Oct 12 2011 5:00pm

Power to the People: SFF Stories Dealing With Dissent

Regardless of your position on Occupy Wall Street, there is something compelling about voices of dissent. Several novels of science fiction and fantasy have often dealt with the dissent in the face of injustice and oppression in all sorts of imaginative settings. In the true spirit of democracy, we turned to our Facebook and Twitter people to discover the best SFF novels or stories about dissent.


The Moon is Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

A classic tale of the revolt of the lunar colonies against Earth, modeled after colonial revolts of the past. With all of the politically-themed Heinlein books to choose from, this one is often overlooked in favor of Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein was given many political labels throughout his career, but this novel seems primarily concerned with plain old democracy.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This one you know. Books are being burned, knowledge being eliminated or censored behind noisy consumerism, and somebody has to say no. There’s a reason Michael Moore used a slight anagram of this title for his documentary about 9/11 and the Bush administration. There’s also a reason why people on all sides of the political spectrum can agree this is a great novel. Books are the most important expression of our freedom!


The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

This post cyberpunk gem takes a look at the morally devoid ruling class who keep their control through an economy based on nanotechnology. With a variety of characters exhibiting a great deal of moral ambiguity, this novel is considered one of Stephenson’s best works.


V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

In this oppressive future, a guy takes to adopting the visage of infamous revolutionary Guy Fawkes and proceeds to perpetrate a series of terrorist attacks against a fascist British government. Anarchic groups like Anonymous have taken to donning this now iconic mask when they appear in public, including in the current Occupy Wall Street protests.


State of Disobedience by Tom Kratmann

From the cover copy: “In the long war against terrorism, the U.S. government has taken on extraordinary powers. And now that the war has been won, powerful forces in the government have no intention of relinquishing their control.”

This near future novel echoes some of the sentiment that both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street espouse. Dissent, in the case of this book, begins with a governor from Texas....


The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

A large portion of the conflicts the Martain colonists face in this beloved trilogy comes from oppression from Earth-based corporations. Sounds very similiar to the tension that lead to the American Revolutionary War.


“‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison

We’ve talked about this one recently. In this society, one’s very time is controlled by a centralized force. A one-man protest in the form of Harlequin uses a weapon of whimsy, jellybeans, to force people to stop and lose control of their time. (How long until jellybeans show up at Occupy Wall Street?)


Little Brother and For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow knows that whatever form revolution takes in the future, society’s current technological symbiosis will be completely linked to said revolution. If you want some thoughtful, and procovative stories about the future of dissent and our rights in the technological age, Doctorow is the guy.

What about all you revolutionary rockets? We purposefully kept this list somewhat light, as we’re far more interested in hearing about your favorite dissent-themed SFF novels. What do they mean to you?

Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of

Madeline Ashby
1. MadelineAshby
Absurdly, I forgot to include The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin in my tweet. It's not so much about a dissenting response to an authoritarian regime as it is about speaking truth to power -- even when that power is fundamentally egalitarian and just. Dissent is dissent, even when you respect the people whose sentiments you disagree with, and sometimes that makes dissenting even harder.
joliet jake blues
2. joliet jake blues
Emphyrio by Jack Vance. To Live Forever is also Vance looking at reforging an entire society.
joliet jake blues
3. Kazimak Tempest
What about Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, or is that not science fiction?
joliet jake blues
4. Dietes
A Million Open Doors by John Barnes
Santiago by Mike Resnick
Moving Mars by Greg Bear
The Golden Age by John C. Wright
The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe
joliet jake blues
6. r reynolds
OK this not accademic for me. I brought several books to Occupy Boston the other day. I think that SF is a very under appriciated resorce,and can be used for education. What do we want our society to look like,how can we get there and what are the pitfalls.
Yes I brought The Moon is a Harsh mistress. I also brought Lord of Light.
Ken Mcleod has several books that have some bearing on the subject. I particularly want to get some of Richard Morgan's books.

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