Why Utopias Don’t Work…anywhere!

From SRP author Cameron Cooper:

Farnam Street recently posted one of the clearest explanations for why utopias can’t work in real life.

Apart from being super interesting reading, the post also made me reflect on utopias in fiction.

I don’t like utopian fiction and tend to avoid it. Even before I read the Farnam Street post, I thought most of the utopian novels and stories I’ve read were unrealistic.

The problem with a utopian setting in fiction is that everything is perfect. While fiction that doesn’t put you to sleep is filled with conflict. How can there be a conflict in a perfect world?

Therefore, most utopian fiction deals with the breakdown of that world, or slowly reveals the dark underbelly where things aren’t as pretty.

That can make for interesting fiction, but for me, even having the world start off as “perfect” makes my eyes roll.

So, to find what fiction is out there that is set in a Utopia, I checked on Wikipedia and there is a list there (which is probably not complete, but looked like it was covering the well-known books.) I spotted Robert A. Heinlein’s posthumously published For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, which I recently acquired a copy of. I’ll be moving that up closer to the top of my TBR pile.

There was a link on the Wikipedia page to another page listing Dystopian fiction. That list is a lot longer! Dystopias are inherently more interesting because the conflict is built into the world setting. And the horrors that authors can dream up are astonishingly gruesome.

When it comes to dystopias, I always think of Soylent Green, the 1973 movie with Charlton Heston, which was based upon Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!, as a prime example of the genre that is genuinely horrifying. There are many others, of course.

Have you a favourite utopia-set book or story? Share your recommendations in the comments, below.

Because I always need more books to read. 🙂

Cameron Cooper

SRP Author

Cameron writes best-selling science fiction, including the very popular Hammer and Crucible space opera series.
Check Cam’s books here on Stories Rule Press.