On Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 7:30 p.m., Lynda spoke at the event "SciFi and the Courage to Hope," a meeting of the Vancouver Branch of the World Federalist Movement. The venue was Hewett Centre, Unitarian Church in Vancouver, B.C.
Click below to download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation:
In addition, longtime friend of the Okal Rel Universe, Paul Strickland, provided an essay to be distributed as a handout. It is reproduced below for your reading pleasure.
Paul Strickland is a freelance writer and creative writer. His journalistic career covered 32 years: four years as a freelance writer for the University of Nevada-Reno Sagebrush newspaper and small-town Nevada weeklies, nine years as a more than full-time journalist for the daily Medicine Hat News, and nineteen years as a full-time reporter for The Prince George Citizen.
Benevolent World Government and SF
An ideal, benevolent world government is perhaps first set out in Plato's Republic. In this philosophical work, the world is governed by philosopher-kings. It is outlined to a lesser extent in Plato's Critias and Timaeus, in which the philosopher describes the lost island civilization of Atlantis — a utopia that is less than perfect but has fired the imaginations of creative people and idealists down through the centuries. Some critics say Plato's version of the Atlantis story is the first science-fiction story in Western literature. It is, according to the historian of science fiction, Sam Moskowitz, the inspiration for Jules Verne's The Eternal Adam (1905). This long novelette deals with a future in which "the continent of Atlantis has risen again from the sea and is inhabited with men who possess legends about a great civilization of marvellous scientific advancement" which had flourished with splendour and then vanished from the earth..." (Moskowitz, Explorers of the Infinite (1963), p. 83).
A nineteenth-century American science-fiction writer, Edward Bellamy also wrote about an ideal world government in his novel, Looking Backward: 2000-1887. He predicted the great trusts, the giant corporations of the late nineteenth century, would eventually combine into one big trust, a single government that would govern in everyone's best interests, bring about greater equality and control an industrial army that all young men would be required to serve in for a few years to do all the dirty and manual tasks of the world. As the unitary world government brought about desirable improvements in the economic system, "The ten commandments became well-nigh obsolete in a world where there was no temptation to theft, no occasion to lie either for fear or favour, no room for envy where all were equal, and little provocation to violence where all men were disarmed of power to injure one another." (Bellamy, Looking Backward, New York: Modern Library, 1951, p. 234).
H.G. Wells imagines an ideal world state in A Modern Utopia (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967). A rationally administered science reduces the need for demeaning forms of manual labour: "There is more than enough for everyone alive," Wells writes. "Science stands as a competent servant and is able to show a world that is really abolishing the need of labour, abolishing the last base reason for anyone's servitude or inferiority." (A Modern Utopia, p. 102).
Aldous Huxley, in his dystopic Brave New World (1931), foresaw a world state serving the purposes of private interests, keeping people distracted with frivolous sex and silly entertainment, and operating on the principle that the old have a duty to die, and moving people and resources about as they wish without regard to local cultures except in reservations where aboriginals are kept for the entertainment of tourists from the conformist society of the Brave New World.
Gregory Paschalidis, professor of literature at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, says that utopian fiction merely describes what is prescribed as an ideal society under a certain political philosophy or economic system. Science fiction allows much greater flights of imagination that need only be extrapolated from available or foreseeable technology, and therefore allows for a greater sense of adventure.
The novels of Lynda Williams set in the Okal Rel Universe embody the best of the science-fiction writing as outlined by Paschalidis. The benevolent world government through Rire comes close to Plato's Republic, the idealized Atlantis in Jules Verne's The Eternal Adam and Wells's World State in The Shape of Things to Come. In the last chapter of the latter, "The Modern State in Control of Life", Wells writes through the persona of a key character, "Plainly the thesis is that history must now continue to be a string of accidents with an increasingly disastrous trend, until a comprehensive faith in the modernized World-State, socialistic, cosmopolitan and creative, takes hold of the human imagination."
May those people prosper who work for such an ideal world state, one which can intervene effectively to prevent human rights abuses — one that will not have its efforts invalidated by the vetoes of one, two or three controlling or malevolent powers, and one in which controlled movement of capital does not lead to a race to the bottom in respect of working conditions.
Paul Strickland February 14-15, 2012