Life as an Extreme Sport

Take Two: Utopian Abstract : Proposal

After throwing together a second proposal on the way out the door, I met with Phillip, and surprise, surprise, he liked this second one better. I’m seriously not surprised, for two reasons. One, I had more time to think, so although it didn’t take me long to write, I had a lot of thinking time. Two, I could tell what the flaw in the first proposal was the first time I read it, and this abstract fixes it, quite solidly.

“Science Fiction as the Reflection of a Dystopic Present”

A common perception of science fiction is that it functions as cautionary warning tale of potential dystopic futures. If we are too reliant on computers, they will take over and use us as batteries, if we continue to tamper with biotechnology, a new mutant race will develop, or a plague will be released on the world. A closer look at major shifts in plots and themes indicates something else: the stories are less reflective of the future and more relevant to current dangers. For example, when Philip K. Dick writes The Simulacra, he is reflecting the current trend towards time-shared computing, the miniaturization of technology, and the disembodied ARPAnet. In the 1980s, William Gibson writes Neuromancer at the same time Apple and Microsoft ship the Macintosh and Windows, and personal networking allows computers to go virtual. These authors are not portraying a dystopic, distant future, they’re writing about the present, presenting a dystopic mirror to the promise of new technology.

This paper will use the work of Niklas Luhmann, Maturana and Varela, Katherine Hayles and others to show how cultural resonance influences technological inventions at the same time it inspires science fiction authors. It is not coincidence that major and influential works of science fiction occur at the same time as these technological advances. Science fiction novels are a reflection of our fears, not of the dystopic future, but the dystopic present, technology, and how it impacts our humanity.