Science Fiction Studies

# 66 = Volume 22, Part 2 = July 1995




Peter Fitting

Impulse or Genre or Neither?

M. Keith Booker.The Dystopian Impulse in Modern Literature: Fiction as Social Criticism. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 58. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1994. vii+197. $49.95.

M. Keith Booker. Dystopian Literature: A Theory and Research Guide. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1994. xiii+408. $75.00.

These two books are facets of an interesting and ambitious project with major problems and shortcomings. At first glance, they seem to develop different but overlapping aspects of the same concern: the one to study the dystopian "impulse" and the other to serve as a reference book and research guide. In the Introduction to Dystopian Literature the author argues that

dystopian literature is not so much a specific genre as a particular kind of oppositional and critical energy or spirit. Indeed, any number of literary works (especially modern ones) can be seen to contain dystopian energies, and readings that emphasize these energies can reveal dystopian impulses in works that might not otherwise be considered clear examples of dystopian literature. Virtually any literary work that contains an element of social of political criticism offers the possibility of such readings. (3)

But in The Dystopian Impulse, he has described his purpose as "a detailed and reasonably comprehensive study of dystopian fiction, organized by certain specific key ideas and perceptions about the genre" (18). So the book titled The Dystopian Impulse is about the genre of dystopian fiction, while the book titled Dystopian Literature is "not so much about a specific genre as a particular kind of oppositional and critical energy or spirit."

Krishan Kumar, in the opening paragraph of his very comprehensive Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times (1987), writes,

This is a book about books. Worse, it is mostly about some very well-known books, such as Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. What can be the justification of yet another treatment of these works--and at such length? (vii).

Booker begins with the justification that "there have been no book-length studies devoted exclusively to dystopian fiction since Hillegas's book [The Future as Nightmare, 1967]." This seems to be a rather disingenuous attempt to stake out new territory--"dystopian literature"--by rewriting, downgrading, and often simply ignoring previous utopian scholarship. If Booker had taken the trouble to look at the most extensive contemporary bibliography of utopian literature, Lyman Tower Sargent's British and American Utopian Literature: 1516-1985 (1988), he would have found that there the term "utopian" is taken to include anti-utopia, dystopia, utopian satire, and so on, as well as the eu-topian or positive utopia. With respect to Booker's claim that there is a distinctive form of dystopian fiction (separate from the utopian), it should be mentioned that studies of the utopian genre have usually linked the two, as can be seen from the title of Kumar's Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times. Other books come to mind which challenge Booker's claim, including Harold Berger's study of the "anti-utopias of modern science fiction," Science Fiction and the New Dark Age, published in 1976. That there have been few studies devoted exclusively to dystopian literature since Hillegas's 1967 book is not surprising inasmuch as the publication of that book was soon followed by a revival of utopian themes in science fiction, which renders moot the issue of the dystopian in recent years. Moreover, Booker's own study reviews yet again (and with much less insight and attention to scholarship) many of the 20th-century dystopian classics studied by Kumar and many others before him. In fact, two-thirds of The Dystopian Impulse deals with works written before 1967, while 65 of the book's 197 pages are devoted to the three anti-utopias of Zamyatin, Huxley, and Orwell. Furthermore, Booker's definition of the dystopian is so broad as to include a number of works usually classed as utopias (e.g. Walden Two, Triton).

1. Let me turn now to his two overlapping uses of the term "dystopian," beginning with his description of the dystopian as an "energy or spirit." The thesis of a "modern turn to dystopia" sounds at first like the familiar characterization of the 20th century as pessimistic put forth in numerous books and essays in the period 1950-1975.1 Booker adds a new twist to this argument with the sub-title to DI, "Fiction as Social Criticism":

In the same way, literary works that critically examine both existing conditions and the potential abuses that might result from the institution of supposedly utopian alternatives can be seen as the epitome of literature in its role as social criticism. For the purposes of the current volume, it is precisely such literature that is encompassed by the term "dystopian." Briefly, dystopian literature is specifically that literature which situates itself in direct opposition to utopian thought, warning against the potential negative consequences of arrant utopianism. At the same time, dystopian literature generally also constitutes a critique of existing social conditions or political systems, either through the critical examination of the utopian premise upon which those conditions and systems are based or through the imaginative extension of those conditions and systems into different contexts that more clearly reveal their flaws and contradictions. (DL 3)

I have a number of problems with this description, beginning with the initial "both...and." The critical examination of "existing conditions" is clearly not the same thing as the critical examination of "the potential abuses that might result from the institution of supposedly utopian alternatives." I would be tempted to call the first category "social criticism" and the second "anti-Utopia," and I would seriously question whether the majority of the almost one hundred dystopian works listed in the DL Research Guide do both.

