• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

Best of all Possible Worlds: Utopian AH

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
There is, of course, the very interesting case of what can be termed 'minor utopianism'- the sort of situation where things are objectively better but on a sufficiently small scale that it's an interesting question about whether it is a utopia or just a slightly better world, and whether the latter is implicitly a utopia of sorts. I'd say works where the Nazis take power but either exile the Jews or are defeated earlier count here- the world isn't necessarily a better one in many ways, but you can't really argue it's not a utopia of sorts for the millions in this world who live rather than die.
 

BClick

couboi suet
Location
Little Beirut
Pronouns
He/him
Discuss this new article by @BClick here
Thanks as always for the edits and pictures, Gary.

There is, of course, the very interesting case of what can be termed 'minor utopianism'- the sort of situation where things are objectively better but on a sufficiently small scale that it's an interesting question about whether it is a utopia or just a slightly better world, and whether the latter is implicitly a utopia of sorts. I'd say works where the Nazis take power but either exile the Jews or are defeated earlier count here- the world isn't necessarily a better one in many ways, but you can't really argue it's not a utopia of sorts for the millions in this world who live rather than die.
With the interesting twist that in-universe, nobody knows how much worse it would have been.
 

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
Little trivia note. Brian's first Article was 15 months ago, this is his second. Given we've only been doing regular articles for 19 months, this is basically a big comeback, where we bring the old sports star out of retirement.

So everyone patiently waiting all that time for another Brian article (and who wasn't), this is for you.

And jokes aside, I think it's a really fun article. We don't often cover genres of AH so it's nice to see this.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
Little trivia note. Brian's first Article was 15 months ago, this is his second. Given we've only been doing regular articles for 19 months, this is basically a big comeback, where we bring the old sports star out of retirement.

So everyone patiently waiting all that time for another Brian article (and who wasn't), this is for you.

And jokes aside, I think it's a really fun article. We don't often cover genres of AH so it's nice to see this.
Ah, I actually reported it on social media as though it was his first, hope that's OK!
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
The usual rules about telling a good story still apply
This seems even harder on the face of it to pull off than dystopia because outside of the radical fringes, we can mostly agree what would be very bad to happen to your characters and what a very bad villain is going to do, but there's less agreement on what's very good or on the way you would Obviously get to the very good. Like, if you got a big Labour supporter and a Lib Dem supporter and said, "now write a utopia story in which the Iraq War didn't happen and then check the other's story", both are going to think "no Iraq, what a good idea" but one is probably going to focus on Labour internal issues for why it didn't happen and the other's probably going to have Charles Kennedy pull something off. And that's when they both agree "the war was bad" and they're both signed up to British democratic politics.

(Bisson probably has the advantage over Smith here because even if you're not a Black Power communist, you'd probably think "freeing slaves was a good thing and it did have to be done with violence OTL" regardless)
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
Nu Yawk
Pronouns
He/Him
While this is muddying the waters even more, I've occasionally seen the sort of thing the author thought was a utopia but which a lot of other readers wouldn't.

My go-to example for alternate history is The Big One postwar (its authors denials of such being rather, er, unconvincing), where the US has an (uncontroversial) min-maxed bomber fleet and all its military toys, hapless opponents it can and does easily nuke, and is ruled by immortal manipulators with catlike eyes, one of whom is a Mary Sue insert.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
While this is muddying the waters even more, I've occasionally seen the sort of thing the author thought was a utopia but which a lot of other readers wouldn't.

My go-to example for alternate history is The Big One postwar (its authors denials of such being rather, er, unconvincing), where the US has an (uncontroversial) min-maxed bomber fleet and all its military toys, hapless opponents it can and does easily nuke, and is ruled by immortal manipulators with catlike eyes, one of whom is a Mary Sue insert.
This can also go the other way, of course, with one man's visceral dystopia being another man's "er, that doesn't seem too unreasonable...?"
 

Geordie

SEA LIONS ON MY SHIRT
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
This can also go the other way, of course, with one man's visceral dystopia being another man's "er, that doesn't seem too unreasonable...?"
As I was reminded yesterday by a spate of likes in the Old Country, I tried a subversion of this when writing my "Hugh Laurie is Labour's Third Man* in 1997" TL. I wrote a Telegraph (although I'm not sure it was stated as that paper, that was the intent) retrospective of his career. In it, I lamented many things that the editor found dreadful. Most of them, I would rather like to see, but I thought it would be a far more interesting experience to see them criticised by somebody with an opposing view. It wasn't a massive utopia for me, nor a visceral dystopia (I think) for the editor. It is, in fact, a very minor utopia compared to the ones @Alex Richards mentions upthread. But I thought it was a more entertaining thing to write, and hope it was a more entertaining read.

*Zither music optional.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
This can also go the other way, of course, with one man's visceral dystopia being another man's "er, that doesn't seem too unreasonable...?"
I remember you having a French team-member in LTTW book 4 writing that armed police and identity cards in England might be a dystopia to his English teammates but for him, it's just England being like France
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
I remember you having a French team-member in LTTW book 4 writing that armed police and identity cards in England might be a dystopia to his English teammates but for him, it's just England being like France
That's part of what I was going for in LTTW. Of course a big aspect to it is that while England is more 'European', France is also more 'British' in the sense of continuity, being a stable constitutional monarchy, etc.
 

