiction and Religion series going. As this might be considered the formal end to that series, maybe it’s fitting.

One of the most interesting things, in my edition at least, is the introduction by the author written in 2000. An interesting year for Clarke, given that his great saga began in 2001… Anyway, he focuses on two interesting things in the introduction. One is that he felt like the movie Independence Day owed a lot to him, and his opening chapter. An alien invasion arrives, and pulls into the sky over all the major cities of the world all at once, trailing their reentry burn. I think that Clarke might have had a better mental image than what he put on the page… because I wasn’t seeing the similarity other than the base concept.

The second was that he was apologetic about the plot content of the story… but didn’t feel that it overpowered the book. That’s probably true, but we can get to that… The story ends up, however, in a very supernatural place, as an explanation of why the invading aliens end up not aggressive, but peaceful. That leads me to the story, so let’s start there!

Continue reading

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.

Science Fiction Today – Terrorism

Well, today’s another awful day. I’ve seen plenty of people posting their support of the people of Brussels and Belgium and who were there, and our hearts and  prayers go out as well.

Pray for Brussels

But as Holly mentioned yesterday, we take the awful stuff in the world today, and step back. Step forward. We look at them through the lens of Science Fiction stories.

And I’m sad to say, Science Fiction stories still see a lot of terrorism in the future. It seems it will remain a way for a smaller force to deal with a larger one, for an occupied force to deal with an occupier. For one dissatisfied person to take out all their frustration and send a message.

For instance, I think that Science Fiction was probably the original home of cyber terrorism. Sure, it became more mainstream, but it was originally near-future nerd stuff. And it still shows up in TV shows and such as far more interesting and useful and powerful than it is in real life… far more Science Fiction.

And if you count some of superhero fiction as Science Fiction, then we certainly see it there too, often in a world somewhat like our own today. Really, a lot of what happens in those stories – especially when you step away from the incredibly super-powered folks – is a story of organized crime and domestic terrorists versus vigilantes. Maybe wider terror groups, working on recruiting, like the League of Assassins or the Hand. We’ve been watching Daredevil season 2 – lots of things you could call terrorism there.

In Science Fiction, you see Utopias. One of the best is Star Trek. And even there, we definitely see terrorism. Khan is the perfect example. However, the Bajorans – fighting a Cardassian occupation – absolutely also are an example, and that’s pretty much the setting for Deep Space Nine. So it’s not like it’s something that’s just a one-shot in an episode, it comes up many times. From re-watching Next Generation, I remember Ro Laren having to infiltrate a terrorist resistance group. It wasn’t easy for her, because you get close to them, and you find out they might be human…

And Science Fiction also tells us a lot about Dystopias… generally the result of a cataclysmic event that leads to a response towards security, and terrorism seems a part. Sometimes before, sometimes after. Like V for Vendetta, where one man’s terrorism exposes a dictatorship and pulls it down.

But the dictatorship, the Dystopia, can form because of terrorism too, it’s not solely an answer. After these sorts of things, we want vengeance. We want justice. We want it to stop. And things happen that, in hindsight or over time, we see to be a bridge too far. And often, this is what Science Fiction writers are warning us about, when they write about Dystopias. Beware those impulses to sacrifice our liberties, to strike out too broadly or too blindly.

In many ways, I hope they’re all wrong. I hope that we find ourselves in a future with peace.