Another way of explaining my reservations about his use of "dystopian impulse" is to compare it to the notion of the "utopian impulse." Booker quotes the following passage from Fredric Jameson's The Political Unconscious:

all class consciousness--or in other words, all ideology in the strongest sense, including the most exclusive forms of ruling-class consciousness just as much as that of oppositional or oppressed classes--is in its very nature Utopian. (DL 34)

This passage is from Jameson's concluding chapter, "The Dialectic of Ideology and Utopia," which continues:

any Marxist analysis of culture...can no longer be content with its demystifying vocation to unmask and to demonstrate the ways in which a cultural artifact fulfills a specific ideological mission...but must also project its simultaneously Utopian power as the symbolic affirmation of a specific historical and class form of collective unity. (291)

While I agree that many literary works contain elements of "social or political criticism," I am not convinced that Booker's "dystopian impulse" has the same status or condition as Jameson's "utopian," for Jameson's utopian is shown to be at work in all cultural artifacts, in a constant struggle or dialectic with the ideological, with examples of the utopian drawn from works which are explicitly not utopias (e.g., Jaws and the Godfather films ["Reification and Utopia"]). Although Booker states that the dystopian impulse manifests itself in "virtually any literary work that contains an element of social or political criticism" (DL 3), many of his examples are drawn from the familiar ranks of the utopia and the anti-utopia. If the dystopian were truly an energy or spirit common to much of the literature of the 20th century, one would expect to be shown this impulse at work in texts other than the same familiar dystopias and anti-utopias.

Let us now turn from the dystopian as an impulse to Booker's other possibility, the dystopian as a literary genre, a claim which raises a different set of problems. In a footnote the author explains his decision to use the term dystopia:

Various terms have been employed to indicate the range of skeptical treatments of utopianism depicted in modern fiction and film. Designations like "dystopia," "negative utopia," "anti-utopia," "heterotopia," and "cacatopia" have variously been used to describe this phenomenon, though the terms have not always been employed interchangeably. However, rather than quibble over terminology, in this study I use the term "dystopia" throughout to subsume all of the others with the understanding that I consider "dystopia" as a general term encompassing any imaginative view of a society this is oriented toward highlighting in a critical way negative or problematic features of that society's vision of the ideal. (DL 22 n5)

Key terms which could be added to the above list include "utopian satire" and "cautionary tale" (he uses the second but not the first), and they point to one of the difficulties that he has created for himself. The term "anti-utopia" is often used to designate "skeptical treatments" of the utopian project itself, as illustrated by the first three chapters of his book which deal with the well-known trio of masterpieces of the anti-utopian genre: We, Brave New World, and Nineteen Eighty-four. Dystopian works, along with cautionary tales, usually depict bleak visions of the future, as in some of the five texts studied in his sixth chapter "Skepticism Squared: Western Postmodernist Dystopias": Woody Allen's film Sleeper, Samuel Delany's Triton, Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, William Gibson's "cyberpunk" science fiction, and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.2 There are other problems here, most notably the classification of Delany's Triton as a dystopia, for despite the author's own designation of the work as a "heterotopia," it is usually considered one of the key works of the utopian revival of the 1970s. Although these works might all be said to contain dystopian elements, perhaps only the Atwood should be seen as an example of the "if this goes on" or dystopian cautionary tale.

The problem with venturing into what Darko Suvin has called the "genological jungle," the shifting ground of definitions, is that the attempt to define utopia, or science fiction for that matter, often becomes a full-fledged task in itself which drains away time and energy from the central argument, in this case the predominance of pessimistic visions of the future in the 20th century. For this reason I am sympathetic to the author's wish for a single term under which to group a number of different works from different countries and literary traditions which share this common suspicion or fear of the future. But it seems to me that such an inclusive term already exists, namely "utopia," for as mentioned above, it is usually used as a generic term to include not only positive eu-topian works but also the negative utopias Booker is discussing.

