Science fiction has a thematic duality that has long fascinated me. The core component of many works in the speculative field focus on ways technology can and might be used against humankind. On the flip side, many genre stories highlight the use of technology as a means of resistance. Then there are the stories that feature both.
Technology is wonderful. Technology is dangerous. It’s this thematic duality that I (along with co-editor Lesley Conner) wanted to explore in our new anthology Do Not Go Quietly: Tales of Victory in Defiance. We selected writers with strong viewpoints (such as Brooke Bolander, Fran Wilde, and Sheree Renée Thomas) and challenged those writers to create stories with protagonists trapped in oppressive environments. Whether or not these protagonists overcome their oppressors was less an editorial concern. It was the spirit of defiance, of being heard, and creating change that we wanted to highlight. Revolution is never easy, nor does it always work. But the stories are always interesting (at least in our anthology, I like to think)!
The most memorable science fiction stories have a history of challenging social dogma relevant to its times. It’s not surprising to me that some of the genre’s most depressing and darkest works (from American writers) occurred during times of extreme unrest and fear. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison is possibly one of the darkest parables to have been written regarding the dangers of technology. Published in 1967, supercomputers built by humans to better fight the Cold War become sentient and bad things happen. George Orwell foretold the intrusiveness of a surveillance state in 1984 in response to the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s.
When you consider the last few years, cultural issues such as climate change, the rise of AI, and sovereignty of our bodies have been at the forefront of social concern. Examples of resistance fiction that tackle these issues can be found in Charlie Jane Anders’s excellent All the Birds in the Sky (ecology), Nexhuman by Francesco Verso (transhumanism), and Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan (fluidity of sex and gender). What I like about these three novels is that they’re extremely dark, but in the end, they offer a glimmer of hope. Dystopia is interesting, but without hope there is little room for anything other than misery. The world is at a crossroads. I hope Do Not Go Quietly inspires you to take up a cause you believe in. There is victory in using your voice.
Do you use themes of resistance in your writing? What kinds of topics do you wish science fiction dealt more with? Let us know on the forum post for this blog entry.