Toward Sustainable Change: The Legacy of William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells in the Ecological Discourse of Contemporary Science Fiction
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This study examines implications of utopian and dystopian fiction for contemporary ecological praxis, emphasizing the respective differences in ecological discourse arising out of (Neo-)Darwinian and Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theories and non-evolutionary discourses. Grounded in late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British texts, this study traces the continuities and reformulations of progressionist and non-progressionist discourses from William Morris’s News from Nowhere, George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, and H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine and Men Like Gods to more recent texts, specifically, Octavia E. Butler’s Earthseed books, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, and the television space operas, Babylon 5 and Lexx. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic theory and Bruno Latour’s concepts of purification and hybridization of discourse, this study concludes that the texts most conducive to a sound ecological praxis are strongly dialogic, hybrid narratives, such as The Dispossessed, that enable complex, open-ended conversation among various discursive dyads, including progressionism and non-progressionism, utopia and dystopia, anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. Such a dialogic structure lends itself to ideologies that productively recognize the need for socio-ecological sustainability while accepting, and sometimes promoting, socio-ecological change.