Today I spent some time looking around for ideology as expressed in speculative fiction. Because of the recent eruption of bullying behavior between different factions of SFF based on this pretext, I expected to see some discussion of the issue. However, Google didn’t produce anything much. Just on my own, I can track the general evolution of the SFF field from adventure tale through hard SF to progressive, but I was hoping to find some expert opinions.

Here’s one I came up with, an academic paper by D. Bedggood on the ideological contests expressed by individual writers as representative of their era. In this case s/he looks at Ayn Rand’s Anthem (1938), Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) and Iain M. Banks’ Player of Games (1988). The author describes these as definitions of what constitutes utopia vs. dystopia during the period when the novel was written. Specifically s/he describes Rand’s work as “uber-capitalist individualist,” LeGuin’s as “anarchic-socialist” and Banks’ as an idyllic but contested vision of “human-machine symbiosis.”

Vox Day has also addressed the subject of ideology in his blog here. I didn’t get much out of this. His essay reads like a rant, and his statements that certain people are out to destroy Western civilization are unsupported by arguments, research or expert opinions. He does make a couple of interesting observations; for example, that SFF is escapist fiction generally written by nerdy, bitter people who suffered through difficult childhoods.

The closest discussion I found related to over-all ideology in the SFF field came from Charlie Stross, who also made an appearance during my discussion of hard SF. He continues his thoughts here. According to Stross, human ideology made a sharp turn during the Enlightenment, when people stopped looking to the past Golden Age for ideas and instead discovered the notion of Progress. This meant it was possible to improve our lives through activities like scientific investigation and the application of social justice ideas. This suggests that “progressive” has been the reigning ideology since the Enlightenment. Stross notes that it has taken a long time for this to occur to some people.

However, something different has happened just recently where individuals are challenging what has become the standard for progressive social justice. The ideological split between Rand and LeGuin’s worldviews is still there, but now there also seems to be a fracture in the idea that we’re all in this fight together. Presumably this is a disagreement about what the word “progress” really means.