technological advancement — even Gernsback describednmoving walkways — as of the moral and political dimensionsnof life lived according to the rules and plans drawn up by thenscientistic state. In fact, a great deal of science fiction hasnbeen written in a libertarian, anti-imperialist vein. RobertnHeinlein was a moral and political libertine who attracted anfollowing among Randians and other libertarians. It’s easy tonsee the attraction; anyone who thinks Rand is a great novelistnwould worship Heinlein. Poul Anderson has several finenstories that can be read as briefs for communal anarchism,nand Kurt Vonnegut, who was probably better doing sciencenfiction than pretending to be the great writer, had the lastnword on equality in his story “Harrison Bergeron.”nAt his best, Vonnegut is a dystopian writer who constructsnfuture nightmares in order to expose the dangerous tendenciesnin our own age. The best political science fiction isnalways of this type. Gulliver’s voyage to Laputa and Lagadonis an honorable ancestor of the satiric subgenre of sciencenfiction. Wells’ best contribution is also a voyage to an island.nThe Island of Dr. Moreau, on which a brilliant scientist hasndiscovered a means of hastening evolution. By inflictingngreat pain upon pigs and monkeys, he can transform themninto a ludicrous parody of human beings. The original filmnversion. Island of Lost Souls, is a brilliant adaptation withnCharles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, almost giggling as hendescribes the pain he has caused, and Bela Lugosi as anmonkey-man deputized as Law-sayer to the bestial Adams.n”What is the law?” bellows Laughton. “Thee law eez,”nintones Lugosi, who had learned only to mimic the sound ofnEnglish, “Thee law eez to walk on two legs, are we notnmen?” And all the two-legged pigs and monkeys and catsngrunt and jibber in chorus: “Are we not men?”nIn the end the beasts rebel. They kill the doctor and burnndown his laboratory. We are what we are, Wells reveals, andnthe attempt to transcend our nature produces nothing butngrotesque abominations. “In the end,” Wells’ scientist tellsnhis colleague, “the study of nature makes us as remorselessnas nature itself.” When Wells wrote the story he was still, innthe official parts of his mind, a socialist who believed innprogress through better chemistry, but the real Wells, thennovelist Wells, had always known better. “No man is anhypocrite in his pleasures,” Dr. Johnson once remarked, andnno good writer is a liar or ideologue when he is doing realnwork. A nasty communist like Brecht or Sartre can still writenplays that contradict his politics, and it is remarkable hownmany “liberal” or “leftist” science fiction writers havenwritten tales imbued with a reactionary imagination.nPerhaps the most celebrated science fiction writer of thenpast several decades was the late Philip K. Dick. I haven’t anclue to Dick’s politics, but he posed as a cultural rebel, andrug-using degenerate. But what does one make out of hisnnovel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In Dick’s verynunpleasant dystopia, most animal species, including insects,nhave been eliminated, and man’s only serious competitionnare the androids that have been exported and restricted tonoff-world colonies. In the impoverished world that men havenmade in their own image, the highest status symbols are petnmammals, although most middle-class people have to contentnthemselves with robotic imitations that look like the realnthing. When a group of renegade androids kill their mastersnand return to Earth, Dick’s hero, a “bladerunner,” is sent tondispose of them.nIn the film version made by Ridley Scott, the androids arenpossessed of some dignity and humanity, and in the endnHarrison Ford leaves his wife to elope with an android whonhas only just realized what she is. In Dick’s gloomier novel,nhowever, the androids hate all life. One of them amusesnherself by cutting the legs off a spider, and it is the beautifulnandroid who pushes the bladerunner’s pet goat off the roof.nThe androids’ great plot against humanity consists in annattempt to prove that the new religion of empathy —n”Mercerism” — is bogus, and they express their resentmentnin the classic language of minority rights groups: “It’s thatnempathy . . . Isn’t it a way of proving that humans can donsomething we can’t do? Because without the Mercernexperience we just have your word that you feel thisnempathy business, this shared group thing. How’s thenspider?”nThe really terrifying quality to the novel is not thenalmost-human androids but the almost-mechanical humans.nThe bladerunner’s wife spends her days hooked up to andevice that can create moods, but the net effect is ansubhuman apathy that prevents her from dialing any emotionnthat could release her from an autistic slump. In the endnshe purchases a supply of electric flies for a toad with an”perpetually renewing puddle” and a service contract fornperiodic tongue adjustments.nOn the metaphysical level, Scott’s film trivializes thenbook, but it also picks up hints of social themes and turnsnthem into major themes. In Bladerunner Los Angeles hasnbecome one giant ghetto of interbred blacks, Hispanics, andnOrientals who speak a disgusting amalgam of languagesncalled Cityspeak. Earth is an overpopulated sewer teemingnwith human rats, and all the best and brightest havenabandoned the planet.nIn a society poisoning itself on dishonesty, dystopiannfiction and films may be the only means we have ofnconsidering the social and moral diseases that we areninflicting upon ourselves. They are inherently anarchic andnprepare the mind for rebellion against an oppressive system.nUtopian fiction, however, has the opposite effect. Plato’snRepublic, More’s Utopia, Walden Two, and Ecotopia (thenfantasy of an ecofascist state in the Pacific Northwest) werenall meant as criticisms of the societies in which they werenwritten, but the goal of any Utopia is perfection, and not annorganic perfection but one that can be engineered bynhuman craft and discipline. An engineered state, no matternhow well-intentioned and no matter how humane thenarchitect, will always be totalitarian. It is the product of ansingle mind or a single ideology that reduces all thencomplicated intentions of other beings down to instrumentsnfor the greater good. B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two is boringnenough to read. Imagine what it would be like to live there.nImagine the numbers one would have to kill in order toncreate a society as uninteresting as the headquarters of anmajor corporation.nAll art, as the ancients realized, is a form of representation,nof “imitation” and not merely of things as they seem.nPlato was wrong to stigmatize poetry as the imitation ofnthings in the world that are themselves imitations of the truenreality. As some Neoplatonists recognized, it is possible fornnnAUGUST 1991/13n