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Speculating Futures

Speculating Futures looks at past speculative narratives, like those of Ursula K. Le Guin, and past attempts at creating technological utopia, like Chile's Cybersyn. These readings examine the shortcomings that prevented these visions from being fully realized and how they may have been limited or exclusionary. These texts also tie these visions to the contemporary issues/present dystopias that need to be addressed in subsequent utopian imaginaries. To paraphrase Gibson, "Utopia and dystopia are here, they're just unevenly distributed." Feeling like there's a future is vital for moving through the present, so we'll also envision our own utopian futures to work towards.

This syllabus was first launched in December 2016 for The New Inquiry's Science/Fiction issue. It will probably never be complete; it's always open to suggestions. If you're familiar with GitHub, please don't hesitate to submit a pull request; if not, feel free to send suggestions to me on Twitter (@frnsys).

You can view the web version here.

Note that this text version has some additional readings contributed by others.

NB: Beyond session 1, these sessions aren't in any particular order. There's so much overlap and interaction between these topics that you can jump around as much as you want; the "session" structure is more of a loose guide. Reading "out of order" could lead to interesting connections~

The following were taken from Allison Burtch's Critical Theory of Technology:

The following were taken from Chris Novello's Computer Utopias:

The following were taken from Matthew Hockenberry's Supply Studies Syllabus:

Extra sessions:

This syllabus isn't about science fiction per se, but there's definitely a lot of are science fiction books that I've enjoyed or that were suggested by others:

  • Trouble on Triton. Samuel R. Delany.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness. Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • China Mountain Zhang. Maureen F. McHugh.
  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Cory Doctorow.
  • Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land. Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Never Let Me Go. Kazuo Ishiguro.
  • Green Earth. Kim Stanley Robinson.
  • For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs. Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Ecotopia. Ernest Callenbach.
  • Embassytown. China Miéville.
  • The Sandman. ETA Hoffmann.
  • The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood.

Another list of recommend science fiction is maintained here.


futures we can feel good about






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