Science fiction has long been a safe harbor for extreme politics. From Robert A. Heinlein’s amphetamine-jacked libertarian utopias, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic conservation-centric future history of Mars, to Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin’s radical feminism, alternate universes have been an effective place to voice fringe positions. Some key conservatives have even been using pulp apocalyptic thrillers to advocate for increased military spending and weapons-defense research, reports The New Republic. On the other side of things, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now looking to sci-fi novels to plan its future battles for individual freedom.
“In the aftermath of September 11, when the government was expanding its surveillance powers and preparing for an invasion of Afghanistan, the ACLU began gaming out worst-case scenarios of civil-liberties violations,” writes Adam Serwer in The American Prospect. “With both science and surveillance on his mind, a policy analyst named Jay Stanley decided that the ACLU needed to be better prepared for threats to liberty that, at the time, existed only in the imagination.”
Stanley published a report called Technology, Liberties, and The Future that drew inspiration from sci-fi novels and movies like Gattaca, Brave New World, and Blade Runner to predict the next affront to civil liberties—many of which, Stanley predicts, will likely come not from an authoritarian government, but from the private sector. According to Serwer, “Stanley's report successfully convinced the ACLU leadership that these plots were rooted in science as much as fiction.”