Book Review: Dystopia: a Natural History (Oxford, 2017)


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

Related Post Roulette

12 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    This sounds like a good read. One of my two English electives in college was “Intro to Fantasy and Science Fiction” and covered the broad strokes of how utopian and dystopian fiction came to be a thing. (but didn’t go nearly as far back as this work seems to – the start point in the course was “Looking Backward”)Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Dystopia is science fiction of the sort that asks “what if some thing we see today were carried to a fantastic conclusion?” (As opposed to the sort that asks “what if some idea were true, how would the world be different?”)Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Does sci-first have to have some not-yet-possible technology in it? Because it seems like you could write a dystopia in which something we see today just goes unfixed.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        No, it doesn’t. At least good SF doesn’t. During our symposium, kicking around in the back of my mind when I wrote my piece were two of my favorite SF dystopia’s Sheltered Lives and The Final Circle of Paradise, the former taking its cues from the AIDS epidemic, while the later is a fantastic piece of soviet SF that accurately predicts smart phones (in my eyes.)Report

  3. Avatar George Turner says:

    NY Times books – Middle Eastern Writers Find Refuge in the Dystopian Novel

    Middle East Monitor: Arab Sci-Fi

    Notable exceptions aside, dystopia is always threatening the West but landing on the Middle East.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I’ll have to check out the English editions. Those sound fascinatingReport

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Yes, some of those do sound fantastic.

        On top of being science fiction (or just fiction), there’s the added element of coming from a very different culture with a very different history and perspectives.

        Science fiction we commonly encounter is very rooted in “us”. It transports us to another reality, but one that we’re still pretty comfortable and familiar with. Despite perhaps being set on a different planet in the year 2350, the protagonist is more recognizably thinking like “us” than the fisherman in “Old Man and the Sea.”.

        Interestingly, one of the Egyptian authors points out that a lot of Muslim writers turn to science fiction because it would be dangerous to obviously criticize present reality.Report

  4. The robots in RUR were artificial people, not mechanical men. What used to be called “androids”, before George Lucas gave that word the parsec treatment.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What made both Huxley’s and Orwell’s dystopias so terrifying is that they were inexorable and, it seems, infinitely sustainable.

    Sure, you’d get a dissenter from time to time, but there’s no way that they could stand up to The Machine.

    The Machine worked, worked well, and could withstand the Johns and the Winstons. (Orwell’s Machine was robust enough to take Winstons and remake them into parts of the machine that worked. Huxley’s… well, most people can withstand hard times (especially after a couple of generations). Hedonism is much harder on the person.)Report