City Tech, Fall 2016

World-Building in the Presidential Election

“Perhaps the crispest definition is that science fiction is a literature of ‘what if?'” (Evans, Christopher. Writing Science Fiction. London, A & C Black, 1988.)

I know many of you are watching the third Presidential debate tonight  between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As we’ve discussed in class, elections for public office are steeped in both utopian and dystopian rhetoric, about what the state of our country is, what it should be, what it could be. In short, these debates and these elections traffic heavily in “what if?” What will the country and the world (not to mention our individual lives) look like “if” they are elected to serve us? The candidates are putting forth visions about what they think this country should look like, and how they will enact these visions. These elections and the candidates’ words and policies are, in a very real way, about world-building: they are about reality but also about imagination grounded in possibility.

“I define science fiction as the art of the possible. [. . .]. Science fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and they’re always ideas that work themselves out and become real and happen in the world” (Bradbury, Ray. “Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction.” By Arthur Unger. The Christian Science Monitor 13 Nov. 1980).

This is an open forum for class discussion, tonight and through election day, to share your thoughts on how this rhetoric and these visions shape what is possible in our world. This is a space to consider what these candidates’ visions of well-being for our country (what do they imagine will create the good life for Americans). This Presidential debate, and this election,  is about “extrapolation,” which is so central to the genre of science fiction. The candidates are starting from our present circumstances and extrapolating to what might happen if we continue down our current path undeterred, or what alternatives exist, and how things might be different if we change our course. Though there is much obsession with the “facts,” this extrapolation depends on assumptions, perspectives, and values. This extrapolation is grounded in competing needs and desires about how people should live and how societies should structure themselves (think of hierarchies, treatment of the “other,” about all the questions on the Science Fiction Framework).

Together, let’s close (and actively) read these texts of the election (the candidates’ words, their policies, media coverage surrounding them, etc.) and critically examine what is being explicitly (or implicitly) stated in these vision. As always, textual evidence (with citations/links) from the debates &/or other sources will help to support your claims about what the candidates’ believe America does, could, and should look like in the possible future of their tenure as President of the United States.

11 Comments

  1. Ghasan shahbain

    I wish anyone can see what I see now on middle eastern ( Russia’s alive in particular ) live translation on TV.

    If I wasn’t wantching this live I would of belived that propaganda 🙂

  2. Ghasan shahbain

    By the way Hillary called trump a ” Putin puppet ” and trump responded imitating her face and voice when she talks 🙂

    That reminds me of me and my brother fighting over the larg pillow

  3. Ghasan shahbain

    A raised question for all of you

    Should we follow Clinton abortion idea ? Where it’s up to the women and her family to decide or follow trumps call for the government to make that decision ?

    • Ghasan shahbain

      Trump said Russia has 18000 nuclear war head ?
      If a World war break with both countries throwing nuclear missiles this might end this world in 2 days .

      That’s is scary

  4. Jill Belli

    Even a quick listen to the debate shows that these candidates have very different ideas for how America should be run. To connect to something we were discussing last class in relation to ‘Do Androids Dream of Election Sheep?’ Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are almost presenting parallel universes, or alternate realities.

    Let’s keep this discussion focused not on the merit of their proposals or whether we think their particular positions are right or wrong, but rather what kinds of worlds they would build. In other words, the goal is not to argue whether or not a particular policy is justified (e.g., whether abortion should be legal, or immigration should be revamped) but what rather what consequences would emerge as a result, what possibilities would arise, and which would be precluded.

    • Ghasan shahbain

      There is one thing kinda brought up the doubling theme in this debate. Trumps America would mean kick everyone one out and allow those waiting on the gate. While clintons America is keeping who is in here and processing who’s out there normally. This is just similar to earth in do andriods dream of electric sheep because If we follow trumps America we would be haunting immigrants like country hunters. While if we follow clintons idea we would encouraging imagrents to come to ” Mars ” except that we don’t have Andys to give for free . We dollars though. This is not about who is right and who is wrong it just came up to me mind it sounds similer to the readings we analyze.

  5. Johnny

    Disclaimer: I’m not trying to be divisive nor do I have exhaustive knowledge of all the topics; this is just my visceral reaction to Trump’s proposed world.

    The first major reform brought up by Trump would be his appointment of Supreme Court Justices who are “pro-life, conservative, and they will protect the 2nd Amendment.” Moreover, he insisted Roe V. Wade would be overturned. In his world, women would not have the liberty of having an abortion even if it was in their genuine interest to protect their own life. It is often the case in dystopian governments that they think what is best for our health.

    On the topic of Immigration and the “bad hombres”, Trump would create a task force to forcibly remove people from the country. Deportation groups and forced relocations have existed in the past, and the result has always been bloodshed. Additionally, the presence of such a force and subsequent witch hunt could create a ubiquitous constant tension in our everyday lives. In lieu of treating them like human beings, they immediately become something “other,” a perceived threat to our safety and country. Racism and discrimination would only be exacerbated. In my opinion, his cavalier dismissal of military intelligence would make him a frightening commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

    • Jill Belli

      Johnny, thanks for bringing up the responses to the Supreme Court appointee question from last night. The choosing of judges for the Supreme Court is a hugely consequential factor, as these judges have a very important role in setting precedent about how lives can be lived, how values are enacted, how laws are enforced, and what directions our country will take in the future.

  6. Duron Crichlow

    You know I gotta be honest. I’m really don’t know more on politics, but I can tell for a fact that I don’t want to have Trump as our president. I do however, if you guys remember one of the previous debates, like how one of the people asked the question which was “What is one positive you can say about each other?” Now that was one of the best questions to ask them.

    • Duron Crichlow

      Man if only I had the right to not vote for either one of them to be as President because none of them even deserved to become President. But since you have to choose, I have no choice but to vote for Hilary. I just hope Trump doesn’t become President. Cause if he does, I feel as though he’s gonna bring disaster to the U.S. So I got a question for you guys. In your own opinions, do you guys wish that you have the right to not vote either one of them as President?

  7. Rino

    I know this is late to chime in, but it’s interesting that both people illustrate very different Americas, while both being apparently “the saving grace” that’s needed to create stability and growth in the nation.

    To be cute and relate to the novels, Hillary Clinton (and pretty much the ideology of the Democratic party) believes in more government involvement in people’s lives, which could potentially turn into the extreme case of Brave New World where everything is monitored, supervised, and controlled by a central power that oversees the world-state. Whereas Donald Trump…on his own could lead to the next World War and thus the post-apocalyptic future of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; I mean, did you not hear his stance on nuclear arms…?

    Everyone is saying that this election will be “the most decisive election for the future of the nation”, but honestly I think when either candidate gets into power, they won’t even remotely follow through on what they say in their campaigns/debates. I mean, look at Obama and how difficult of a time he has passing bills because of opposition from Congress; do you think either Trump or Clinton will have an easier time getting their bills passed? Probably, and hopefully, not much change happens when the next president gets appointed, simply because of checks and balances, the awesome denial of power to prevent insanity from overtaking the oval office. Or simply impeachment is an option if things truly go awry…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *