Peter Seyferth: A Glimpse of Hope at the End of the Dystopian Century: The Utopian
8/08/2021 – 09:25
Dimension of Critical Dystopias Une lueur d’espoir à la fin du siècle dystopique : la dimension utopique des dystopies critiques
The 20th century demonstrated that the realization of utopian plans often fosters totalitarianism. Fantastic, speculative literature mirrored this by turning from utopia to dystopia. In the hopeful 1970s, critical utopian texts revived the hope for a better world in a more complex fashion that replaced perfectionism with ambiguity and self-reflection. But neo- liberalism prevailed and other utopian hopes declined again. But a new kind of utopian text emerged in the 1980s and 1990s: the critical dystopia. Novels like Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast (1988), Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (1991), and Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) depict horrible capitalist dystopian societies that almost crush the emancipatory hopes of resistance groups. But their utopian desire is not completely futile. This glimpse of hope also characterizes ambiguously utopian science fiction texts of the new millennium, e.g. Chris Carlsson’s After the Deluge(2004), Neal Stephenson’s Anathem(2008), and Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts (2014).