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Utopia

Five-hundred-year anniversary edition of More’s Utopia, with writing from major science fiction writers
Five hundred years since its first publication, Thomas More’s Utopia remains astonishingly radical and provocative. More imagines an island nation where thousands live in peace and harmony, men and women are both educated, and property is communal. In a text hovering between fantasy, satire, blueprint and game, More explores the theories and realities behind war, political conflicts, social tensions and redistribution, and imagines the day-to-day lives of a citizenry living free from fear, oppression, violence and suffering.

But there has always been a shadow at the heart of Utopia. If this is a depiction of the perfect state, why, as well as wonder, does it provoke a growing unease?

In this quincentenary edition, published in conjunction with Somerset House, More’s text is introduced by multi-award-winning author China Miéville and accompanied by four essays from Ursula K. Le Guin, today’s most distinguished utopian writer and thinker.

Reviews

  • “We can’t do without this book. We are all and have always been Thomas More’s children.”
  • “I am offered the Grand Inquisitor’s choice. Will you choose freedom without happiness, or happiness without freedom? The only answer one can make, I think, is: No.”

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    May 1st marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.

    To mark this significant date, we have 50% off a selection of books looking at policing, riots, Rosa Luxemburg, neoliberalism, revolution and rebellion. Click here to activate your discount.

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  • What can Star Wars and Star Trek really tell us about the future?

    In an excerpt from his new book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, Peter Frase discusses how science fiction can help us understand the future.

    One way of differentiating social science from science fiction is that the first is about describing the world that is, while the second speculates about a world that might be. But really, both are a mixture of imagination and empirical investigation, put together in different ways. Both attempt to understand empirical facts and lived experience as something that is shaped by abstract—and not directly perceptible—structural forces.



    Certain types of speculative fiction are more attuned than others to the particularities of social structure and political economy. In Star Wars, you don’t really care about the details of the galactic political economy. And when the author tries to flesh them out, as George Lucas did in his widely derided Star Wars prequel movies, it only gums up the story. In a world like Star Trek, on the other hand, these details actually matter. Even though Star Wars and Star Trek might superficially look like similar tales of space travel and swashbuckling, they are fundamentally different types of fiction. The former exists only for its characters and its mythic narrative, while the latter wants to root its characters in a richly and logically structured social world.

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