In This Review

Political Science Fiction
Political Science Fiction
Edited by Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox
University of South Carolina Press, 1997, 256 pp

Dismissing a given scenario with the epithet, "That's political science fiction," was much easier a decade ago, before the Soviet Union voluntarily fragmented and a nuclear-armed Kazakstan emerged as a successor state. Science fiction at times serves as a mirror of contemporary politics, as in the case of Star Trek's "Federation," which (as the concluding chapter notes) was a parable about American democratic values and foreign policy. In other circumstances science fiction is a better means for envisioning political futures than conventional scenario strategizing. Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers has become for many in the U.S. military a concrete vision of future war, and for understandable reasons set off a furor with its assertion that only soldiers should have the right to vote. The dystopias of the cyberpunk fiction of the past decade have shifted from Big Brother and regimented authority to social breakdown and cultural fragmentation. The disappointing essay on this subject fails to treat the genre's libertarian politics seriously and completely ignores its most important new writer, Neal Stephenson. The latter has gone much further than fellow cyberpunkers William Gibson or Bruce Sterling in dealing with the moral breakdown of future societies, and in Snow Crash presents an amusing vision of the post-nation-state world.