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Science Fiction as a Literature of Freedom

February 23, 2007

Tags Media and CulturePhilosophy and MethodologyPolitical Theory

Murray Rothbard noted some years ago, somewhat ruefully, the connection between science fiction and libertarianism in his comments on the "modal libertarian". But, well, what other genre of literature can be argued is fundamentally libertarian? Eric S. Raymond, known because of his role in the open source movement and his seminal essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar, has a fascinating essay on The Political History of SF (Science Fiction).

The strong binding between hard SF and libertarian politics continues to be a fact of life in the field. It it is telling that the only form of politically-inspired award presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention is the Libertarian Futurist Society's "Prometheus". There is no socialist, liberal, moderate, conservative or fascist equivalent of the class of libertarian SF writers including L. Neil Smith, F. Paul Wilson, Brad Linaweaver, or J. Neil Schulman; their books, even when they are shrill and indifferently-written polemical tracts, actually sell — and sell astonishingly well — to SF fans.

...It's worth asking, then: is the intimate historical relationship between libertarian political thought and SF a mere accident, or is there an intrinsic connection?

He then goes on to make an intriguing argument for an intrinsic connection. The argument is worth reading. Here are some teasers:

...In the narratives at the center of SF, political power is the natural enemy of the future.

...Ideological fashions come and go, and the field inevitably rediscovers itself afterwards as a literature of freedom.

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