“Utopia — and Afterwards”

Review: “Utopia – And Afterwards: Socioeconomic Speculation in the SF of Mack Reynolds”, Brian Stableford, 1979, 1995.

This essay is a fascinating look at an author almost forgotten today (I’ve only read his “Mercenary”) and mostly out of print (at least until ebooks). Dean Ing finished some of Reynolds’ unpublished works.

Stableford, trained as a sociologist, takes a look at Reynolds whom he sees as almost unique in trying to seriously postulate, using Marxian ideas, future societies and economies. He sees Reynolds’ Looking Backward from the Year 2000 – an updating of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward — as the first utopian work in 40 years though it emphasizes the economics of abundance more than Bellamy’s model. (Now, of course, one could cite Ken McLeod, Charles Stross, and, especially for utopian works, Kim Stanley Robinson, as working in a similar vein.) 

Reynolds seems to have consistently view capitalism and Marxism as being two ideologies which must be overcome, propagated by the power elite of their respective societies, and both having abandoned the idea of progress. This conflict with Marxism and capitalism is often not well dramatized in Reynold’s action adventure plots involving turncoat agents who start out in the employ of orthodoxies but then shift allegiance to the true revolutionaries.

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“Science Fiction and the Mythology of Progress”

The review series on Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds: Essays on Fantastic Literature continues.

Review: “Science Fiction and the Mythology of Progress“, Brian Stableford, 1977.Opening Minds

Combining his training as a sociologist and literary criticism of science fiction, Stableford does a concise summary of the myth of human progress and how science fiction has used it.

Starting in the 18th century, the notion of progress in human affairs, “softened” manners, enlightened minds, and nations being connected by commerce, a move toward “still higher perfection” as French philosopher Turgot put it, started to appear.

It was an improvement sought in knowledge and technology.

However, soon the grandiose idea of “human perfectibility” was espoused by the French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also saw progress in human affairs though not pushed by knowledge but its manifestations in production technologies. Continue reading