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5. Utopia

Phillip E. Wegner

Subject Literature

Key-Topics science fiction, utopia/utopianism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00007.x


Any discussion of Utopian in relationship to science fiction needs to begin by first distinguishing between the specific genre of Utopian literature and what we can describe as a more general Utopian impulse. The latter refers to the deeply human desire for an utterly transformed, radically other, and/or redeemed existence, a desire that manifests itself in a wide range of cultural documents. Being that which remains fully alien to our current form of life, Utopia in this first sense is fundamentally unrepresentable, and thus becomes evident only indirectly through figures, images, signs, or traces scattered throughout a text. While such notable students of Utopia as Ernst Bloch and Fredric Jameson point out the ubiquity of such figures of the Utopian impulse – which we can find in everything from children's toys and classical music to fascist propaganda, free market ideologies, and Hollywood films like The Godfather – they have a specially prominent role in the imaginative worlds of science fiction. To point toward only a few examples, manifestations of this Utopian impulse occur in the image of the postinvasion world of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds (1898), in the new and unexpected realm of freedom announced at the end of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination (1956), in the collective entity Man seen in Joe Haldeman's Forever War (1975), in the declarations that conclude ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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