Non-Technological Narratives about Technology in Russian Science Fiction

art, literature, digital culture studies

This essay for the inaugural issue of Technology and Language discusses Russian science fiction and utopias where technological devices and systems become active agents of the story, providing a perspective for treating social and political problems. Three major periods are covered in broad brushstrokes – the turn of the twentieth century when the industrial production went hand in hand with techno-optimism; the 1960s-1970s which were the Golden Era of Soviet science fiction, reflecting on technological achievements and social and ethical dimensions of technology; and post-Soviet literature that turns to dystopian and utopian narratives of socio-technical development. Throughout, science fiction was a venue for formulating national identity, reasoning on the essence of progress and coping with historical experience. As such, the literary imagination about technology was not technological at all, but was grounded in ideology and social concerns or identity, which assimilates technology to language and culture.