Utopia

Utopia
By Thomas More

I think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein deserves its status as the first science fiction novel. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of precursors.

The utopian theme is a big one in SF, with its journey to another world or society that turns into a commentary on our own. Indeed, this is something fundamental to the vision of most speculative/futuristic works. When writing about the future (or the past, in a historical novel), we’re always writing about today, projecting our present concerns and anxieties.

And so Thomas More’s fanciful tale of an island republic is an essay on the “state of England,” the only question being how ironically it’s meant to be read. I think the gold chamber pots and communal dining halls are just window dressing on a passionate critique of the moral and political failures of the English ruling class. A critique that resonates just as much today as it did five hundred years ago.

2 thoughts on “Utopia

  1. I’d be really hardpressed to defend this as SF. I haven’t read it, mind you, but it has always struck me more like Gulliver’s Travels in regards to its “message” than say, some of Verne’s early SF writings.

    That being said, what about this makes you think of SF when you read it?

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    1. It’s often included as a forerunner to some of the concerns of today’s SF. Of course, in pre-modern times there was no “science” as we understand that word today. But even in classical literature there were flights to the moon on the backs of mythical beasts and that sort of thing. I don’t think Utopia is real SF (like I say, I think the genre begins with Frankenstein), but the Utopian theme of a journey to a different world that’s meant to provide a commentary on our own way of doing things is why I would include it in the discussion.

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