The difference between a creative visionary and a political visionary is smaller than you think.
For every 1984 that shows us the horror of governmental control there's a Mad Max that scares the straights off lawlessness. Speculative writing isn't inherently left-leaning or anarchist, but people who are disenfranchised by the status quo are much more likely to ask "What if...?"
The dreamers. People often dream because the real world isn't as fair or as fantastic as it could be. Maybe it's a lack of equality for women. Maybe it's a lack of meaning at a job. Maybe it's just a lack of giant robots.
More science fiction writers need to think like revolutionaries. That is, they need to be thinking about the future, and not just the futures that other authors have written about. They need to be thinking about the issues that affect them and other people, and ignoring the things that the genre conventionally deals with. What a tank will look like in 50 years doesn't matter. How a parent will take a son coming out of the closet fifty years hence does. Whether light-speed travel will ever be discovered just doesn't fucking matter, but a cure for depression, on the other hand...
Oscar Wilde, in his life and art, inhabited an incredibly lush and original world where male whores were his social equals and so-called depraved acts were the height of sublime passion -- an alternate reality of his own making. A science fiction writer par excellence.
More revolutionaries need to think like science-fiction writers. The best kind of activism is that which appeals to the enlightened and the unenlightened. Imagination is the common tongue, here. Rhetoric should only be used as shorthand for already radicalized people. Projects like Food Not Bombs and Critical Mass prove their points by showing, not telling -- a good rule of thumb when it comes to writing, too, since the audience is left to make their own conclusions.
Part of the difficulty with building a revolutionary movement is that it must be critical and destructive as well as starry-eyed and creative. Not that everyone has to be Shiva-like, creator and destroyer in one, but if we expect the majority of people to help us dismantle the walls of the system then there's got to be an image (or several) of what lies beyond them in the collective unconscious. Something compelling, something believable, something beautiful.
This was the opening salvo for a workshop given for the Active Resistance gathering, August 19, 1998. About 25 people participated and it sparked a Toronto-based group called The Science Friction Action Heroes.
Our monthly actions began with a flyposter campaign in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood -- a series of dystopian visions of post-gentrification life in Kensington Market, 2020 -- and included these online contributions by local writers Nalo Hopkinson, Renee North, Emily Pohl-Weary, Jim Munroe and Dave Wonderbread.
We're looking for people interested in subversive impossibilities, microrobotics, UFO squatting or post-laser theory. You may be a perfect candidate to join this elite corps of radical dreamers. E-mail us with an answer to one of the following skill-testing questions...
In the year 2005, bicycles are outlawed. Why? What do the couriers do?
Discuss the political impact of Starship Troopers. No, I'm not kidding.
A hundred years of the eight-hour work day is enough! Plan a worker revolt, step by step.
Someone visiting from New York calls Toronto a "utopian science fiction story" in contrast to her hometown. Is she crazy?