Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Gibbering with expectation.

Amongst the facts you may have gleaned about me are my love for science fiction and Marxism. So imagine my delight at the arrival in the post of Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould and China Miéville.

SF has many political variants, though my personal sense is that the rightwing version is fading away with the end of communism as a bogeyman. In the Cold War period, conservative SF projected Aliens as threatening Communists, and the application of massive military superiority was the solution to all situations. Early Star Trek tilted this way (Klingons were particularly Asiatic, for instance), though Vietnam brought about a decisive change of view. Robert Heinlein was a particularly unpleasant neofascist: the film version of Starship Troopers gleefully satirises his approach. Blasting everything out of the sky if it contradicted the small-town values of an imaginary America was rather commonplace: I'd even suggest that Back To The Future's construction of an idyllic 50s and the utopian and dystopian presents and futures betray a politicial consciousness which is at least liberal.

But there were plenty of lefty and hippy SF writers of the time: Spinrad extended the counterculture across the galaxy, for example. Ursula K LeGuin took the toys out of the boys' hands in her feminist fantasy and SF. Sheri S. Tepper produced serious and rather wonderful eco-feminist SF, while I think that Gwyneth Jones is one of the best writers in any genre, and she primarily writes liberal-left feminist novels about the near future of the UK. It goes back further of course: H. G. Wells was a radical and prominent Fabian socialist, and even Lionel Britton, the working-class modernist, wrote science fiction plays. Adam Roberts's novels tackle technology and society in a quietly leftish fashion, while Ken MacLeod's novels have covered everything from future economies to the War On Terror from an anarcho-Trotskyist Scottish perspective.

I haven't had a chance to peruse Red Planets yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Marxist and neomarxist theory should have a lot to say about the economic and social formations predicted by technological and political change. Class formations and permutations, the extension of hegemony online (despite the carnivalesque resistance offered by groups like LulzSec) and the economic injustices perpetuated by discredited but not defenestrated capitalist élites will all become more, not less, relevant as we move into an era of triumphant, guiltless and naked class warfare. If you don't think that moving jobs, pollution, (reduced) wages and environmental destruction to the browner continents is an act of class warfare in which you and I are on the wrong side, then you're a moron.

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