A few days ago, Lavie Tidhar tweeted a sarcastic comment, as he is wont to do, about libertarians having a science fiction award, the Prometheus, but there being no corresponding award for socialists. And while he likely didn’t mean it seriously, it did occur to me that perhaps there should be an antidote to science fiction’s notorious right-wingness (and by that I’m referring to the texts, not the authors). Where are the science fiction works which posit socialist, or communist, futures? Where are the sf books which celebrate left-wing political thought? And isn’t it about time we showed those right-wingers that: no, they don’t speak for all of us. In fact, they probably only speak for a minority.
Back in 2009, Mark Boulds and China Miéville published a book of essays on “Marxism and Science Fiction” titled Red Planets. And Miéville has proffered a reading list of left-wing genre works. But this should be something which is ongoing, which grows each year, which is in conversation with both itself and the wider genre (yes, including its more fascistic elements).
So, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I thought it might be a good idea to, well, take Lavie’s idea and punt it out into public for discussion. And I decided to call this imaginary socialist sf award the Sputnik Award because it was the most obvious name for it – celebrating both the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth (you can’t get MOAR SPACE than that), the Russian for “fellow traveller” (used as code for “communist”), and named for a thing rather than a person (who might later prove divisive or contentious).
However… awards need shortlists. From which they can choose a winner. Who will then receive a trophy or something. But, well, socialist science fiction… Such a thing exists, it must exist, but where is it? Can anyone suggest any science fiction novel, novella, short story or graphic novel, published in 2015, which is both science fiction and socialist? There’s Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, although that posits a form of Athenian democracy (a political system much beloved in sf) rather than outright socialism; Carolyn Ives Gilman’s Dark Orbit certainly embodies the spirit of socialism, although the only political systems mentioned are anything but; and there’s Carter Scholz’s ‘The United States of Impunity’ which is only just sf and only just fiction and more of a critique of the current economic and politic climate in the US than anything else…
There must be examples out there. Any suggestions? Or is sf just too right-wing? Are we going to have to accept that science fiction exists only as a right wing genre? That even its left-wing writers end up writing right-wing stories? I hope not.
Because that would be really sad.