Moreover, the utopian evocation of a better society always includes such a critical dimension, whether implicit or explicit, as can be seen in the two sections of More's Utopia. Interestingly enough, Booker himself seems aware of this positive/negative structure of the utopia:

Literalizing the dual emphasis of almost all utopian fiction, More's book includes two parts, the first of which describes the social ills of early-sixteenth-century Europe...and the second of which outlines an alternative society in which the problems of Part One have been solved. Indeed, the book's satirical and critical effect derived largely from the contrast between these two societies, which in essence casts More's England as a sort of dystopia. (DL 53-54.)

Given this "dual emphasis," why do we need a new category, particularly since, as Suvin argues, the converse also obtains: "The explicit utopian construction is the logical obverse of any utopian satire. Utopia explicates what satire implicates, and vice versa" (54). In DI Booker acknowledges this "dual emphasis" even more clearly when he writes that "dystopian critiques of existing systems would be pointless unless a better system appeared conceivable. One might, in fact, see dystopian and utopian visions not as fundamentally opposed but as very much part of the same project" (15). In fact, this is the fundamental organizing premise of the political projects of some of the "social and cultural critics" reviewed in the first part of DL, including Marx, for whom social criticism was directly linked to a program of social transformation and the vision of a better society. On the other hand, such a description seems diametrically opposed to the anti-utopia, which is usually characterized by the absence of any glimpse of a "better system"; and there is little indication in Booker's discussion of Brave New World, for instance, that he believes such utopian designs a part of that work. (Huxley is, of course, an interesting case since he did go on to write utopia, although this is not discussed by Booker.) Continuing this line of thought, I would point out that many of the dystopias listed in DL are by no stretch of the imagination "in direct opposition to utopian thought" (his definition of the dystopian cited above).

My second reason for saying that the category of the utopian includes what Booker calls the dystopian stems from the fact that DL includes in its listings of dystopian fiction the four central utopian texts from the 1970s which Tom Moylan and others have used in their exposition of the idea of the "critical utopia": Delany's Triton, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time, and Joanna Russ's Female Man. While Booker's discussion of Triton is useful in its attempt to show how it "surmount[s] the polar opposition between [utopia and dystopia]" (DI 145), the failure to engage the concept of the critical utopia and the dismissal of the utopian revival of the 1970s as simply another facet of the dystopia seriously weakens his argument. There is potentially an interesting argument to be made here about the relationship between the critical utopia and dystopian visions, but it remains unexamined in Booker's study.3

Of course, other critics might argue that Booker's "dystopian literature" should simply be labeled "science fiction," particularly in terms of the subtitle to DI--"Fiction as Social Criticism." After writing that "the principal technique of dystopian fiction is defamiliarization: by focusing their critiques of society on spatially or temporally distant settings," Booker acknowledges Suvin's definition of science fiction as "cognitive estrangement" and admits that there is "a great deal of overlap" between the two genres, while maintaining that there is nonetheless an important distinction: "in general, dystopian fiction differs from science fiction in the specificity of its attention to social and political critique" (DI 19). While I have sometimes been critical of the high standards Suvin set for sf, it is worthwhile to mention them here since they are so similar to Booker's claims for the new genre:

Significant modern SF, with deeper and more lasting sources of enjoyment, also presupposes more complex and wider cognitions: it discusses primarily the political, psychological, and anthropological use and effect of knowledge, of philosophy of science, and the becoming or failure of new realities as a result of it. (15)

Again in a later chapter, "Defining the Literary Genre of Utopia," Suvin writes: "Strictly and precisely speaking, utopia is not a genre but the sociopolitical subgenre of science fiction" (61).

