Monday, 18 February 2019

Imagining the future of organized labour (part two of three)

This is the second of a three-part blog post about the historical invisibility of organized labour in science fiction, as well as recent works that address this absence. In the first part, we examined prose works published up to 1980, in this blog post we examine prose works from 1980 up to the present. A future blog post will examine science fiction television and cinema that depicts labour unions.

In December of last year, Wired magazine invited eight prominent science fiction authors to tackle an
As workplaces are changing, how workers
organize to assert rights will change also.
(Image via Bloomberg.)
interesting question: “What is the future of work?

While many of the resulting stories explore important challenges that are likely to shape our work lives, and are well worth reading, it is interesting that none of the authors even touched on how workers organize themselves to assert their rights. There is not one mention of “unions,” nor of “solidarity” or “collective bargaining.”

But while unions and the struggle for labour rights are still significantly underrepresented within the genre, the past three decades have seen the blossoming of a small but significant school of labour-aware science fiction that is worthy of discussion.

We have been compiling a list of labour representation in science fiction, and it is obvious to us that there is a growing interest in projecting a future of organized labour. As examples, we would encourage you to read some recent works by Cory Doctorow, Alex Wells, Allen Steele, Madeline Ashby, Adam Rakunas, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Ken MacLeod.

Depictions of labour unions that appear in science fiction published over the past two decades show a significantly greater understanding of how unions operate than is evident in stories from previous decades.

We would suggest that labour awareness within science fiction is in no small part generational. The authors who wrote science fiction during the first ascendency of the genre in the 1940s and 1950s had come of age in an era of strong union power, when New Deal policies were creating an expanding middle class and mass prosperity.

During those years, it was easy to assume that broadly shared prosperity would continue into the
The University of Trantor's faculty
association almost certainly provided
good health and dental benefits.
(image via Goodreads)
future; most of the characters in the high-tech Galactic Empire of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation are middle-class, and it is only once barbarism returns to the galaxy that wealth inequality appears to rise.

But children growing up in the 1970s would learn a different set of assumptions. During those years, for America’s middle class, the future seemed to be atrophying. America was embroiled in an ugly war. The moon landings were over, income inequality had begun to increase, and the labour union movement was being systematically undermined.

This precariousness of the existence of the middle class would be reflected in the despair of cyberpunk, as well as in the activism of the Scottish socialist wave of science fiction.

As the people who read science fiction in the 1970s began writing their own science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s, labour’s reappraisal in science fiction starts to appear.

Allen Steele’s 1989 debut novel Orbital Decay is notable as being one of the earliest works in this (labour-aware) era of science fiction. It offers a depiction of construction labourers building an orbital station under hazardous conditions. While Steele’s work doesn’t delve into the political framework that has enabled this union to exist, or under what legal jurisdiction space construction might fall, his novel does explore how union protection can help ensure safer workplaces by giving workers the right to refuse unsafe work.

Slightly later, the 1996 novel Night Sky Mine by Melissa Scott is a cyberpunk work that subverts the sub-genre by showing that corporate power is not inescapable, and featuring a labour union that helps ensure fairer wages.

If stories like these were a significant departure from almost any science fiction featuring labour unions in the 1950s or 1960s, then it might also be noted that the labour movement of the 1990s and 2000s was one that had been radically transformed.

In the wake of several setbacks for labour unions — the destruction of the PATCO union in 1981, the
The air traffic controllers' strike of 1981,
and the subsequent disbanding of the
union is one of the most significant
moments in labour history. 
creation of NAFTA, the UK miners strike in 1984-85 — it became more difficult to imagine the labour movement as menacing.

At the same time, numerous labour unions were tackling internal governance and structural issues that had marginalized segments of their membership. Many labour unions found common cause with equity-seeking groups such as the women’s movement, anti-Apartheid activists, and the gay rights movement.
It is easier to write positive portrayals of labour unions when labour movements are doing more good for more people.

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers
Union organizing in the
future is a subject that
provides narrative tension.
(Image via Goodreads)
who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

Madeline Ashby’s novel Company Town may be better-known outside of the science fiction community than within, as it was a Canada Reads selection in 2017. Telling the story of a character who works as a labour union staff member is rare, and it provides an opportunity for Ashby to examine aspects of the labour movement that are almost never talked about — like the quotidien work of helping ensure the safety of individual members and providing employment services. Because the protagonist works for a union of sex workers, her story helps illustrate an important purpose for labour organizing in the first place: protection of the most vulnerable workers.

