Someday I expect someone to accuse me of writing fiction and RPGs that are nothing but propaganda in furtherance of some political ideology. I’ve prepared a response for the day I stand accused, and because I’m not a patient sort of fellow, I’ll go ahead and give my response now:
I do not create fictional world and situations because of my political beliefs. Instead, my political beliefs are mostly based on fiction. If I had to choose a term to describe my political beliefs, it would be “science fiction.”
My parents were both huge sci-fi fans, and I grew up hearing about possible technologies, possible political systems, possible cultures and possible futures. As I got older I gained a critical eye and learned to discern sci-fi that was plausible from sci-fi that was just fantasy with technobabble instead of magic.
Reading and writing sci-fi has been my way of exploring possibilities. It’s been my way of trying to figure out what types of society might work, what new technologies might do to us, and what really nasty futures we should try to avoid.
When I see people making stupid political decisions, I often find myself thinking “haven’t these people read Orwell, or Gibson, or Brin? Don’t these people have any imagination? Are they blind to any way things could be other than the status quo?”
I’d tend to trust the political opinions of sci-fi writers over politicians because politicians have ideas that tend to serve their own interests while sci-fi writers have ideas designed to provoke thought and empathy. George Orwell, a socialist, wrote 1984, perhaps the best cautionary tale of socialism ever. Many sci-fi writers have created glaring criticisms of the political systems they advocate. You won’t see many politicians that are so honest.
The best physicists have used “thought experiments” (basically sci-fi) to help them figure out the nature of the universe. I believe that ethicists and political scientists could benefit from the same methods.
Some of the things I’ve learned form sci-fi:
I’ve learned that no system of government is perfect. Any system of government, if run by the wrong people, can become a nightmare in a matter of decades. So, we should all endeavor to train our children to overthrow the government, because they might have to. And we should try to build tools in to our governments (like free speech) that will make it possible to fix governments once they get fucked up.
I’ve learned what futures I’m most afraid of and will vote to try to avoid: I’m afraid of a future where the environment is fucked beyond our ability to repair it. I’m afraid of a future where the government uses technology to monitor and track everyone so they can wipe out dissent. I’m afraid of a future where huge corporations rule the world, have governments under their thumb, and keep 99% of the population at the poverty-line. I’m afraid of a future where a big-ass asteroid comes and smashes Earth and it turns out we hadn’t bothered to establish any sustainable colonies on other planets.
I’ve learned that many of people’s “ethical or religious objections” to new tech or social trends is really just a fear of the unknown. Spend the length of a novel thinking about what a romantic relationship with a member of an alien species might be like, and suddenly two men getting married seems like nothing to worry about. Pore over the benefits and problems inherent in human-animal hybrids, or mind-copying, and suddenly cloning a sheep seems like harmless fun. These things only scare people who are ignorant about what it might do to their future.
I’m not saying that all technology or social trends are necessarily good, but the attitude of the imagination-deficient is basically “let’s outlaw it and hope it goes away.” I may not agree with a political beliefs of every sci-fi writer, but I don’t think any of them are stupid enough to believe “let’s hope it goes away” will work.
In other words, IGNORANCE OF THE FUTURE IS NOT A DEFENSE.