2. Scope. In a 22-page Introduction, Booker explains that it was the Enlightenment which gave birth to modern versions of utopianism and then turns to a review of 20th century critiques of this tradition, from Nietzsche and Freud through the "culture critique" of Adorno and Horkheimer to Foucault. Consequently, in "the imagination of the modern is much easier to visualize nightmares than dreams of the future...." He continues with what I would take as a definition of the anti-utopia: "Indeed, numerous works of modern literature have been suspicious not only of the possibility of utopia, but of its very desirability" (DI 16). But the literary text which he then cites to illustrate this point is a recent Japanese novel, a shift which suddenly poses the question of the geographical bounds of the dystopian genre, a question which is further complicated by the next example, Salman Rushdie's Grimus. The problem of geographical limits is even more acute in DL, for it includes brief discussions of more than 65 dystopian fictions, as well as 13 films and 14 plays written or directed by artists (in addition to some familiar English-language names) from Czechoslovakia (3), France (4), Germany (3), Hungary, Japan (2), Poland, Russia (11), Somalia, and Yugoslavia. Put this way, there is not a problem but several with the scope of the dystopian. Firstly, only works that have been translated into English are eligible--in contrast to other comparative studies of utopia whose primary and secondary sources are not restricted to works available in English (like those of Kumar, the Manuels, Morson, Suvin, and so on). Booker's reliance on translation puts into question both the validity of his arguments and the usefulness of the research guide.4 Or does he mean to imply that every significant dystopian work, not to mention every significant work of criticism dealing with the topic, is available in English? This deficiency is especially glaring in the Research Guide in which the primary and secondary bibliographies list only a single work not in English--a Serbo-Croatian translation of a Slovenian novel, Dusan Jovanovic's Vojna Tajna.

A second problem with the range of texts lies in the absence of any reference to the debate about whether utopian literature (and by extension utopianism) is specific to the Western tradition.5 If the dystopian is "a critical energy or spirit," one characterized by futuristic visions which express reservations about the direction of society, one could perhaps argue that one was describing an (artistic) stance found in disparate societies which were reacting, in one way or another, to the pace and negative impact of modernization. This is not explained, however, and despite the apparently universal dimensions of the phenomenon, Booker's theoretical references are strictly European. In the introduction to DI Booker discusses Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, as well as Adorno and Horkheimer, Baudrillard and Foucault, to explain the dystopian impulse and "to relate the literary history of dystopian fiction more closely to the social and political history of the modern world" (20). Despite this concern for "relating" fiction and history, non-European history is explained in terms of European references. Nor am I sure that any of the critics he includes in his "Guide to Selected Modern Cultural Criticism with relevance to Dystopian Literature" would have wanted to be considered as making statements relevant to all of the countries and cultures represented in his lists of dystopian fictions, films, and dramas.

In these terms, the references to the dystopian as a "critical energy or spirit," makes one think as well of utopian social theory, whose roots, as Sargent writes, "can be found in the idea of progress and the constant but generally unsystematic stream of thought that can be called anti-utopianism" (21). In the 20th Century, as Sargent points out, the anti-utopian position has been developed through the "equation of utopia and totalitarianism," something which sounds very much like Booker's thesis, except that Booker has neglected to mention the central text in this argument--Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945).

An important theoretical and methodological point in his argument follows from his assertion "that the treatment of imaginary societies in the best dystopian fiction is always highly relevant more or less directly to specific 'realworld' societies and issues" (DI 19), which leads to the following statement:

To bring more sharply into focus the close connection between dystopian fiction and contemporary political reality, I have organized this study principally according to social and political, rather than literary criteria. In particular, I work on the assumption that the modern turn to dystopian fiction is largely attributable to perceived inadequacies in existing social and political systems. (DI 19-20)

First of all, this is a contestable assumption. While these "perceived inadequacies" may certainly be seen as the major impetus for the three great pre-Second World War anti-utopias Booker discusses, and of many of the Russian works he cites, such "perceived inadequacies" are not the explanation for much dystopian SF, which more often reflects fear of the bomb.

Another difficulty here lies in the ahistoricism of this allegedly historical explanation. From the perspective of utopian scholarship, the past 100 years is often seen as a dialectical exchange between utopia and dystopia, with two peaks of utopian production (in English-language utopias), in the late 1880s and 1890s and again in the 1970s.6 Specifically in terms of the utopian revival of the 1970s, Booker tries to anticipate and disarm this objection by calling it a "localized" phenomenon:

While there have been specific cases of localized resurgences in utopia literature (especially among feminist writers and other leftist writers inspired by the political activism of the 1960s), twentieth-century literature has generally envisioned utopia as either impossible or undesirable.

