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"Freedom Is Slavery: The socio-political implications of world building in speculative fiction

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World building is, if we consider myths a part of literature, as old as the written word. Imagining other worlds, or ages, strange creatures and supernatural heroes is the very fabric of what we call “fiction”. From King Arthur’s Avalon to the West visited by Sun Wukong and his allies, many worlds have been built and destroyed. Some of these world also reflect religious, philosophical or political concerns: Plato’s “Atlantis”, Thomas More’ “Utopia”, Rabelais’s “Thélème” or Jonathan Swift’s “Liliput” are classic examples. Since then, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Evegueni Zamyatin, Le Guin, Abouramane Waberi, J. S. Breukelaar, Eugen Bacon and myself have explored and built worlds that are not only a background for a fictional narrative, but also serve as a political commentary. With this specificity, “world building” appears through another angle, in which the political becomes a meaningful and essential element. The constructed world’s “politics” thus becomes the blueprint of the fiction, instead of the reverse. Using examples in classics of speculative fiction and contemporary writers, I will try to reflect upon the implications of such consciously orientated world-building and its implications for what we call our everyday “reality” and for the reader, not as a passive agent of culture, but as a fully conscious citizen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorlds Apart : Worldbuilding in Fantasy And Science Fiction
EditorsFrancesca T. Barbini
Place of publicationEdinburgh
PublisherLuna Press Publishing
Publication yearJul 2021
Pages59-74
Chapter4
ISBN (print)9781913387747
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

    Research areas

  • dystopia; world building, politics

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