Such protections show up repeatedly in recent works that focus on unionization drives. Alex Wells’ 2017 debut novel Hunger Makes the Wolf and its sequel focus on mining workers on a remote world. Their attempt to tackle the corporation’s exploitative practices through union organizing builds on a depiction of management’s divide-and-conquer tactics and deftly illustrates the difficulty of dealing with corporate loyalist employees. Although the goal of empowering workers is portrayed as being difficult, Wells makes it clear that working as a collective is worthwhile and achievable.

Former Republican congressional candidate and author Lou Antonelli devoted a significant section of his 2016 novel Another Girl, Another Planet to the depiction of an labour board appeal on a Martian colony. At issue in the hearing are scope-of-work issues between a highly skilled and technically competent unionized workforce, and an employer who has used robot labour in violation of the union contract. It is shown that the union is not only in the right on legal grounds, but that there were important safety-related reasons for the scope-of-work clauses in the contract.

This depiction is particularly noteworthy because of Antonelli’s nuanced understanding of the work done by labour union representatives. Scope-of-work negotiations and labour board hearings are not as high-profile as organizing drives or work stoppages such as strikes, but they are a vital part of how union representation can promote workers’ rights.

When asked on Twitter about this subplot, Antonelli explained the positive depiction of the union, “even on a space colony, there will be practical labor issues to be addressed. A space colony isn't built by magic.”

Science fiction’s ability to imagine new social orders is one of the genre’s great strengths. But as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek once noted, it sometimes seems easier for authors to imagine the end of the world, than it does for them to imagine alternatives to unfettered neoliberal capitalism.

Žižek’s observation may still hold some truth. But the genre is experiencing a wave of labour-aware science fiction authors that are challenging dominant ideas surrounding the nature of employment and the relationship between capital and worker. This gives us hope for the future of employment.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944

Last year, there were insufficient nominating ballots for the Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story, which meant that no awards were presented. This is a shame, as there were certainly more than enough qualifying works published in 1942 that merited recognition.

In the hopes of preventing a repeat this year, we are urging you to seriously consider reading — and hopefully nominating — several first-rate graphic stories that were published in 1943.

Recommended reading:
  1. Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ice-Beam
  2. Plastic Man and The Game Of Death 
  3. Tintin and the Secret Of The Unicorn
  4. Wonder Woman #5 
Jack Cole’s work on Plastic Man (appearing both in Police Comics and his own comic for the first
It is impossible to overstate
Jack Cole's inventiveness.
(Image via Digital
Comic Book Museum)
time) holds up well and served as an inspiration for others. Even though there have been many comic book characters with the ability to stretch themselves, Cole embraced the artistic possibilities offered by this body shaping with a glee and creativity that has yet to be equalled.

This was a year in which Cole – possibly emboldened by getting his own dedicated Plastic Man title – started playing with text and composition in new ways. In the Game Of Death, a book dedicated to plastic adventures, Cole pushes his character’s form to new limits. His writing is also at its most quotable in this work: “If you should see a man standing on the street and reaching into the top window of a sky-scraper…that’s not astigmatism—it’s Plastic Man!…If you happen upon a gent all bent up like a pretzel…don’t dunk him…it’s Plastic Man! All this and bouncing too, you’ll see when the rubber man and his pal Woozy Winks gamble their lives in—The Game of Death.”

Plastic Man is far and away our top pick for recognition in the 1943 Retro Hugo for best Graphic Story.

Canadian black-and-white classic Nelvana of the Northern Lights continues be first-rate, despite the
Alex Raymond's final year on
Flash Gordon is one of his best.
(Image via ComicArtFans.com)
fact that the stories told that year were more standard superhero fare, rather than the more interesting Inuit-inspired tales of the preceding years. This is a book that modern readers should take a look at not only for its sharp-edged illustrations and its inventive storytelling, but also because it offers readers both the first super-powered female character and the first Indigenous superhero comic book.

The issues published in 1943 find Nelvana assuming a secret identity as an agent of the Canadian Government so that she can fight Nazis. Although more predictable than the previous stories had been, the dynamic art and solid writing makes this series worthy of consideration on your Retro Hugo ballots.

Coming off the publication of the regrettable The Shooting Star, Herge bounced back in 1943 with the publication of The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, two graphic novels that are often described as a high point of the series. Although there’s only marginal science fictional or fantastic elements (the submarines in particular), these works might be worthy of recognition.