Rather than attempt to defend this assertion (which contradicts the conclusions of numerous articles published in SFS over the years), he continues by mentioning some of the most "dystopian" events of the century:

Powered by the horrors of two world wars, the grisly excesses of totalitarian regimes in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and the spectre of global nuclear holocaust, "negative" texts like We, Brave New World, and Nineteen Eighty-four have been far more prominent in modern literature than the positive utopias of earlier centuries. (DI 17)

These three texts were all written primarily as responses to the utopian experiment of the new Soviet state, and written moreover well before the 1970s; while, on the other hand, none of the English-language examples that follow (Walden Two, It Can't Happen Here, and Player Piano in Chapter 4, "The Bourgeois Dystopia after World War II," and Sleeper, Triton, the work of William Gibson, Vineland, and The Handmaid's Tale in Chapter 6, "Skepticism Squared: Western Postmodernist Dystopias") really could be considered "negative texts" in the same vein as We, Brave New World, or Nineteen Eighty-four.7 Walden Two is a utopia, while Triton is, as I have mentioned, one of the central texts in Moylan's exposition of the "critical utopia," and a frequent reference point in contemporary discussion of utopia.

3. Readings. Having spent so much time describing the larger questions raised by Booker's claims for and presentation of "dystopian literature," it seems pointless to turn to a review of his specific readings of individual texts. With respect to the better known works, neither DI nor DL has much to offer in the way of new readings, particularly since the space devoted to each text is limited to three or four pages. The interest or value of these two works lies, particularly for DL, in the descriptions of lesser known works and in their juxtaposition with some of the classics of the utopian genre.

Booker's misapplication of the term "dystopian" to a classic utopia, B.F. Skinner's Walden Two, deliberately or inadvertently attempts to undo a generation of scholarly attempts to explain and refine notions of literary genre. I am tempted to state that Booker's basic approach to the utopian (or dystopian) genre simply ignores text, authorial intentions, and historical context: if he doesn't like the society outlined in a novel, it is a dystopia. For the record, let me repeat Darko Suvin's definition of utopia:

the verbal construction of a particular quasi-human community where sociopolitical institutions, norms, and individual relationships are organized according to a more perfect principle than in the author's community, this construction being based on estrangement arising out of an alternative historical hypothesis. (49)

Booker begins innocently enough.

Walden Two, clearly intended by its author as a serious exploration of the possibility of a utopian society, nicely demonstrates the fine line between utopia and dystopia in the way that its ideal society strike so many reader as dystopian. (DL 246-247.)

Here is the basic confusion I have already referred to. He begins by admitting that the work was intended as a utopia, and then argues that it "demonstrates the fine line between utopia and dystopia" because "its ideal society strike so many readers as dystopian." I think that it is important not to confuse the literary form or genre (dystopia or dystopian literature) and the dystopian "energy or spirit." Instead, Booker mixes together without distinction those works which reveal the "dystopian impulse" and works which follow the dystopian ("if this goes on") and/or the anti-utopian form, as well as utopias with dystopian elements. For there to be any validity in the notion of a "dystopian impulse," it must be clearly distinguishable from the dystopian novel.

Another criticism of Booker's reading of Skinner's classic lies in his almost total overlooking of the debates which followed that book's publication, most prominently by Joseph Wood Krutch in The Measure of Man: see for instance George Kateb, Utopia and Its Enemies (1963) and Kumar. For many readers Walden Two is indeed the representation of a thoroughly inhuman society, but this does not make it any less a utopia, only one we do not like.8

4. Scholarship. This ignorance of or failure to mention important discussions of Walden Two is unfortunately characteristic of the entire book, which also fails to make any any reference to the critical and bibliographical work of Lyman Sargent. Dystopian Literature is not a book to be relied on as a Research Guide. There are a number of other surprising omissions.

Fredric Jameson, to whose theoretical work Booker refers on a number of occasions, has written a number of suggestive essays on science fiction and utopia that are not mentioned in either DI or DL. Two of these are especially relevant in that they deal with literary works discussed by Booker. "Of Islands and Trenches: Neutralization and the Production of Utopian Discourse," is a long review of Louis Marin's Utopiques (with its celebrated chapter on Disneyland as a "degenerate utopia," another reference overlooked by Booker) that includes an analysis of Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed. "Progress versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?" includes a discussion of the Strugatskis' Roadside Picnic, a text which Booker discusses as a dystopia but which Jameson calls "one of the most glorious of all contemporary Utopias" (157).

Booker also seems unaware that Theodor Adorno, one of the eight cultural critics included in the first section of the Research Guide, wrote a lengthy essay on Huxley's Brave New World.