BClick

couboi suet
Location
Little Beirut
Pronouns
He/him
Ah, I actually reported it on social media as though it was his first, hope that's OK!
No big deal, the previous one was on a very different subject, so linking it wouldn't give readers any extra context for this one. (It was my guest post on primitivism for Mazda's Other Ideologies series).

Actually, speaking of primitivism, the idea of playing with in-universe perspectives on what constitutes a utopia reminds me of a song...
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Active member
I remember you having a French team-member in LTTW book 4 writing that armed police and identity cards in England might be a dystopia to his English teammates but for him, it's just England being like France
Yes, trying to avoid current politics, I know there is a long-term American sense that denying them gun ownership the way it has been in the UK for some years, would have made their country a dystopia and, especially in the 1930s, prone to dictatorship. You see a lot of memes on this basis referencing either the American War of Independence or the German occupation of Poland.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
Yes, trying to avoid current politics, I know there is a long-term American sense that denying them gun ownership the way it has been in the UK for some years, would have made their country a dystopia and, especially in the 1930s, prone to dictatorship. You see a lot of memes on this basis referencing either the American War of Independence or the German occupation of Poland.
I remember getting the reverse culture shock on reading about some US reactions to Terry Pratchett's Men At Arms, which never felt in the least controversial to me.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Active member
There is, of course, the very interesting case of what can be termed 'minor utopianism'- the sort of situation where things are objectively better but on a sufficiently small scale that it's an interesting question about whether it is a utopia or just a slightly better world, and whether the latter is implicitly a utopia of sorts. I'd say works where the Nazis take power but either exile the Jews or are defeated earlier count here- the world isn't necessarily a better one in many ways, but you can't really argue it's not a utopia of sorts for the millions in this world who live rather than die.
Yes, I have given this some thought in relation to the First World War. Most people, I imagine would have felt it was better if there had not been all the casualties that the First World War inflicted. However, it seems likely that, at least in Europe, the societies we know would be even less equal than they are at present; servants and monarchs would be more common and the advance of women's rights would have been slowed up. Sitting here in the 2020s we might be looking at a UK society that resembled the 1960s, e.g. death penalty, homosexuality and abortion illegal, lack of workplace rights for women, and so on. This would have been doubly the case if, without a First World War, there was no European-wide war in the 1940s. Again we would have avoided immense horrors, but surely many societies would be less advanced than we have seen. The two world wars did not simply advance weaponry and vehicles, but many medical techniques that might otherwise have been delayed or even absent. Certainly Europe would be more hierarchical than much of it is as present, with social class status (outside Britain anyway) a much bigger part of how society was structured, in addition to simple wealth.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Active member
I remember getting the reverse culture shock on reading about some US reactions to Terry Pratchett's Men At Arms, which never felt in the least controversial to me.
On the grounds of police not armed or the diversity of the police which feature in the book. Especially in his later novels Pratchett put acceptance of diversity at a heart of the story, notably in 'Thud'.
 

Jared

fatal softener
Published by SLP
Location
Over the rainbow
Does anyone know how well Steven H. Silver & Joshua Palmatier, ed., Alternate Peace (2019) is selling/being received?
The main thing I remember on reading Amazon reviews is a few people giving it one-star reviews because they think the authors hate America for daring to suggest that maybe Trump wouldn't have been elected if there had been a different candidate in 2016. (Not sure exactly who that was since I haven't read the anthology myself). Other reviews are more mixed, with some positive reviews while others describing the anthology as hit and miss.

Goodreads reviews were reasonably positive but also had one detailed review annoyed about the intrusion of contemporary politics (ie reference to Donald J Trump).
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
On the grounds of police not armed or the diversity of the police which feature in the book. Especially in his later novels Pratchett put acceptance of diversity at a heart of the story, notably in 'Thud'.
The concept of (plot spoilers)

Genius inventor invents the first gun, every person who picks it up (except Carrot and partially Vimes) is turned into an inhuman, megalomaniacal serial murderer who internally monologues 'it was like being a god' when he sights on city lights from the Tower of Art and fantasises about extinguishing them.

In particular this bit:



It was so simple! Why hide it away? Probably because people were afraid. People were always afraid of power. It made them nervous.

Edward picked it up, cradled it for a while, and found that it seemed to fit his arm and shoulder very snugly.

You're mine.

And that, more or less, was the end of Edward d'Eath. Something continued for a while, but what it was, and how it thought, wasn't entirely human.

Seemed perfectly reasonable to me...
 

OwenM

The patronising flippancy of youth
Location
Colwyn Bay/Manchester
Pronouns
He/him
There is, of course, the very interesting case of what can be termed 'minor utopianism'- the sort of situation where things are objectively better but on a sufficiently small scale that it's an interesting question about whether it is a utopia or just a slightly better world, and whether the latter is implicitly a utopia of sorts. I'd say works where the Nazis take power but either exile the Jews or are defeated earlier count here- the world isn't necessarily a better one in many ways, but you can't really argue it's not a utopia of sorts for the millions in this world who live rather than die.
Thanks as always for the edits and pictures, Gary.



With the interesting twist that in-universe, nobody knows how much worse it would have been.
It wasn't really to do with this, although it absolutely would apply, but I remember a discussion about Ruins of an American Party System on how, even thought it was clearly not a utopia by any stretch, it would be very hard for someone from TTL not to see at least the 30s and early 40s of OTL as a dystopia.
 
Top