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The Ultimate City: Urban and Rural Values in Science Fiction

There are two kinds of science fiction: One of hope, the other of fear. Hope is what we all cherish. But fear is easier to portray and helps build box office profits. In SF, the hoped-for utopian city is often replaced by the feared dystopian urban nightmare. This nightmare is sometimes contrasted with the rural idyll—except when that, too, is replaced by backwoods horrors. Arthur C. Clarke steered a path between these two extremes that yet skewed toward the rural in his far-future SF novel The City and the Stars. He contrasted the ultimate city of immortals, Diaspar, with the back-to-nature, small-is-beautiful towns of rural Lys. In this presentation, I will claim that a melding of these two that, contrary to Clarke, skews more closely to Diaspar, would be the most desirable social outcome for enhancing human life, fostering the arts and sciences, and extending human flourishing into the future.

Michael LaTorra is Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico State University, where he has taught since 2000. Previous to his teaching appointment, he worked in Information Technology in California’s Silicon Valley and in other states. He is the author of the 1993 book A Warrior Blends with Life, and is an ordained Soto Zen Buddhist priest at the Zen Center of Las Cruces / Daibutsuji Zen Temple. Prof. LaTorra is an active transhumanist. He serves on the Board of Directors of the World Transhumanist Association and on the Board of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. 

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