Still written by the original creative team of William Marsden and Harry G. Peter, Wonder Woman continued to enjoy strong writing and interesting subversions of orthodoxy in 1943. The debut of Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis Doctor Psycho in Wonder Woman #5 is particularly notable as the psychic dwarf is a misogynist whose ambition is to force women out of participation in wartime employment.

Given the wartime employment of women in jobs traditionally held by men, Marston and Peter’s work captured some of the underlying tensions of this social change. This could be one of the reasons Dr. Psycho would prove to be a long-running adversary for Wonder Woman, representing toxic masculinity as a force in opposition to her feminine strength.

There are a couple of high profile contenders for recognition in the early years of comic book history
Doctor Psycho has decided
to boycott Gilette razors.
(Image via comicbookinvest.com)
that you might be surprised we haven’t mentioned yet.

With Wil Eisner in the army in 1943, The Spirit’s adventures were written and illustrated primarily by Lou Fine. These stories are unfortunately not up to the calibre that the series is known for.

And in our opinion, Captain Marvel – the most prominent superhero series of the era – had an off year. Not only was the writing less effervescent than it was in previous years, but after the appalling (but popular) “World’s Mightiest Mistake” story the previous year, the writers seemed to use the exceptionally reactionary sentiment of the age as a racism licence. Stories like “The Voodoo Show Boat,” feature broad and ugly characterizations of African Americans and other visible minorities. “The Battle At The China Wall” depicts Japanese civilians as literal monsters with pointed teeth.

Even when one accounts for American socio-political angst of 1943, with the US’s late and forced entry into the Second World War (Dec 1941) and resulting social upheaval, Captain Marvel Adventures stands out. In previous years – and in subsequent ones – these troubling elements were not as pervasive. The one highlight of the year was issue 28 of Captain Marvel Adventures, in which arch-enemy Doctor Sivana becomes governor of New York.

The Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story is a category that has suffered neglect in past years due to the difficulty of obtaining relevant works. Thankfully, online archives such as the Digital Comic Book Museum, Comic Book Plus, and Open Culture have made many texts accessible to modern readers. It is our hope that this will lead to an informed and robust debate about these awards.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Interstelar Pastoral

Chambers’ novels have great titles.
There is a poetry to phrases like
“A Closed And Common Orbit.”
The title Record Of A Spaceborn
Few 
is both an evocative and
elegant label for this work.
(Image via Amazon.com)
There are few authors writing SFF today who reliably offer as many well-developed and interesting characters as Becky Chambers does.

After bursting onto the scene in 2014 with her self-published debut A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, the more focused 2017 follow-up A Closed And Common Orbit earned her a completely justifiable Hugo nod. It would not be surprising to see Record Of A Spaceborn Few receive another.

Chambers’ first two books were notable for likable, nuanced characters with the ability to provoke empathy. Her characters tend to face human-scale problems, and to have human-scale goals. In a genre that all too often loses a sense of proportion, Chambers’ work can be a breath of fresh air. 

With her latest novel, Record Of A Spaceborn Few, Chambers focuses even more closely on the quotidien, telling a series of interwoven stories about life aboard a series of spaceships that were built to house refugees from a dying Earth. 

While this “exodan fleet” had been referenced in her previous two novels, here it is more fully realized as a society and as a setting. In fact, it is so fully developed that it could be described as a main character within the story. 

The fleet is explored through several primary point-of-view characters, though it’s hard to think of any of them as ‘protagonists.’ Tessa the archivist who shows an alien visitor the ins and outs of the fleet. Sawyer the immigrant who’s trying to reconnect with his heritage and find his place. Kyp the teenager who wants to get away. 

Through slice-of-life vignettes, Chambers shows the reader how the culture of the fleet works. How food is provided. How they maintain their environment. How families are structured. How order is maintained. How people’s bodies are disposed of. 

This last provides one of the most beautiful and elegant sections of the book, as what could have been a distressing subject is shown to be part of the cycle of life aboard a closed-system space fleet that’s been adrift for centuries. 

Work, culture, social responsibility and community are the focal points of this story. What it means to grow up in this alternative society, how populations adapt to limited resources, and how we adapt to those outside our social bubble are all explored. 

This novel will not appeal to those who are seeking fast-paced action, for those looking for big super-science, or for those who seek a puzzle to be solved. One complaint that was leveled at the book was that ‘nothing happens,’ but one suspects that this may not be at odds with what Chambers was attempting to achieve. 

