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Parent categories: paradise - fiction - science-fiction

Contrast: dystopia


Utopia, in its most common and general positive meaning, refers to the human efforts to create a better, or perhaps perfect society. Ideas which could be/are considered able to radically change our world are often called utopian ideas.

"Utopian" in a negative meaning is used to discredit ideas as too advanced, too optimistic or unrealistic, impossible to realize. Hence, for example, the use by Marxists, of such expressions as "utopian socialism".

It has also been used to describe actual communities founded in attempts to create such a society. Although some authors have described their utopias in detail, and with an effort to show a level of practicality, the term "utopia" has come to be applied to notions that are (supposedly) too optimistic and idealistic for practical application. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia [Mar 2006]

Utopian and dystopian fiction

Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world. Both are commonly found in science fiction novels and stories.

The word utopia was first used in this context by Thomas More in his work Utopia; literally it means "nowhere". In this work, More sets out a vision of an ideal society. Other examples include Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and B.F. Skinner's Walden Two. Gulliver's Travels may also be seen as a satirical utopia because it is actually a comment on the society the author lived in. The same goes for Erewhon by Samuel Butler.

For examples of dystopias, see two of George Orwell's books, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, as well as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Ayn Rand's Anthem and William Gibson's cyberpunk novels. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_and_dystopian_fiction [Feb 2005]

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