Ed Driscoll

...AND THE BANTHA IT RODE

…AND THE BANTHA IT RODE IN ON: Orrin Judd has a long excerpt from an essay by Hank Parnell in the Texas Mercury, on The Inadequacy of Science Fiction followed by his own thoughts on the subject. Parnell writes:

science fiction is now little more than a platform for ideological agendas that are half-baked, to be charitable. Leftist scholars such as Bruce Franklin, and later David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer and John Huntington, have long berated Heinlein and the Campbellian school as being “right-wing reactionaries”; but one need only read Gregory Benford’s essay “Reactionary Utopias” to understand how the writings of such left-wing icons as Ursula Le Guin are full of their own brand of intolerance, bigotry, and a desperate avoidance of reality.

Since I don’t have all that much to add to Parnall’s essay or Judd’s comments about it, I’ll add my two credits worth by discussing sci-fi from a different tack: Star Trek and American Liberalism.

I’ve long felt you can track the face of American liberalism by examining Star Trek in its various incarnations (Jonah Goldberg has written about this as well). When Star Trek first went on the air, Gene Roddenberry, and I would assume most of the folks who produced the show were Kennedy or FDR-style liberals who, while they believed in a big, active Federal government also felt that the US was a just, tolerant nation, that Judeo-Christian values and capitalism were good things. Star Trek had episodes that almost stated out loud that Vietnam was a just conflict (“A Private Little War”), that the Constitution was a good thing (“The Omega Glory”), that Abe Lincoln was a good man (“The Savage Curtain”). The Enterprise was forever opening new trade routes, meeting entrepreneurs (“The Trouble With Tribbles”), the youthful but extremely competent Captain Kirk was obviously inspired by JFK and the Federation was an obvious stand-in for the USA.

Somewhere between Star Trek: The Original Series (as it’s now often referred to) and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry went from a JFK/FDR-style liberal to a McGovern liberal. The Federation ceased being a capitalist system to some sort of vague benign communist intergalactic Sweden. Capitalism became evil–bad–really, really bad–hence the Ferengi and the greedy businessman from the twentieth century in the first season episode “The Neutral Zone” whom Picard gives a stern–and very intolerant in his lack of diversity–dressing down to. The Klingons and Romulans went from cold-war Russia and China stand-ins capable of the worst atrocities, to simply “differing forms of government which we must seek to understand”. And of course, near the end of “Deep Space Nine”, environmentalism, the then-current liberal obsession du jour was introduced, as Jonah Goldberg notes:

By the time Gene Roddenberry died, the various spin-offs were becoming hotbeds of gender hand-wringing, environmentalist pot shots (it turns out that warp technology was creating too many interstellar potholes and humans would have to learn to live within reasonable limitations). The last remaining Trek show