This book is an exploration of how people might live, and fits into a grand — but of late neglected — utopian tradition in social science fiction. 

There is intellectual grist, though little adrenaline in Record Of A Spaceborn Few … and that’s actually just fine. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Imagining the future of organized labour (part one of two)

List of unions.
This is the first of a two-part blog post about the historical invisibility of organized labour in science fiction. The second post, which will be published in early January will explore recent works that address this notable absence. These articles could not have been completed without the help of science fiction historian Alec Nevala-Lee and labour researchers Mark McCutcheon and Bob Barnetson.
Science fictional narratives are filled with depictions of employment.

Whether it’s Gaal Dornick taking a job with the mathematics department at the University of Trantor, or Robinette Broadhead leaving his job in the protein mines to pursue an opportunity with the Gateway corporation, the genre is rife with examples of standard capitalist employment relationships.

Often given less focus, however, are the rights of those workers, and the means by which those rights are asserted. When it comes to employment, the majority of science fiction offers either utopian visions in which everyone has a share in societal prosperity, or dystopian nightmares in which the elites have all the power and workers are crushed underfoot.

For example, neither Star Trek nor Babylon 5 ever explore the reason why productivity gains of new
The character Robocop crosses a picket
line to appease the corporate masters
of a privatized police department.
In the labour movement, he would be
called a 'scab.'
(Image via DenOfGeek.com)
technologies have not been concentrated into the wealth of an ultra-elite. Conversely, neither Altered Carbon nor Neuromancer offer explanations for why the working class has failed to organize solidarity-driven or democratic responses to societal problems.

Few of us have memories of the might of the North American union movement in the 1940s and 1950s. It was this movement that accorded workers stability and living wages that increased on par with productivity gains. It is probably this era of increasing income equality that made expansive utopian imaginings without explanation seem plausible.

In 1951, famed science fiction editor John W. Campbell wrote to H. Beam Piper, one of his regular writers, asking the author to tone down anti-union language in the story Day Of The Moron. He did so not because he supported the labour movement, but because he was afraid of offending members of the printers’ union that his magazine, Astounding, relied upon.

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out at WorldCon76, the major
At Worldcon 76 in San Jose, Eric Flint,
Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Cory
Doctorow discussed the dearth of
labour unions in science fiction.
(Photo by Kateryna Barnes)
contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

Arthur C. Clarke’s scientist and astronaut heroes exist in a rarefied academic bubble that’s divorced from more typical job markets. Even when tackling a worker’s revolution in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Heinlein defined the conflict in terms of nationalism rather than solidarity. Ray Bradbury seems to be largely unaware of conflicts about labour conditions. And the Amalgamated Union in Alfred Bester’s classic The Demolished Man is largely a force for ill due to corrupt leadership.

Of all the big-name authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, special notice should be given to Isaac Asimov’s troubled relationship to organized labour. Despite the fact that Asimov came from a working-class background, his portrayals of workers is often problematic and condescending - In Caves of Steel (1954), workers who are displaced by robots are shown to be semi-literate at best, using pidgin like “‘Maybe it’s time the gov’min’ reelized robots ain’t the only things on Earth.”

If his portrayal of individual labourers is dismissive, his depiction of organized labour is actively hostile: In Robbie (1940), the labour movement forms an unholy alliance with religious fanatics to oppose progress in the form of robots; in the Foundation saga, nepotistic labour guilds are in part responsible for the collapse of the Empire; and to make his antipathy more obvious, he wrote the story Strikebreaker (1957), in which the heroic lead character forces a worker to accept employer demands.
A hero to many left-wing science
fiction fans, Isaac Asimov had feet
of clay on some subjects, including
workers' rights.
(Image by Rowena Morrill) 

It is disappointing to note that Asimov, member of the Futurians and an author often perceived as a progressive voice, might have had such a significant blind spot.

Even one of the most labour relations aware works of that era, Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth’s comedic novel The Space Merchants, is far from a paragon. The novel introduces us to the United Slime-Mold Protein Workers of Panamerica, a union that both exploits its membership through unfair fees, and is unable to stand up against the corporation’s might.

The progressive New Wave of science fiction of the late 1960s may have addressed the genre’s blind spots around race and gender, but when the subjects of class and labour were examined, it was usually with a sense of despair. This viewpoint is understandable in the context of the times: after declining for most of the previous four decades, American inequality was on the rise; trust in liberal democratic political institutions was being undermined; and the worst aspects of hierarchical business unions were on full display through such figures as Jimmy Hoffa and Carlo Gambino.

