It's election day, and all indications are that the GOP will sweep Congress. What's the worst that can happen under the Republicans? Science fiction has the answer, with a wealth of stories about right-wing policies taken to horrendous extremes.
Here's an "io9 flashback" to a post we ran a couple years ago. If you want some balance, you can also read our list of the scariest dystopias where liberals triumph. We're not actually suggesting that these things are planks on the Tea Party's platform, or that the Republicans are running on a "dystopia now" slogan. But here's how science fiction has portrayed Conservatism taken too far.
Okay? Then here we go:
I couldn't really put this vision of the future better than The Onion:
Having read the futuristic accounts of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Philip K. Dick, the path our future shall take will be bleak, indeed - but in a much different way.
When the ongoing trend of corporate mergers reaches critical mass in 2030, the scant handful of corporations that remain will be too powerful to resist and will ultimately supplant all government. National borders will crumble, replaced by warring corporate armies who deploy vat-grown Yakuza assassins to take down enemy CEOs in the name of commerce.
I literally could not possibly list all of the corporate-dominated dystopias in science fiction. Think Blade Runner, Neuromancer, or Metropolis. This site argues passionately that a weakened state and the rise of super-powerful corporations which are practically states in themselves is a crucial component of cyberpunk. Walter Jon Williams' books Hardwired and Voice Of The Whirlwind are both about soldiers of fortune and fighters who live in worlds ruled by corporations.
Wikipedia's list of corporate-dominated dystopias in film includes the Alien films, Charlie Jade (TV), The Final Cut, Fortress, Hardware, The Island, Johnny Mnemonic, Max Headroom, One Point O, Parts: The Clonus Horror, Resident Evil, RoboCop, Rollerball, Soylent Green, Super Mario Bros., Tank Girl, Total Recall and The Truman Show.
Probably my favorite corporate-dominated dystopia is in Max Barry's Jennifer Government, where your job is the most important thing about you and your last name is the name of the company you work for. (This is also Superman's favorite book.) There's still a government, but it's weakened and has very little enforcement power over the big corporations, which have grown ever more immoral. To the point where they'll pay someone to organize a "gang-related" shooting at a Nike product launch to give the newest Nikes more cache. Anyway, Jennifer Government writer Max Barry has created an online game called NationStates, and one of the fictional nations includes The Corporate Dystopia Of Wu Corporation:
The Corporate Dystopia of Wu Corporation is a massive, economically powerful nation, renowned for its complete absence of social welfare. Its hard-nosed, hard-working, cynical population of 6.219 billion are ruled with an iron fist by the corrupt, dictatorship government, which oppresses anyone who isn't on the board of a Fortune 500 company. Large corporations tend to be above the law, and use their financial clout to gain ever-increasing government benefits at the expense of the poor and unemployed.
Another favorite dystopia: The Company, in the Doctor Who story "The Sunmakers." Everybody works for The Company, which houses everyone on Pluto and supplies artificial suns and a habitable biosphere, and in return you have to work all the time. The Company levies extra taxes for everything including your death. (Yes, it's a satire of excessive taxation, but it's also a corporate-dominated world.) There's also the awesome dark alternate universe in Charlie Jade, where corporations control everything, chip implants are mandatory, and people are divided into castes. Really, I could be here all year listing corporate dystopias.
Church and state are no longer separated, and the state becomes a golden throne for the church to look down on the huddled masses from. One of the classic theocratic dystopias is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, where a quasi-Christian theocracy overthrows the U.S. government and imposes sumptuary laws governing how woman can dress. Pre-marital sex is illegal, and sexual deviance is punishable with corporal - or capital - punishment. There's also Octavia Butler's second Parable novel, Parable of the Talents, in which fundamentalists take over a community and inflict brutal atrocities on everyone. (Thanks to StarfishnCoffee for suggesting this one.)
There's also the newly published young adult novel Bad Faith by Gillian Philip, which her husband (I think) describes as "an eerily good picture of what I imagine the USA would be like if Sarah Palin was in charge." In the gloomy future, the One Church runs everything, and gangs of extremists run around beating up anyone who defies the One Church's authority.
There's also the Jerry Falwell-inspired president in John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. And in the Robert Heinlein story "Revolt In 2100," a small band of Americans rises up against an evil future theocracy. Suzette Haden Elgin's Judas Rose series also includes an evil Christian theocracy that oppresses women.
Allen Steele's novel Coyote also starts out in an authoritarian right-wing theocratic version of the United States, known as the United Republic. (It later collapses in on itself.) Besides religious fanaticism, the other factor driving the rise of the Republic is the paranoid fear of terrorism. And then in Cave Of Stars by George Zebrowski, the Pope takes over the world! And it's bad.
And then there's the fantastic government of the Reverend Jimmy Joe II, who oppresses you in the name of the Lord. Lordy! His regime involves throwing people in prison, where they get beat up by dominatrixes, in the fantastic movie Storm Rebel. You can watch a couple of amazing clips from it here.
In novels like Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, a militaristic future Earth is at war with alien bugs, and the military wields great power. (In Troopers, you can't exercise full citizenship, and vote, unless you've done national service, which can include serving in the military.) There's also the all-male militaristic society of A World Without Women by Day Keene and Leonard Pyun.
And then there's Star Wars, especially episodes II and III. George Lucas wasn't exactly subtle in his depiction of a society that gets dragged into an endless war, and the state needs more and more power to pursue its enemies. Freedom dies, not in silence, but to thunderous applause, yadda yadda. And there's the anime movie Ellcia, where unscrupulous people dig up the remains of a super-advanced society and use its advanced technology to found a new militaristic dystopia called Megaronia. No, really - Megaronia.
In Marge Piercy's feminist science fiction classic Woman On The Edge Of Time, our heroine travels to a happy shiny feminist utopia, where men breastfeed and everybody wears hemp underwear. But she also visits an alternate future, a horrendous dystopia where the military control everything.
There's also the whole swathe of narratives where the security state gets out of control, and everyone trades their freedom for security. People are under constant surveillance by a thuggish leadership, as exemplified by Alan Moore's graphic novel V For Vendetta.
Just think Pleasantville - a monstrous idealized version of the repressive, horrendous past, when people still thought Doo-wop was music. In this movie, Spider-Man gets a special remote control from a weird old guy, and it zaps him and his sister inside his favorite sitcom, which is an obvious Leave It To Beaver riff. At first, Spidey is overjoyed, but he eventually sees how repressive that B&W conformity really is, and he finally joins his sister in rebelling against the crushing sameness. Luckily, you can make a tree burst into flames just by masturbating.
You could argue that the huge genre of eco-disaster SF represents a dystopia where conservatives have triumphed over nature, our greatest enemy of all. There are almost too many eco-disaster SF stories to list, from Wall-E to Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series. I went to a reading by Kim Stanley Robinson a while back, where the theme was ecological destruction, and he said he'd written too many works on that topic to choose just one. So he read selections from seven different eco-catastrophes he'd written. There's no shortage of thrilltastic science fiction ecology disaster movies, including The Day After Tomorrow and Waterworld.
And one of the most acclaimed novels of the past year or so, Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, in which global warming has trashed the environment and flooded out coastal cities. (But it's also got religious fundamentalists who feel free to enslave "New People" who allegedly don't have souls, so it could count for both.) Thanks to B for pointing this one out.