Redefining Utopia

For my birthday yesterday, Trish got me an advanced reader’s copy of Pacific Edge signed by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s one of the best presents I could have gotten, since this is the book from which the name and underlying philosophy of this blog – and all of my work – is derived: Struggle Forever!

The quote on the sidebar is only a small part of the section in which Robinson redefines utopia – it’s the culmination of the thought – but the entire section (a brief introduction to one of the chapters, which I believe are Robinson’s own examinations of the process of writing the novel as well as his reflections on politics and utopia) is worth sharing as well. So here it is:

“Light cracks on the black gloss of the canal, and a gondola oar squeaks under us. Standing on the moonlit bridge, laughing together, listening to the campanile strike midnight, I decide to change Kid Death’s hair from black to red – ”

Something like that. Ah yes – the vibrant author’s journal in The Einstein Intersection, young mind speaking to young mind, brilliant flashes of light in the head. No doubt my image of Europe owes much to it. But what I’ve found… could half a century have changed that much? History, change – rate constants, sure. It feels so much as if things are accelerating. A wind blows through the fabric of time, things change faster than we can imagine. Punctuated equilibrium, without the equilibrium. Hey, Mr. Delany, here I am in Europe writing as book too! But yesterday I spent the morning at the Fremdenkontrolle, arguing in my atrocious German which always makes me feel brain-damaged, getting nowhere. They really are going to kick me out. And in the afternoon I did laundry, running around the building in the rain to the laundry room, Liddy howling upstairs at a banged knee. Last load dry and piled in the red basket jogging round the front I caught my toe on a board covering the sidewalk next to some street work, fell and spilled the clothes all over the mud of the torn-up street. I sat on the curb and almost cried. What happened, Mr. Delany? How come instead of wandering the night canals I’m dumping my laundry in the street? How come when I consider revisions it’s not “change kid Death’s hair from black to red” but “throw out the first draft and start the whole thing over”?

And only two weeks before Liddy and I leave.

What a cheat utopias are, no wonder people hate them. Engineer some fresh start, an island, a new continent, dispossess them give them a new planet sure! So they don’t have to deal with our history. Ever since More they’ve been doing it: rupture, clean cut, fresh start.

So the utopias in books are pocket utopias too. Ahistorical, static, why should we read them? they don’t speak to us trapped in this world as we are, we look a t them in the same way we look at the pretty inside of a paperweight, snow drifting down so what? It may be nice but we’re stuck here and no one’s going to give us a fresh start, we have to deal with history as it stands, no freer than a wedge in a crack.

Stuck in history like a wedge in a crack

with no way out and now way back –

Split the world!

Must redefine utopia. It isn’t the perfect end-product of our wishes, define it so and it deserves the scorn of those who sneer when they hear the word. No. Utopia is the process of making a better world, the name for one path history can take, a dynamic, tumultuous, agonizing process, with no end. Struggle forever.

Compare it to the present course of history. If you can.

One thought on “Redefining Utopia”

Leave a Reply

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