After the last post on Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, it made sense to me to read through Samuel Delany’s Trouble on Triton in my best of utopian sci-fi experiment. (An experiment that is taking a lot longer than I expected). The Nebula award nominated 1976 novel Trouble on Triton is a very deliberate response to the The Dispossessed—announced on the title page by their warring subtitles: “An Ambiguous Heterotopia” and “An Ambiguous Utopia” respectively.
I am about to embark on a bit of a series of sorts. Or, at least a generically linked set of posts revolving around utopian fiction—I feel this post is more overview than insight because I want to get the ball rolling, but if utopian fiction is supposed to do anything it is supposed to illuminate and challenge the limits of our imagination: So too, speculative fiction. I want to think about ways that utopian fiction inspires us to re-imagine our lives, if only for a moment. Furthermore, no other genre is as adept at mapping the world we live in by trying to imagine a world we would rather live in.
I want to begin with the book that was certainly the beginning for me. Bored by, and moving away from humor sci-fi and fantasy (Harry Harrison…well, certain Harry Harrison…or Piers Anthony for example) I decided I wanted to read something challenging, daring, adult. The sci-fi fantasy section in the used bookstore by my house was so daunting that I rushed passed the beginning (missing Asimov and Bradbury for instance) and blindly stumbling to Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
Most of my early memories involving my father simultaneously involve Flash Gordon. This is probably a bad thing. Flash Gordon seems to have entirely consumed my father’s childhood imagination, and, as any good father will, he made his obsessions mine. Now, my father was a bit of a purist, so there was no watching the television series or the horrendous 1980 film. No, my father was a Buster Crabbe man. As a young acolyte, I too became a Crabbe Man.
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