Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination
Chapter 1: Introduction: The Critical Utopia
For in struggling with new structures never before experienced, people also struggle with the old images and make new images: to distinguish that which has now become possible, to show the disappearance of that which is untenable as already accomplished. Thus, in great models they show themselves the New, which is difficult to imagine, already functioning. Now since these new models were already made from the old, were formed from the given, the old appear to be false, but they aren’t. They only became that way.
— BERTOLT BRECHT
Images of desire. Figures of hope. Utopian writing in its many manifestations is complex and contradictory. It is, at heart, rooted in the unfulfilled needs and wants of specific classes, groups, and individuals in their unique historical contexts. Produced through the fantasizing powers of the imagination, utopia opposes the affirmative culture maintained by dominant ideology. Utopia negates the contradictions in a social system by forging visions of what is not yet realized either in theory or practice. In generating such figures of hope, utopia contributes to the open space of opposition.
The phenomenon of utopian discourse is world-wide. Although it has ancient roots – including the Garden of Eden, the Buddhist Western Paradise, the Native American Happy Hunting Ground, Plato’s Republic, the Celtic Hy Brasil, and popular songs from “The Land of Cokaygne” to Joni Mitchell’s “Dreamland” – the specific western tradition of the literary utopia is generally agreed to have originated with Thomas...
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