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December 19, 2006

WRITING IN THE L. A. TIMES, Dave Weigel is pretty hard on right wing dystopian fiction, particularly the latest from Robert Ferrigno and Orson Scott Card. (But thanks for plugging the Glenn and Helen Show interview with Card!)

But of course, the point of dystopian fiction isn't that it paints a likely future. And implausibilities abound in the field, with varying degrees of criticism -- Margaret Atwood's misogynistic American theocracy certainly isn't any more plausible than Card or Ferrigno's scenarios (and in our podcast interview, Card admits that his story is implausible), but I remember plenty of people at my university (where I did a panel on it some years ago) seeing Atwood's book as a realistic depiction of a possible future. Fundamentalist "Commanders" lording it over harems of women who are little more than walking, illiterate wombs? We're practically there already -- just look at Ed Meese and John Ashcroft! (Don't believe me? Follow the link and check out the reader reviews!)

Dystopias -- like utopias -- are there to make a point, not a prediction. And sometimes the implausible becomes true: If someone had written a dystopian (utopian?) novel in 1950 about the fight for gay marriage in 2006, it would have seemed implausible indeed. But, of course, nobody did, as the utopian and dystopian novels of the day were concerned with the issues of 1950. That's usually how these things work.

UPDATE: I should note that my personal favorite instance of right-wing dystopian fiction is the Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn novel Fallen Angels, in which -- Al Gore take note! -- anthropogenic global warming is real, and major, and ultimately neutralized by strict limits on carbon emissions. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Earth was due for an ice age, and only man-made global warming was holding it off . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Martin Shoemaker reminds me that Fallen Angels is available for free online in the Baen Free Library.