strange societies in scifi literature

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by nathanielfirst, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. nathanielfirst

    nathanielfirst New Member

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    I'm studying up on utopian societies, real and fictional, and since I've read some sci fi and fantasy and found examples, I thought I would ask people if they know of any very strange societies, whether human or not, featured in the scifi they've read... not neccesarily intended as utopia, like say . SOmeone I know suggested r.a. salvatore's drow books (the drow), and i can think of philip jose farmer off the top of my head, or bruce stirling...
    any ideas?
     
  2. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Well, there is always Star Trek:

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1775850/socialism_star_trek_style.html

    LOL

    Photon torpedo those Commie Klingons.

    There was Earth in the Larry Niven universe before the arrival of the Kzin.

    And later there was The State.

    I can't think of any REAL Utopias. It is like they are all constructs designed to have their flaws pointed out. There were a people living in the ships in Rite of Passage by Alexi Panshin.

    psik
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2009
  3. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Utopia, or just "strange"? Here's some utopias, anyway:

    Banks' Culture books: "The Culture" is a galaxy spanning hedonist utopian-ish society of the pan-human-type race. No real government, per se. Just infinitely intelligent AIs with unlimited resources providing humanity their every need, want, and desire. Material utopia, for sure. But social utopia? Difficult to say...

    Asimov's Robot novels: Humanity lives in a highly controlled indoor world, somewhat dystopic, with everyone living and moving along conveyor belts. The protagonist ventures to other human utopian colonies to solve crimes that are impossible according to the ideologies of the utopian societies -- or are they?

    Heinlein's Starship Troopers: utopia or dystopia, you be the judge. Limited democracy where only veterans can vote, and morality is based in science and logic -- and surivalism.

    Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land: Lone human child born on Mars and raised by martians returns to dystopic earth and ends up the focus of a utopian social revolution based on the ideals of 60s. Grok?

    Haldeman's Forever War: Utopia and Dystopia cycles back and forth as one of earth's first interplanetary soliders skips through the ages because of relativistic time.

    More's Utopia: the original. A must read, or else you'll have no spine to your argument. Nuff said.

    Plato's Republic: the original, even before More invented the term. Philosopher Kings rule, using their education in philosophies and logic in a proto-democratic society... kind of. One of the most important works of all time, perhaps?

    Swift's Gullivers Travels: Gulliver travels to strange and distant lands full of weird people and strange utopian societies. Swift was a big believer in the irony of existence and that all was open to satire. The lilliputians are miniature humans in an artistocratic utopia. The houyhnhnm are a race of horses more noble than the humans that live on their island and poop everywhere. One of the best satires of Utopia ever.

    The American Constitution: One of the few revolutionary Utopian ideologies to be enacted with any success. See how the idealism fades and descends into legalism as history moves on...

    The Australian Colonization: Widely considered one of the most contentious utilitarian-utopian colonization ideologies ever imagined, while also being arguably the most successful criminal reform platform ever enacted.

    Similarly -- No Escape: Ray Liotta gets sent to an island prison. Anarchy versus Order, freedom versus justice, and lots of explosions!

    The list goes on and on... Dystopias are sometimes more prevalent than Utopias. Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, Bradbury's Farenheit 451 -- those are the big guns. James' Children of Men is a great modern dystopia. The movie Equilibrium is a corny but interesting dystopia (Gun Fu!). The Matrix is either utopia or dystopia, depending of whether you're Morpheus or Cyrus. Aeon Flux walks a fine line. Etc etc...

    It's difficult to talk of utopias without mentioning dystopias. In the end, every utopia is a bit dystopic. Check out Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz for an interesting take on utopian idealism versus dystopian realism.

    Virtually all SF contains some element of utopian/dystopian ideology. Fantasy, too, but the presentation is often radically different. SF tends toward atheistic and humanist principles, whereas Fantasy is typically (but not always) pretty clear on the fact that gods are real and order and subservience are absolutist moral issues before they are relativist ethical issues. Bakker's Prince of Nothing examines this tension beautifully. Also Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy where maybe, just maybe, magic has the power to make god real -- if he isn't already.
     
  4. icowdave

    icowdave Perenial Lurker

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    I just mentioned this book in another thread about good first contact books but it applies here as well.

    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell has a detailed and very realistic alien society. It really feels alien too. Not just something based on some exotic Earth society or what-not. I don't want to spoil it by giving details so suffice to say it's a great book.
     
  5. Jennifer P

    Jennifer P Registered User

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    I'm trying to come up with *really* strange societies.

    Techno-feudalism is well expressed in C.J. Cherryh's 'Cyteen' and M.K. Wren's Star Wars-esque trilogy 'The Phoenix Legacy'.

    Vinge's 'A Deepness In The Sky' features a society based on chemical slavery.

    Neal Stephenson's 'Anathem' has a very, shall we say, interesting order of monks. Who don't believe in God.

    And for a very good expression of a true Utopia...until something goes wrong...Alastair Reynolds' 'Chasm City'.
     
  6. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

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    Hellstrom's Hive by Frank Herbert.
     
  7. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    How about the Com worlds from the Well World series by Jack Chalker. Virtually an entire planetary population is genetically engineered to be more like ants than people, including no sex and very focused areas of work. You were born to be a truck driver, or a scientist and that is all you did for life. Of course at the very, very top were non-engineered humans who lived normal lives [SIC] while benefiting from an entire world that operated according to what they wanted.

    The Well World of course was the focus of the series, but the Com worlds were mentioned enough and had some characters from them that allowed you to get a good feel of what they were like.
     
  8. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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  9. Hitmouse

    Hitmouse Registered User

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    For strange, intricately imagined and brittle societies try almost anything by Jack Vance, but notably the Alastor books: trullion, Wyst, and the other one who's name I cannot recall.
     
  10. malko050987

    malko050987 Registered User

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    Nowhere near Utopia, but some interesting societies can be found in

    Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson (free to read over on webscription.net, and don't believe the blurb. There's more than action to it)

    The Foundation series by Asimov. Especially Prelude to Foundation, although Foundation's Edge would also fit, since the society on Gaia is anything but normal.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2009
  11. fk1523

    fk1523 Registered User

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    the dispossessed - le guin
     
  12. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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  13. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Oath of Fealty by Niven/Pournelle tells of life in an arcology.

    So does one of Greg Bear's, but can't remember which one: Slant? Queen of Angels? (Someone might be able to help me out here. :) )
     
  14. icowdave

    icowdave Perenial Lurker

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    Slant it is.
     
  15. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Thank you, icowdave. It's been a while....

    Mark
     
  16. icowdave

    icowdave Perenial Lurker

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    You're welcome. I only knew that because I just added Slant to my reading pile. Hope it's good.
     
  17. Martin Ekdahl

    Martin Ekdahl Naaghabrother

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    Did anyone mention Asimov's Foundation Trilogy? There you have a good plot with a strange society creating a Universal Utopia.
     
  18. genedi

    genedi New Member

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    Two examples from Ursula Leguin:
    The Left Hand of Darkness as an example of a society which has no sexism.(also a great love story)

    The Dispossessed for an anarchist society as utopia.

    Going back into the early days of science fiction:
    WE by Yvegeny Zamatyin. An early totalitarian utopia and one of Orwells principal influences for 1984.
     
  19. Luonas

    Luonas Statistician

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    Left Hand of Darkness is a great read, probably the best sci-fi I have read.