Those few representations of labour-rights organizations are presented with either antipathy or comedic disdain. When Douglas Adams introduces the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Professional Thinking Persons in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the union’s representatives Vroomfondel and Majikthise are actively fighting against knowledge and research. Arnie Kott, the antagonist in Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip, is a broad caricature of a union leader and is presented as bigoted, corrupt, egotistical, and thin-skinned.

One notable exception to this anti-union sentiment was found in Larry Niven's 1966 short story A Relic Of Empire, in which unions are described as a necessity

Depictions of workers rights and the struggle to defend those rights are few and far between by the
Has anyone from the Occupational
Health and Safety department
completed an ergonomic assessment
 of this power armor?
(Image via TheVerge
late 1970s and 1980s. Employees of the Weyland-Yutani corporation in Alien have little-to-no recourse when it comes to their right to refuse unsafe work. Neoliberal assumptions around employer-employee relations are reflected in more and more depictions of independent contractors in the genre. Johnny Mnemonic is a precarious worker, as are most denizens of the sprawl.

It could be argued that the cyberpunk subgenre is the apotheosis of despair over the state of workers’ rights. In The Diamond Age, the thete (lower-class) citizens have absolutely no rights, let alone employment rights, while workers like Molly in Neuromancer are even stripped of their right to remember the tasks they perform.

In these corporatist dystopias, workers are either unwilling or unable to organize in opposition to these measures, and what few escapes from serfdom exist are accomplished through heroic personal narratives. This view of the struggle for workers’ rights can be seen again in Neil Bloekamp’s 2013 box-office dud Elysium, in which a disenfranchised worker fights an unfair system, but does so on his own through violent action, rather than by organizing his workplace.

Interestingly, even in Ursula LeGuin’s exploration of anarcho-syndicalism The Dispossessed, workers rights are defended in neither the capitalist society of Anarres, nor on the anarchic world of Urras. On the latter world, the protagonist is forced into manual labour due to societal strictures, while on the former he’s part of a labour protest that’s violently put down. In neither world do we see an example of an effective labour movement.

As Mark A. McCutcheon and Bob Barnetson argue in their 2016 paper Resistance is Futile: On The
"THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE!
YOU WILL BE PRIVATIZED!
PRI-VA-TIZE! PRI-VA-TIZE!"
(Image via BBC.com)
Under-Representation of Unions in Science Fiction
, “The paucity of realistic representations of unions in SF thus has political implications: it reinforces the absence of alternatives to ... neoliberal capitalism.” This observation is mirrored by Margaret Thatcher’s famous slogan, “There Is No Alternative.”

The rigid adherence to one paradigm might be understandable in memetic (non-genre) fiction that strives to represent the world as it is, but in a genre like science fiction, which purports to be based on imagination, it is deeply disappointing. As Cory Doctorow noted this summer at a Worldcon76 panel on the working class in science fiction “There is no sentiment more antithetical to science fiction than ‘there is no alternative,’ … what we do as science fiction authors is exactly to imagine alternatives.”

Thankfully, a new generation was about to do exactly that.

Part two of this blog post, covering a renewed interest in organized labour in science fiction in the 1990s and 2000s, will be posted on January 7, 2019. 

Organized labour in science fiction

Organized labour in science fiction

Additional suggestions are welcome.
This list is to supplement our blog posts on labour in SF.

Terminology:
Business union” is defined as an organization that is legally certified by the government to negotiate on behalf of a group of workers.
Solidarity union” is defined as a group of workers organizing themselves on a grassroots basis to seek concessions from an employer.
Guild union” is defined as a group of workers whose labour negotiating ability stems from their near-monopoly on a particular set of skills.