Booker's coverage of recent Russian works seems useful and interesting, particularly since many readers may not be familiar with this material. His discussion would have benefited from a description of the utopian tradition in that country and how those works intersect with various dystopian texts, from Bogdanov (the author of the "First Bolshevik Utopia" in 1908) to Efremov's 1958 Andromeda or the long-delayed appearance of Platonov's Chevengur. In addition to Darko Suvin's discussion of this tradition in Metamorphoses, there are several works in English dealing with the utopian and dystopian aspects of Russian science fiction which Booker does not mention, including John Glad's Extrapolations from Dystopia: A Critical Study of Soviet Science Fiction (1982), Patrick McGuire's Red Stars: Political Aspects of Soviet Science Fiction (1985), and McGuire's essay on Russian SF (which includes an annotated bibliography) in the most recent edition of Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction (Neil Barron, ed., 1987).

In conclusion, then, a quick search through back issues of Foundation or Extrapolation, not to mention SFS, would quickly yield many other articles which Booker overlooks. And, quick, who is the most important "dystopian" SF writer of the post-war period? Would you be surprised to learn that John Brunner is missing from Booker's Research Guide?


1. The Manuels, for instance, entitle the last section of their Utopian Thought in the Western World (1979), which deals with the period 1880 to the present, "The Twilight of Utopia." Booker seems unaware as well of the political dimensions of anti-utopianism in the United States in the 1950s, culminating in Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology (1960), whose third section dealt with the "failure" of socialism and was entitled "The Exhaustion of Utopia."

2. For discussions of this distinction between "dystopia" and "anti-utopia," see John Huntington, "Utopian and Anti-Utopian Logic: H.G. Wells and His Successors" (SFS 9:122-46, #27, July 1982), 124, and Sargent, 8-9.

3. Although Booker cites Moylan's discussion in Demand the Impossible (NY: Methuen, 1986) of Triton (DI 144-45), he does not address the central thesis of Moylan's influential study. Here is Moylan's definition of the "critical Utopia":

Thus, utopian writing in the 1970s was saved by its own destruction and transformation into the "critical utopia." ... A central concern in the critical utopia is the awareness of the limitations of the utopian tradition, so that these texts reject utopia as a blueprint while preserving it as dream. Furthermore, the novels dwell on the conflict between the originary work and the utopian society opposed to it so that the process of social change is more directly articulated. Finally, the novels focus on the continuing presence of difference and imperfection within utopia society itself and thus render more recognizable and dynamic alternatives. (10-11).

4. For an excellent example of what a research guide/annotated bibliography can be, one which deals with many of the same works, see Paul Brians's Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984 (Kent State UP, 1987).

5. Kumar's comment that "The modern utopia--the modern western utopia invented in the Europe of the Renaissance--is the only utopia" (3) might be seen as one position, to which we could juxtapose Sargent's recent review of the issue of "non-western utopianism" ("Three Faces," 19-21).

6. For a breakdown of this pattern of ebb and flow, see the Sargent bibliography, or Carol Kessler's Introduction to her Daring to Dream (Boston: Pandora, 1984).

7. In defining dystopian fiction, Booker does not look at the question of its structure or form. While utopian fiction is often described (or accused) of lacking a plot (except perhaps for the guided tour), the anti-utopian is almost always follows a rebellion or revolt. A possible distinction between dystopia and anti-utopia might lie in seeing the former in terms of setting and the latter in terms of plot. John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981) for instance, is not an escape from dystopia, for the dystopian society extends beyond New York; while similar escapes in Forster's "The Machine Stops" (1909) or the film Logan's Run (1976) are indeed rejections of attempted utopian societies.

8. For a discussion of the importance of understanding that the literary classification of a work as a utopia does not depend on whether the reader likes the imaginary society, but on certain formal and generic characteristics, see my "Utopia Beyond Our Ideals: The Dilemma of the Right-Wing Utopia." Utopian Studies, 2:95-109, 1991.


Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1981.

_____."Progress versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?" SFS 9:147-59, #27, July 1982.

_____. "Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture." Social Text 1:130-48, Winter 1979.

Kumar, Krishan. Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times. London: Blackwell, 1987.

Moylan, Tom. Demand the Impossible. NY: Methuen, 1986.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. "The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited." Utopian Studies 5.1:1-37, 1994.

Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.

  moonbut.gif (4466 bytes) Back to Home