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In her excellent study, Dystopian Fiction East and West, Erika Gottlieb suggests that twentieth-century dystopian fiction is partially defined by a terrible and irrevocable finality: "It is one of the most conspicuous features of ... dystopian fiction that once we allow the totalitarian state to come to power, there will be no way back" (4). I take issue with this conclusion, arguing instead that the major authors of dystopian fiction present sexual desire as an aspect of the self that can never be fully appropriated, and therefore as a potential force for political and spiritual regeneration from within the totalitarian state. This point is commonly made by a sexual relationship situated at the beginning of the story, which eventually develops into a subversive political conspiracy for revolution. Though these sexual liaisons are usually ill-fated, they suggest that sexual desire has a propulsive ability to promote change even when the sexual relationship itself is curtailed. Sex works as a portal through which the dystopian everyman at the center of the story glimpses the idea of both political liberation and a universal human dignity based on a newfound understanding of the sublime. To better denote how sexuality works in the particular type of dystopian fiction with which I am concerned, I have coined the term "projected political fiction" (1) which refers to dystopian (2) stories that are both speculative and political. Authors of projected political fiction project a political system or philosophy with which they disagree into a futuristic story. Setting their stories in the future allows writers of projected political fiction to explore their immediate political concerns on a grander scale without appearing to exaggerate. Thus, like a conical beam of light emanating from a movie projector, these stories not only reach forward through the uncertain darkness to cast an image of what may lie ahead, they also widen the scope of that image to encompass all aspects of social, political, and economic life, including the way in which the members of these projected societies perceive and understand the past and their own future.

Professional & Technical
June 22

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