Speculative fiction – an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, horror and other non-realist forms – has always been peculiarly suited to political radicalism since the form investigates a world that is ‘other’ to our own, a world which is in some way changed or altered. It is a thought experiment: by developing this sense of estrangement, science fiction asks us to think back upon our own society.1 Crudely put, the departure from our empirical reality attracts those who would change that reality.
Leftists have always found the utopian mode of science fiction particularly useful for investigating and advocating other modes of social relations, while the strongest trend within feminist fiction is surely found within the genre.2 The radicalism associated with science fiction extends to criticism – within the academy, Frederic Jameson is probably the most famous enthusiast.3
Two writers at the forefront of radical speculative fiction are Kim Stanley Robinson and China Miéville. They spoke recently to Overland.