(Note: This list excludes inherently criminal organizations such as the Assassin's Guild from Discworld, the Guild of Thieves from Robert Silberberg and Randall Garrett's A Little Intelligence or the Traitor's Guild from James Blish's A Style in Treason.)
Year
Title / Author
Union Model
Qualitative Depiction
1940
Robbie - Isaac Asimov
Business union
(Manufacturing)
Negative depiction - Antagonistic to progress.
1940
The Roads Must Roll - Robert A. Heinlein
Business union (Transportation)
Negative depiction - strike must be quashed violently.
1951
The Man In The White Suit - Ealing Studios
Business union
(Textiles)
Negative depiction - Antagonistic to progress.
1951
The Traders (Foundation) - Isaac Asimov
Guild union
(Atomic engineers)
Negative depiction - Nepotistic and anti-intellectual.
1951
Day Of The Moron - H. Beam Piper
Business union
(Atomic engineers)
Negative depiction - Protects unqualified workers. Bureaucratic and obstructionist.  
1952
The Space Merchants - Frederick Pohl & Cyril Kornbluth
Business union (Agricultural)
Negative depiction - Labour union exploits worker.
1952
The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
Business union
(Unspecified)
Negative depiction - Corrupt union leadership.  
1957
Strikebreaker - Isaac Asimov
Solidarity union (Waste processing)
Negative depiction - Strike threatens survival of colony.
1960
The Apprentice - James White
Business union
(Hospital staff)
Positive depiction - Employee has job protection
1964
Martian Time-Slip - Philip K. Dick
Business union
(Plumbing)
Negative depiction - Corrupt union leadership.
1966
A Relic Of Empire - Larry Niven
General statement about unions.
Positive depiction - Described as ‘necessary.’
1978
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Guild Union
(Philosophers)
Negative depiction - Antagonistic towards progress, interested primarily in “gravy train.”
1989
Orbital Decay - Allen Steele
Business Union - Construction
Positive depiction - Union helps ensure safer workplace.
1989
Robocop - Paul Verhoeven
Business union
(Police)
Negative depiction - Antagonistic towards progress, endanger the city by going on strike.
1992
Heavy Time - CJ Cherryh
Business union (Mining)
Negative depiction - employer-dominated union.
1994
By Any Means Necessary - Babylon 5
Business union
(Dockworkers)
Mixed depiction - Striking workers are violent, but achieve fairer wages.
1996
Night Sky Mine - Melissa Scott
Business union
(Mining)
Positive depiction - Ensures equitable wages.
1996
Bar Association - Deep Space Nine
Solidarity union
(Service industry)
Mixed depiction - Achieves fairer wages, but must be disbanded because it’s “no longer needed.”
2000
1632 - Eric Flint
Business union
(Mine workers)
Positive depiction - Organizing prosperous economy.
2000
Candle - John Barnes
Guild union
(Combat)
Positive depiction - Union provides health, dental and legal coverage.
2000
Company Man - Robert Jackson Bennett
Solidarity union
(General)
Positive depiction - Union works to combat inequality.
2000
Cosmonaut Keep - Ken MacLeod
Solidarity union
(Online workers)
Positive depiction - Balances power of capital.
2000
Perdito Street Station - China Mieville
Business union
(Dock workers)
Mixed depiction - Crushing of strike provides background for story.
2007
Dirty Hands - Battlestar Galactica
Solidarity union
(Mining workers)
Negative depiction - Heroic governor bargains in bad faith by holding gun to the head of a worker.
2009
The Wind-Up Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi
Guild Union
(Animal handlers)
Negative depiction - antagonism towards entrepreneur protagonist.
2010
For The Win - Cory Doctorow
Solidarity union
(Online workers)
Positive depiction - ensuring workers’ rights.
2010
Damage Time - Colin Harvey
Guild Union
(Sex trade workers)
Negative depiction - Union excludes vulnerable population.
2012
Existence - David Brin
Business Union
(Child care workers)
Positive depiction - Union is part of positive and functional workplace.
2013
Fortune’s Pawn - Rachel Back
Business Union
(Merchants)
Positive depiction - Union provides information to employees.
2015
Windswept - Adam Rakunas
Business union
(Manufacturing)
Positive depiction - ensuring fair wages.
2015
All The Childhood You Can Afford - Daniel Suarez
Business union
(Manufacturing)
Positive depiction - Ensures gains of automation are shared more equitably.
2016
Company Town - Madeline Ashby
Business union
(Sex trade workers)
Positive depiction - Ensures workers’ safety and rights.
2017
Another Girl, Another Planet - Lou Antonelli
Business union
(Duct workers)
Positive depiction - Ensures safety standards in construction.
2017
Hunger Makes the Wolf
Business union
(Mining workers)
Positive depiction – Unionization drive is response to corporate exploitation.
2018
Sorry To Bother You - Boots Riley
Business union
(Telemarketing)
Positive depiction - Balances power of capital.
2018
Unfulfilled/Bike Parade - South Park
Solidarity union
(Warehouse workers)
Positive depiction - Union fights for safety standards and fair pay.




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