This week on my podcast, I read my latest *Locus Magazine* column, "Science Fiction is a Luddite Literature," an essay about the historically unsupportable libel that turned "Luddite" into a slur.
Far from rejecting technology out of some reactionary fear, the Luddites instead demanded a renegotiation of the *social relations* governing that the new textile machines of the industrial revolution.
Rather than have these machines displace workers and pad their bosses' profits, the Luddites demanded higher wages, less work, and cheaper cloth.
Mill owners were okay with cheap cloth, but the rest of it was out. The new machines required less esoteric knowledge, meaning owners could replace their workers more readily, and they used this to drive down wages and subject workers to lethal risk from the new machines.
As I write in the column, a Martian staring down at the Earth through a telescope couldn't tell you why the benefits of textile machines - bought with profits wrung from weavers' labor - should accrue to factory owners and not factory workers. The act of challenging that arrangement is fundamentally science-fictional - a demand to go beyond what a machine *does* and ask who it does it *to* and who it does it *for*.
The Luddites' demand was for technological self-determination: the right of the users of technology to govern how those machines affect them. This is a theme shot through sf, and not just cyberpunk's "street finding its own use for things" - all those Golden Age sf stories about engineers improvising brilliant solutions in a crunch? That's pure Luddism - seizing the means of production!
Here's the podcast episode:
And here's a direct link to the MP3 file (hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive, they'll host your stuff for free, forever):
And here's the RSS for my podcast feed:
One note: this is my last podcast for some weeks; I'm having my other hip replaced tomorrow and I'll be going offline for a month or so while I recover. I'm really looking forward to the surgery; I had my other hip done in Sept and it was remarkably low-trouble. I was even able to go skiing on my new hip over the Christmas break!
See you in a month or so!
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