1. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    Modern Utopia

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by DiscoMacaque, May 18, 2015.

    I recently was discussing the fact that dystopian novels, movies, and shows are very popular at the moment, and it set me on a quest to find some good utopian fiction. The list is pretty short and I think it's a really cool topic to explore. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the subject. If you want to answer with sort of a guided response, I would ask one of the following questions:

    -What modern literature would you say does a good job of representing an achievable utopian society with the current population/technology, etc.
    -If you were in charge of organizing a Utopian society, what actions would you take?
    -What are some of the pitfalls of most of these structures of thinking, and are there any ways to avoid them?

    This is just for fun and part of a larger project I'm working on. Anyone should feel free to chime in with your ideas!
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke.

    .... there is no answer to this that won't sound perfect to about half the people, and utterly despotic to the other half.

    Utopias of any kind are impossible where humans are involved. One person's utopia is another person's fascist nightmare. For example, I fall rather far to the right of the bell curve as regards my personal preference for order and symmetry and control of self. For others, to be made to live under my spectrum of personal needs sounds like suffocation and a deracination of liberty and freedom. Every utopian story I have ever read is really a dystopian story in disguise. A straight dystopian story has the reader search for the light at the end of the suffering. A utopian story has the reader look for the truths behind all the pretty lies.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If your world is a utopia, where's the conflict?
     
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  4. IronMyrs
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    IronMyrs New Member

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    Sure, it's not literature, but I think the most famous truly Utopian society I can think of is the original Star Trek. Humans are basically past having internal conflict, and now deal almost entirely with external conflict. I think more broadly, the tough thing about utopias is that they can't possibly meet some conflicting goals, such as perfect safety and total freedom to individuals.

    Personally, I think a more believable option for writing optimistic fiction about modern society would be "things are getting better" combined with "humanity is awesome." Sure, it's not a utopia, but for whatever reason, we have a common goal or aspiration, such as colonizing Mars. As many horrors as WWII produced, I think if you look at the homefront, you see that it brought out a lot of the best in people.
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Dinotopia was pretty good.
     
  6. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    Wreybies, I totally agree with your post. Interesting that The City and the Stars was a rewrite of a previously published story! I wonder if everyone's individualist concept of utopia could be satisfied if they were each in fact controlling their own reality? If there were as many versions of the universe as consciousnesses to perceive it?

    I love this quote:

     
  7. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    @GingerCoffee, that's a really good point! And actually, aren't a lot of children's stories based on the idea that life is too organized and peaceful, so the protagonist escapes out into the world to find adventure (or more accurately stated, trouble).
     
  8. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    This is definitely great advice! And I like how you mentioned freedom vs. safety as one of the sort of insurmountable dichotomies. What are some of the other obvious ones? I think one of the ones that gets mentioned a lot is personal motivation vs. fairness. In other words, is it possible that some people can only achieve their full potential in a competitive world?
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I doubt you're going to find a book that depicts a true utopia for the reason Ginger stated. Fiction needs to have some sort of conflict. If there's no conflict, there's really not much to write about.

    While we're on the subject, the "dystopia" in Brave New World doesn't sound too bad. All you do is take drugs and have sex. :superyesh:
     
  10. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    I think utopian literature is very interesting, and has often led to significant social change! In utopian fiction there is always conflict as people work to achieve differing views of what an ideal society could look like. Even if we know there cannot be a perfect world, it takes idealists imagining one to keep trying to make things better.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The bit about "pretty lies" I will have to tip a hat to the incomparable Joni Mitchell. :)


    As to your proffer of a utopia in which each person is experiencing a universe that is unique to them, perfect to their needs, tailor made to their wishes... I guess, if the technology existed for such a thing, but that would mean a separation of individual human paradigms and would smell like the death of progress to me. It would be the very ultimate, the very pinnacle of masturbation, to stretch the meaning of that word a bit.

    In Ursual K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974), we see another set of "utopias" set forth that are diametrically opposed and each show how what is utopia to one is anathema to another. She takes a sharp stab at both communism and unrestrained capitalism, two concepts that are strongly idealized by the respective adherents to either economic structure.

    In the same universe as The Dispossessed, Le Guin explores another framework of "utopian" thought in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), where complete genderless androgyny is explored (as a literary experiment in gender-blindness) and, again, how perfect or how terrible the idea seems is very dependent on one's take on the matter.
     
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  12. DiscoMacaque
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    I'm adding all of these books to my reading list!
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mein Kampf was one man's idea of a perfect world.
     
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  14. DiscoMacaque
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    DiscoMacaque Member

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    It's true! And Mein Kampf was also a hateful rambly, very poorly-written pile of garbage that preceded a terrible genocide.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Couldn't resist...

     
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  16. DiscoMacaque
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    Emmet: That is against the instruction!
    Wyldstyle: Wait. What's your favorite restaurant?
    Emmet: Any chain restaurant.
    Wyldstyle: Favorite TV show?
    Emmet: "Where are my pants."
    Wyldstyle: Favorite song?
    Emmet: "Everything is Awesome!"
    Wyldstyle: Oh, no!
     
  17. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Having written a diploma thesis on the subject of dystopian fiction, I can say the following: The good dystopian
    fiction leaves you f*cked and hopeless because you realize that they - if you get over the language bareer and the metaphors - describe
    in astonishing detail the status quo we're having. Not to mention that the reality may sometimes be much, much grimmer.

    But to throw around some titles:

    Fahrenheit
    Anthem - Ayn Rand
    Brave New World - that in particular is very, very disturbing, mostly how the society talks and instills sex into children when
    they're far from rady to even hear about it.

    Also, read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin on the subject; she writes sci-fi next to fantasy. Left Hand of Darkness comes to my mind, though
    I haven't read it.
     
  18. DiscoMacaque
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    Cool coincidence, I am reading Always Coming Home right now. What was your thesis about?
     
  19. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    An interesting attempt at a "utopia" is Michael Z. Williamson's "Freehold". It's an SF novel about a human colony that has adopted an extreme liberal form of government (or non-government) and it's clash with the traditional systems here on Earth.
     

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