June 12, 2017
Kevin Bankston wrote for Future Tense about how we can use science fiction to envision a positive future.
Consuming dystopian science fiction has quickly become a popular coping mechanism for Americans trying to adapt to (or resist) the sometimes-dark reality of 2017. Immediately after the Trump inauguration and the White House’s embrace of “alternative facts,” George Orwell’s 1984 shot to the very top of Amazon’s best-seller list. Other dystopian classics—like Aldous Huxley’s 1932 portrait of a more comfortable but no less frightening future authoritarian regime, Brave New World, and Sinclair Lewis’ alternate history of a fascist America, 1935’s It Can’t Happen Here—also quickly hit the top 20...
The fact that so many people are turning toward these dire visions of the future may seem like cause for worry, but it is also a sign of hope. Great dystopian works like The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, in the words of one defender of dystopian fiction, can serve as self-defeating prophecies helping us to recognize and prevent the dark worlds they depict. Put another way, The Handmaid’s Tale actually is an instruction manual, meant to teach us what we must fight to avoid. But hope can’t live on dystopia alone. It requires positive visions, too.