8 Great Utopias in Sci Fi

Dystopias are easy. Like humor, Utopias aren’t.

Mernie Buchanan
9 min readMay 21, 2023

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Baroque co co #11—oil on canvas—Mernie Buchanan

Utopia is the happily ever after where most stories end because, well, the comfort of living in day to day bliss gets same old… which makes it clear why conflict is a storytelling essential. These 8 authors built ideal future worlds — societies where mutual cooperation evolved (or was forced) to form successful anarchies. Then something happened.

That something need not include weapons. Sure, bad guys can invade and often they are us, but conflict can be as simple as a hero’s self doubt. This list skews toward utopian sci fi as psychological explorations or… Protagonists Have Intriguing Adventures While Unarmed. If, however, I expunged all guns this would be a list of two.

While writing my own version of a hopeful future, I accidentally veered into a dark hole. It’s a challenge to craft an engaging climax in a world where cultural kinks have been worked out so well that customary tropes of storytelling — bad guys / violence — aren’t the point.

Getting stuck is a great excuse to seek examples of how other writers have tackled this quandary. Fortunately, my impasse has been going on long enough to consume stacks of great sci fi — from hard facts and theory to spacey and operatic.

Although Plato wrote about ideal fictional societies, the first Utopia (1516 by Sir Thomas More) doesn’t appear here because a) it turned out to be a dream which makes it fantasy, b) women and slaves are treated to a glaring dearth of equality like it’s a good thing and c) if I want me some Old English prose, Chaucer and Shakespeare do it better.

One utopia speculates that a society living in sustainable comfort and safety will lose all creativity as imagination atrophies. Another sees the end of bureaucratic and corporate control as so wildly freeing that humans will advance in leaps of light years in science, art and exploration. Most see the failure of earthly (or extraterrestrial) ethics as the biggest obstacle to perfect anarchy.

Here’s a list of wonderful utopian sci fis chronologically:

1) Herland by Charolette Perkins Gilman (1915)

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Mernie Buchanan

Originally from CA & Las Vegas, I now paint and write in Woodstock NY. All images are my original art & photos. Links to more at mernie.com