A couple of weeks ago, Julia mentioned a great bit of history about utopia—the opposite of dystopia. That got me thinking about fictional examples where an author has created an ideal world. They are harder to come by than dystopias. And often what you think is a utopia, turns out to be not so much. For instance, Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES series starts out sounding utopian (well, sort of) but quickly turns out not to be. Ditto with Lois Lowry's THE GIVER. They're both false utopias. So, what about a genuine utopia in recent science fiction?
One of the best examples I can think of—at least that I’ve read in the past few years—is the alternate Earth in Robert Sawyer’s HOMINIDS series. (Sawyer, BTW, also wrote FLASH FORWARD, the novel the TV show is based on.) In the first book, present day scientists on our Earth stumble across a dimensional rift created by scientists of the parallel Earth. That Earth has no wars, no famines, no climate crisis. Age is revered, and religion is non-existent. Men and women are equal in all respects. And each adult has two partners—one male, one female. In this parallel universe, Neanderthals inherited the Earth. They became the predominant primate species on the planet.
Since there is not much dramatic tension in a perfect world, Sawyer plays our world against the utopian society of the Neanderthals. It does have its faults, and our world has its virtues, but the story comes from this juxtaposition. (Otherwise, a story set solely in utopia might be a little boring.) One of the Neanderthal scientists comes to our world—and falls in love. And what he brings back to his world from ours upsets the balance of his society.
What about other utopian fiction, though? Feminist utopias—like Joanna Russ’ FEMALE MAN and Marge Piercy’s WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME—were popular in the 1970’s, but the science fiction genre as a whole hasn’t really favored utopian visions since then—with a few exceptions. Can you guys think of any recent utopian science fiction, particularly in the young adult / middle grade market?
If there aren't any, why not? Is it more than lack of dramatic tension? Do we just not believe in the possibilities of Utopia anymore (if we ever did)? Do we think all so-called perfect worlds are highly suspect? Discuss.
BTW, Robert Sawyer has written a YA series (WAKE, WATCH, and WONDER), although I don't think they're being marketed as such. I must confess, though, I haven't read them. Have any of you? Would you consider them utopian?