Can sci-fi ever not be political?

When is a giant lizard not a giant lizard? When it’s a metaphor for the might of the military-industrial complex. Audiences turning up for the latest cinematic incarnation of Godzilla have expressed some disappointment that much of the battling kaiju action was kept off screen. In its place director Gareth Edwards makes the smart decision to tinker with the kaleidoscopic political meanings that surround the giant lizard.

What Edwards chooses to place front and centre are the twin legacies the second world war foisted on modern society – nuclear weapons and the United States military in all its glory. By the end of the movie we’re left in no doubt that, whatever risks they pose, we need the monstrous forces mankind can control to defend us from the monstrous forces – be they real or imagined – we cannot. Audiences want sci-fi to entertain us, but even blockbuster movies come loaded with political messages.

In recent months the community of science fiction readers and writers has been embroiled in an escalating war of words over the genre’s political soul, catalysed by the nominations for this year’s Hugo awards. Allegations of bloc-voting arose as a slate of little-known writers appeared among the nominees, after a concerted campaign by a small group of writers to get the books on the ballot.

Read more @ Guardian books.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

2 thoughts on “Can sci-fi ever not be political?

  1. John Wright to the little arserimmer Walter:

    I end with a personal appeal to Mr. Walter:

    Dear sir, I reject your kindly-meant advice with the wholehearted yet instinctive contempt a clean-minded bridegroom uses when throwing aside a disease-rattled whore who has lept from the garbage pit to embrace him.

    My reason is this: It is not that I think Vox Day good, Mr. Walter. I do not know much of anything about him. I think you are evil. I know enough about you to know that, you smarmy, unctuous, long-haired, dough-faced, damp-fingered, weak-minded, small-souled, craven, race-baiting, unutterable failure of a human being.

    The more you talk, the stronger your opposition grows, as the science fiction readership slowly comes to understand that you and yours hold them in contempt. You regard them as lesser beings. You talk as if they are the merely passive recipients of the political opinions you and yours want to program into their unwinking and dull eyes. You speak as if they are bags of meat, whose only dignity is in their most shallow surface features, namely, their skin color.

    That is your picture of the men and women I revere as my patrons and patronesses.

    You think you are better than them. Your reason for thinking yourself better is that you abandoned the intellectual clarity and moral discipline, what you call ‘reaction’, which they embrace. You think you are better than them not despite but because you are worse; objectively and obviously worse; worse as a thinker, worse as a man.

    Ultimately people judge a man by how often his mouth is full of manure, I fear you will deeply regret your public display of coprophagy in the future.



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