Sunday, 4 September 2011

Science fiction and corruption

I was just reading about Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's President, and her efforts to curb corruption in her own government by firing many officials, including high level ones. Corruption seems to be one of the major blights in today's world, and is pretty much endemic: maybe it's always been that way?

Fiction is, oddly enough, often about trying to show us truth, how the world truly works. Science fiction (even more oddly) is about trying to show us who we could be as a society given different circumstances, as well as who we really are individually, no matter what future situation presents itself. If fiction is about truth, science fiction is about hypothetical or abstract truth about ourselves. But it is also about hope.

So, where are the science fiction novels about corruption, or an end to it?

I searched on Wikipedia, and there's an interesting array of scifi novels linked to politics, probably George Orwell's 1984 being my favorite. But much of science fiction chooses a world far into the future, where either there is a 'Star Trekkian' general shift away from the bases of corruption (e.g. no one needs wealth anymore) or else more Dystopian environments where everything is bleak. A neat turn away from this was the series Stargate Universe, with a pretty dismal outlook on its characters. But despite its depressing view of humanity, I couldn't help think it was closer to the truth. But it got cancelled...

As a psychologist as well as a writer, what fascinates me is how corruption spreads like a virus in organizations and societies. In my own novel, The Eden Paradox, which is near-term science fiction, early on in the first chapter I try to project where we might be in fifty years time politically-speaking. This includes a rise of fundamentalism and terrorism, and as counterpoint a nasty Interpol, and a more or less complete collapse in trust in any form of government - but kept short of anarchy.

In my second book, Eden's Trial, the building of a new society on a new planet quickly founders via a leader who creates a crony-filled government and militia. In this respect, I was interested to see BBC's Outcast series, which has a similar plot, with one man trying to undermine the fledgling government and install his own. Although the series was (again) unfortunately cancelled, it portrays in a believable way how this one man weaves his way to corrupt people.    

Science fiction is often about the desire for a better world to live in, and a better society. Science fiction forums often deplore a lack of science in some science fiction literature, but what about political science or sociology/psychology? At the end of the day, pretty much any fiction - including science fiction - is about people, otherwise it's non-fiction. If we do want to move to a better place, we need to explore possibilities and how to overcome problems like corruption, how we could actually move past it. Otherwise, as in my short story The Sylvian Gambit, we'll just take our sorry baggage with us, and the aliens will end up the 'good guys'...

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